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Welcome to your journey of opening your own private practice in mental health! Several early keys to success are defining your practice’s vision and niche, navigating laws and regulations, budgeting and creating a business plan. Subsequently, you’ll need to decide on an electronic health record (EHR) software platform. In this article, we will go over these private practice startup basics and more.

The First Step Towards Opening Your Own Private Practice:
Defining Your Vision and Niche

One of your first considerations is to identify the main specialization and target audience of your new behavioral health business. Consider what types of treatment you enjoy and are highly skilled at, as well as the needs of the community you will serve. If you are already working as a practitioner, you probably know more than you realize about a potentially successful niche and what services are needed in your community. Also, note that depending on your situation, you may want to consider buying out an existing practice rather than starting from scratch.

Don’t forget to consider the possibility of offering telehealth. This is one area where the right EHR can support your practice’s vision by helping align your goals.  The ability to offer engaging, HIPAA-compliant virtual therapy sessions, could be an important part of your niche. It is also a good option to have, even if you mainly work face-to-face.

Navigating Legal and Regulatory Requirements

Assuming you are already a licensed practitioner, one of the first steps in ensuring you’re ready to practice independently is obtaining your National Provider Identification (NPI) number. This process is completed through a federal government website. Your NPI number is a unique, 10-digit number that follows you as a healthcare professional throughout your career.

Safeguarding patient privacy is a key concern that you should ponder early and often. Practices that fail to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) may face fines and penalties, licensing sanctions, and unhappy customers. Key HIPAA issues include securing your computers and physical spaces, avoiding sending protected health information (PHI) through unsecure channels, keeping good records, and having a plan in place for potential breaches. Most EHRs are designed to meet HIPAA compliance requirements, but it’s always good to verify how much support the software will provide.

Keep an eye out for laws that may affect you, such as Florida’s new law requiring all PHI to be physically stored on computer servers within the United States or Canada.

Handling Intake and Registering Your Business

Comprehensive consent forms are a key requirement to protect patients’ rights and privacy. Your EHR should provide intake and assessment forms to help with this. This helps you get new patients established with consent to provide appointment reminders, provide PHI through a patient portal, obtain medical records from past providers, and so on.

Once you are ready, other basic elements for a new business include obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is also when you’ll decide whether to operate as a sole proprietorship or form a limited liability company (LLC) or S corporation, which can often be done online through your state’s Department of State website for a fee. After that’s done, you will want to open a business checking account.

Financial Planning and Budgeting

One of the first steps to opening your own private practice is setting up your budget. You’ll need to understand startup costs and ongoing expenses. These items may include fees to form your LLC or other legal entity, various types of insurance, costs associated with office space (e.g. rent, utilities, furniture, signage, etc.), payroll for employees and contractors, marketing expenses (e.g. initial website design), and technology. You will need to decide how to fund the initial expenses, such as a loan from yourself, obtaining a business loan or line of credit, or a joint venture with other partners. Many successful practices start out small, with a founder–practitioner who puts in long hours to keep costs low.

In the technology department, you’ll need an EHR that fits your budget and supports your practice’s operations and revenue. Look for EHRs that can competently handle as many functions as possible, such as prospective patient management, scheduling, documentation, billing, reporting, and telehealth, to cut down on the cost of additional software.

Creating a Business Plan For Opening Your Own Private Practice

Build a solid foundation for your practice with a comprehensive business plan. Your business plan should include the items mentioned previously and go into more depth. Fundamentally, it should answer basic questions such as “what does my practice do?,” “how do we do it?,” “whom do we do it for?,” and “what value does our practice bring?” Don’t forget to include sections on facilities and technology, front and back office, insurance and legal, an organizational chart, marketing, and anticipated initial revenues minus expenses. We have created a fillable business plan PDF template that may be of help.

Furthermore, don’t forget to decide what insurance panels (if any) you want to apply to be on, as the process can take several months but can be an important source of patient referrals. These applications may require you to provide a resumé with work history, an IRS W-9 form, proof of malpractice insurance, and an explanation of any professional disciplinary actions taken against you. You will want to take the time to research this.

Marketing and Branding Your Practice

To stand out in the market, you will want to develop your unique brand identity. This includes establishing an online presence with a professional website, obtaining customers via referrals and word of mouth, and may include marketing your practice via free social media pages and postings, paid digital advertisements, mailed advertisements, and so on.

A good EHR can help enhance your marketing efforts, particularly if you highlight user-friendly features such as a user-friendly patient portal. At all times, you will want to be clear about who you are as a practice and what you offer. Importantly, remember to make it easy for prospective clients to contact you.

Selecting the Right Electronic Health Record (EHR) Platform for Your Practice

What are the must-have EHR features for mental health professionals? For practice owners, we have found that must-haves often include intake and assessment automation, scheduling, documentation, billing, performance reporting, and clinical reporting. As you compare EHR options, keep in mind that the difference between multi-specialty and behavioral health specific-EHRs can make a big difference. This is especially important for new practices looking to build efficient behavioral health workflows from the ground up.

Ensuring a Smooth Transition

As you prepare to launch, what are the final steps before opening your practice? Do you have all of the above in order? A good way to check is to walk through a hypothetical new patient situation. Imagine a new patient has just requested an appointment. Do you have everything in place to communicate, onboard, schedule, complete, and bill for their first session?

Expect that there will be a learning curve. Gradually onboard and schedule patients to ensure the first few weeks and months are as smooth as possible. Thus, you’ll have more time and energy to ease into your new behavioral health business.

Balancing Growth and Patient Care

As you continue to build and grow your practice, set a goal to expand your client base while maintaining quality care and improving outcomes. For example, Valant makes implementing measurement-based care easier, which can help you become a better practitioner while also serving as vital data for value-based care contracts with payors, which can improve your practice’s reimbursement rates and revenues. This is just one of many strategies. For more, please download our whitepaper with 20 important key performance indicators (KPIs) for your growing private practice.


Don’t forget to reflect on your journey as you embrace the opportunities of building a private practice. A good EHR can act as a partner, supporting your practice every step of the way. Modern behavioral health practices are learning to embrace technology for success, utilizing their websites and EHRs to thrive. To learn more, book a live demo and let us show you Valant can help your practice thrive.