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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Supply and Demand

Published May 9, 2013 10:52 AM by Lisa Mueller

My newest thought project for this week is to better understand how physical therapist staffing is predicted for a new clinic. How does a new healthcare company or private practice facility estimate what kind of staffing it will need in a new location?

My general understanding of private practice is that due to limited funds, staffing will start whatever the owner can afford, not be based on the potential volume or demand for an area. If the owner can afford two therapists, he will start with two therapists and later reduce the staffing if the reimbursement or caseload doesn't support both positions.

Bigger healthcare companies may be a little different because they might have the money needed to invest up front. Although the economy is tight everywhere, bigger corporations may be able to build a rehab facility based on the projected volume over a period of time and not limit it strictly to what they can afford right now.

The company I work for grows every year. A new clinic is opened fairly regularly. Before we grow any more, I want to make sure the staffing for rehab is appropriate. But I'm not a statistics major. I don't know how population health statistics are calculated. I don't love math.

I found a few documents on the APTA website about supply and demand that have some nice charts. I think I understand the basic principles. Take the number of people in the United States (or a single state) and divide it by the number of available (and potentially the open) positions for both physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, and you will come up with a ratio. That ratio can then be applied to smaller populations when a new clinic is opened to determine the demand for physical therapists in a given area.

The concern I have with understaffing a clinic is that if the therapist can't keep up with the demand for care, those waiting for treatment will either go elsewhere for care or continue waiting, which may worsen an injury. As a patient continues to live with pain or an injury, he may be developing compensatory movement patterns or an acute injury may progress into subacute or even chronic, which could take longer to heal.

What do you think about the supply and demand of physical therapists? How do you calculate the demand for physical therapists? Can you help me figure out if the ratio I described above is correct?

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Hi Ryan,

I'll take a look at the app but you also raise good points about other options when a clinic is growing.  Thanks for sharing your input!  


Lisa Mueller May 12, 2013 6:58 PM

Great article. Staffing can be very complex, and ensuring you have the right amount of staff for the potential patients in an area can be a gamble, and a costly one if you over estimate. One things we have learned in our in our business is that in the growth curve of a practice there are natural transition points. As a staffing company we provide per diem or travel therapists to a lot of companies who are in that growth curve. They can hire Therapists as needed to capitalize on available patients, without taking the risk of hiring someone full time. 

Once they have established the need for another full time position they complete the transition by hiring their own full time staff.

There are some other cool tools out there to help you identify the needs in certain geographic areas. Take a look at this free app "Health Indicators" from Critigen.

Again thanks for the great article!

Ryan, Core Rehab Staffing May 9, 2013 1:37 PM

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