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Physical Therapy Space Requirements: What to Consider When Designing Your Outpatient Clinic

Space for physical therapy with professional modern equipment

Establishing your physical therapy clinic is no small feat. Once you have the PT business plan in place and have addressed the legal considerations that are described below, you need to find and (possibly) renovate a physical location. This process includes weighing what outpatient clinic space is best for your patients and practice. It also allows you to properly plan for the present, but consider your ideal future business growth. The good news is that this hard work will pay off, and you’ll soon be arranging your therapy tables, exercise stations, and whirlpools in your new space -- and putting your brand on the door!

5 Factors to Consider When Deciding Square Footage & Layout for Your PT Clinic

How big should your facility be? One of the first factors when selecting a location is knowing the ideal square footage of your physical therapy clinic. Too big, and your floor feels empty and overhead costs are unnecessarily high. Too small, and your patients or therapists feel cramped.

The ideal space for your PT clinic can be determined based on how many employees you have, what type of physical therapy you provide, what pieces of equipment you use, and what design choices you make. Budget aside, here are some factors when deciding the size of your spatial needs:

1. Practice Specialty

Your practice specialty helps to determine your clinic’s spatial needs. For example, a sports PT facility needs more treadmills and training space than a brain injury PT clinic. Research the list of equipment your PT specialty needs -- and determine how many of each piece you’ll want to have. This often means how many patients you feel you/your team can monitor at the same time.

Scope out the competition when you look for space. Ideally, you won’t have another therapist in your specialty within five miles.

2. Team Size

The size of your team also impacts how much physical therapy square footage you need. Working with a single professional means more one-on-one time and smaller space requirements. However, if your clinic has a team of PTs, you need enough space so your providers aren't left waiting for stations to open up for their patients. Rough size estimates for a functional space can be based on your team size:

  • 1,000–1,500 square feet for a small facility (2–3 PT/OT)
  • 2,500–3,500 square feet for a medium facility (4–7 PT/OT)
  • 4,000+ square feet for a large facility (8+ PT/OT)

3. Location

Do you picture being part of a larger gym, right in town, an office park, or somewhere more remote? The farther your clinic is from an epi - center of foot traffic, the more you’ll need to rely on partnerships, referrals and marketing. But it should offer you more space at a lower cost.

If part of a larger office group, make sure the building provides you with adequate signage, ask about other PTs in the building (and see if you can negotiate a non - compete so that no other PTs within your specialty lease there).

4. Patient Comfort

Patient comfort and usability are crucial parts of the layout. Not all patients require the same amount of space. Children tend to use smaller spaces, while those using wheelchairs require larger aisles, doorways, and hallways.

Patients who come in for physical therapy tend to feel pain, fear, and uncertainty. A well - designed space helps ease their feelings and support their growth process. An environment can make a big difference in how relaxed, motivated, and focused patients are during their treatment. Examples of factors that impact PT clinic environments include:

  • Overhead lighting
  • Window light
  • Equipment spacing
  • Wall colors
  • Artwork
  • Surface finish
  • Organization/storage

5. Site Capabilities

Whether you need special spaces depends on the services you plan to offer at your facility. Examples of site capabilities could include:

  • Athletic/gym space
  • Private treatment rooms
  • Pool or whirlpool
  • Counseling spaces
  • Group activity rooms

6. Equipment Needs

Your PT clinic doesn't need to start out with a full range of equipment. It's best to carefully budget for and prioritize your equipment needs so that you have the right pieces to get started and a plan for what equipment to add as you grow. You may choose a space that fits the equipment you plan to get in the future so you don't have to relocate.

It's important to arrange equipment and supplies so that your clinic space remains uncluttered and easy to keep clean. Cluttered spaces can feel distracting and overwhelming to patients, and overcrowding increases the risks of injury. Space out your equipment and include plans for out-of-sight storage. And consider other design ideas to help spaces feel larger without sacrificing privacy, such as tall ceilings and one - way windows.

Examples of Physical Therapy Clinic Layouts

Many facilities have a main physical therapy room layout for physical therapy activities, as well as additional spaces for more specific services. Here are some examples of different physical therapy clinic layouts and designs.

Simple & Straightforward

For many first - time facility owners, leveraging a smaller space is the most economical choice. Until your practice is larger, you might want to keep things simple and straightforward.

This small New York physical therapy office offers a simple layout with the basic equipment needed for patient treatment. The clean floors and light walls help keep the space feeling fresh and inviting for most patients.

Open & Spacious

Keeping your space thoughtfully designed and uncluttered, you can create a layout that feels enticing and empowering. The wide - open layout of this Illinois outpatient therapy department provides plenty of space in a 7,000 - square - foot space. Beyond the main room, there are five private treatment rooms (including a pediatric room). Large windows help this space feel clean, relaxing and therapeutic.

