5 Essential Steps to Starting A Private SLP Practice
When I decided to start a private practice, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought I'd start seeing a few clients on the side, in the evenings after my full-time school job, to help pay off my student loans a little faster and maybe eventually branch out on my own. "I'm a good SLP and have decent organizational skills, this can't be that hard!" I thought. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
I wanted to start my practice legally, so I began researching how to set up a business. I thought choosing a structure would be a quick Google search, but it ended up taking over a month. I had to learn about business structures (LLC's, sole proprietorships, corporations, etc) and find out what worked best for my needs in my state. I spent hours researching taxes, CPA fees, and licenses, and many nights researching and freaking out about HIPAA compliance. What I learned is that all of the information you need to start a private practice is out there- but you have to dig for it! Nothing is in one convenient place.
So I decided to change that.
I have spent cumulative weeks of time researching the best practices to start a private SLP practice.
I compiled comparison charts and pro/con lists for almost everything I could think of, from business structures to accounting methods to EHR/EMR software. And I learned that a lot of other SLP's have the same questions I did - so I decided to create a course that helps other SLP's start their dream practice without having to spend the time I did, reinventing the wheel of information. To begin, these are the 5 things you must have to start a private speech therapy practice:
A business name. Decide this first, because it will be hard to change your logo, signage, website, etc. later. You will need your business name in order to do all of the other requirements.
An NPI number. You will need this in order to bill insurance companies, but even if you don't plan on accepting insurance, some clients will want to submit their invoices for reimbursement from their HSA and they will need your NPI number on your superbills to do that. Find it ahead of time so it can be on your paperwork. If you decide on a business name, you will need to apply for a group NPI, which will be different than the NPI you already have if you have been working in the schools or a medical setting. Find your NPI here.
Liability Insurance. This is a non-negotiable. It doesn't matter if you're going to be seeing little Johnny down the street for his /s/ sound and his mom is going to pay you cash- you NEED liability insurance. You never know if little Johnny is going to slip and fall coming to your house, or if little Johnny's dog will bite you during a session at his own house. Liability insurance is about $200 a year and worth every penny. You can purchase this insurance through ASHA (log in and click "Time and Money-saving Benefits") or add it to a home or auto insurance policy you may already have with another company.
An EIN. An Employer Identification Number is a must if you're going to be giving superbills or invoices to your clients or opening a business bank account. If you don't have an EIN, you have to use your Social Security Number, and that's just asking for identity theft to be spreading your SSN around.
HIPAA-compliant Email and Document Storage. HIPAA (the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) is a big deal. As in, a-$10,000-fine-per-offense-if-you-break-any-regulations kind of big deal- even if you didn't know about the regulations. As a private practitioner, your clients'/ patients' data is considered Protected Health Information (PHI). In schools, student data is covered under FERPA, which has less stringent requirements- unless the student receives Medical Assistance, in which case it is considered PHI and covered under HIPAA. Whether you decide to keep paper notes or want to keep your notes on a computer, you will need to make sure you set up your system so it is HIPAA-compliant.
Those are the top 5 things you must have to start a private practice. If you have done all 5 of these steps and want to know more, check out my full-length Private Practice Foundations course which is a step-by-step guide to starting and running a practice. It includes videos, comparison charts, and links to the resources you need, all in one place!
Do you have any questions about the steps I've listed here? Leave them in the comments below, or send me an email. I'm happy to help! If you have more involved questions or want completely personalized answers, set up a consultation with me.