Physiotherapists provide critical care services to patients. If you are considering opening a physiotherapy practice, you will first need to understand which industry standards apply. We have created a legal checklist to help acquaint you with your obligations so you can focus on the welfare of your patients.
1. Registering as a Physiotherapist
Physiotherapists can apply for a prescribed qualification with the Australian Health Practioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) which supports the Physiotherapy Board of Australia. You will need to pay an initial fee as well as an annual registration fee.
The Board also has continuing professional development standards and will require you to sign a declaration of compliance each time you renew your registration.
2. Medicare Registration
Before opening your new practice, you should also apply for a Medicare Provider number. This is important because clients can claim healthcare rebates as part of their healthcare plans.
3. Industry Membership
Registered physiotherapists have access to the Australian Physiotherapist Association (APA). The APA represents approximately 75% of Australian physiotherapists. The industry body has developed voluntary standards for its members to deliver quality and safe health care. They also provide a national accreditation scheme for private practices.
4. Starting Your Business
When setting up your physiotherapy practice, you will need to choose the most appropriate business structure. We recommend a company structure. A company is a separate legal entity, which reduces your personal liability and protects your assets. This structure is also beneficial if you intend to grow your business (for instance, by franchising) or sell as it helps with succession planning.
5. Registering for an ABN, TFN and GST
As a company, you will need to apply for the following registrations:
- Australian Company Number;
- Australian Business Number (ABN); and
- Tax File Number (TFN).
If you anticipate your annual turnover to be more than $75,000, you will also need to register for the goods and services tax (GST). You can register for GST at the same time as your ABN and TFN.
6. Protecting Your Name With a Trade Mark
If you have chosen a unique name for your practice, you may consider registering a trade mark to secure proprietary rights over your business name. A good trade mark should be unique. For instance, Physioworks, Physiomaxx and Lifestyle Physio. Marks that are too descriptive of the goods and services you provide will be difficult to register.
7. Advertising Standards
Certain states and territories monitor advertising standards. For instance, section 133 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) No 86a regulates advertising in the health services industry. In particular, your physiotherapy business must not:
- engage in conduct that is misleading, deceptive or false;
- offer a gift or discounts to attract clients;
- use testimonials;
- create an unreasonable expectation of the benefits of treatment; or
- encourage the unnecessary use of treatment.
8. Leasing Premises
Unless you intend to purchase a property outright, you’ll likely enter into a retail or commercial lease. It’s important to understand your rights and obligations under the lease. In particular, you should try and negotiate the following key terms before signing:
- the rental amount;
- a rent-free period;
- an option period to extend the lease;
- what you can use the premises for; and
- whether you can sub-lease or license the property.
9. Employing Staff
Building a team is a significant step, and you should carefully consider their role in your practice. Will there be other physiotherapists or helping with administrative tasks? Are they casual, part-time or full-time employees? This classification determines what type of employment agreement you will require and what award (if any) applies.
If you choose to engage physiotherapists as contractors rather than employees, you will need a contractor’s agreement. This agreement will outline, among other things:
- the scope of work,
- use of equipment (if any), and
- obligations concerning insurance.
The Board has outlined that all physiotherapists require professional indemnity insurance. Physiotherapists need to submit a declaration which confirms that they have insurance and a Certificate of Currency provided by their insurer to receive their annual registration from the Board. Further, you also have to obtain work cover insurance in the event one of your employees sustains an injury at work.
12. Terms and Conditions
When engaging clients online or physically in your practice, you should have well-drafted terms and conditions to govern the relationship between your practice and your client. This document will ensure that payment terms, obligations and privacy, amongst other key considerations, are clearly set out.
If you have any questions or need assistance opening up your physiotherapy business, get in touch with our business lawyers on 1300 544 755.
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