Warm & Supportive

Some centers focus on helping patients retain independence after hospitalization from a serious injury or surgery. For such a facility, the machines and space design may be slightly different.

For example, this New York rehab facility offers a warm and comfortable space for seniors to seek out treatment. The special bars for walking and space designed for wheelchair use are features helpful within a senior rehab center.

Bright & Engaging

Children are a completely different kind of patient who require equipment that is much smaller and more engaging than facilities designed for adults. In children's PT facilities, sensory toys are often a key feature of therapy. Children may need to work on motor - planning skills, gross motor skills, strengthening, and fine motor skills.

Westside Children's Therapy creates vibrant, well - lit, modern spaces that are consistent with the energy level of its treatment. Its goal is to "make kids so excited to be here that they won't want to leave!" The main, multipurpose gym areas include sensory swings, activity areas, and more. Private spaces are set up for specific kinds of therapy, including feeding therapy, speech therapy, and counseling. Plenty of table - top workspaces and learning stations are also included in their clinics.

Children's TherAplay provides a space with various stations that encourage development for children who need therapy. This center also provides 15 therapy horses for hippotherapy treatment.

Examples of Physical Therapy Gym Layout

Depending on your practice and clientele, a gym may be necessary for your space. In some cases, physical therapy facilities build their own gyms as part of their space. In others, physical therapy groups move into an office within an existing gym and share the space.

Gym Partnership

In this 90,000 - square - foot multisport facility, there is a smart partnership with a local physical therapy center that services athletes. Empowered Sports Club has turf, beach courts, and hard courts under one space, as well as a training facility. The physical therapy, sports chiropractic, and massage therapy areas are given separate spaces and their own entrance so they are more private from the buzz of the main centers.

In-House Gym Facilities

Northwest Sports Medicine Center has a great blend of gym equipment designed to support physical therapy. A 5,600 - square - foot rehabilitation center is just one part of the layout. There is also a laminar flow therapy pool and eight private treatment rooms in this PT facility.

The Performance Athletic Center (PAC) partners with Edge PT, sharing 40,000 square feet of space. The facility includes a high - intensity interval training space, weight room, turf (soccer, futsal, football, softball, and baseball), indoor courts (volleyball, futsal, and basketball), and a beach court (volleyball or sand tennis).

Here is another example of a facility layout in blueprint form. This 3,589 - square - foot space combines a gym with treatment rooms, offices, educational space, and a whirlpool.

PT Clinic Requirements

Before we let you go, we want to remind you of some of the other requirements needed to open a physical therapy clinic. Here are some of the basic things you need in place before choosing a space.

  • Licensing & Inspection Documentation: You need up-to-date PT licensing for your location and providers. All required licenses should be displayed so patients can easily see them. You also need to display the most recent inspection report from the Board of Health.
  • Business Insurance: Insurance is important -- and often required -- for protecting your personal assets if someone on your property, or staff member gets hurt, or a patient accuses you of making a mistake. For a PT clinic, prudent insurance purchases might include:
  • Malpractice insurance (also called professional liability insurance)
  • General liability insurance
  • Cyber insurance
  • Workers' compensation insurance
  • Commercial property insurance
  • State Legal Considerations: States have different requirements for starting a physical therapy clinic. It's important to check your state's Department of Health website to learn your local requirements.
  • Legal Business Status: You should talk to a business attorney about forming a corporation for your business (like an LLC) to protect you from potential litigation. Incorporating your business keeps your personal assets from being included in your clinic's assets in case of a lawsuit.
  • Legal Paperwork: It's important to work with an experienced lawyer to properly help you set up your business and provide you with any necessary paperwork your patients should sign. This might include contact documentation, HIPAA disclosures, medical histories, insurance forms, and pain maps.
  • Secure Software: To keep track of patient files, schedules, and bills, you need to consider scheduling software, patient portal, payment platform, accounting software, electronic health record system, and more. Consider working with programs that have IT experts on call to help walk you or your team through user errors.

Final Thoughts

Remember that this location doesn’t have to be permanent. You might learn a ton from opening your first PT clinic, and value the ability to pivot your strategy in a few years. Maybe you’ll add/remove a specialty -- or decide telehealth and concierge PT is too appealing, and you don’t need a physical location at all. The point is, you don’t want the fear of decision - making to paralyze your dream of starting your PT business. Choose a space for what you can do right now, with a little room to grow, as long as you can afford it. In five years, you might welcome the opportunity to pivot your plans. Plus, keeping things simple for now will also help you afford marketing and website building.


Image courtesy of istock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz


Last updated on Jun 17, 2022.

Originally published on Jun 16, 2022.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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