Starting Your Occupational Therapy (OT) Business During a Pandemic COVID-19

The OT Businessman or Businesswoman

Should Occupational Therapists start a new business or become an entrepreneur? The short answer – Yes! If you have stumbled on this blog, you are probably curious about how you can grow your idea to solve a problem, provide a valuable service, and/or make money while doing it. Who wouldn’t want to earn money while providing a product or service that enables individuals to participate in their daily occupations?

In fact, the profession of occupational therapy depends on entrepreneurs and people like you to drive innovation. If you think about it, other industries rely on similar individuals, teams, or companies to advance their industry, to sustain themselves, and to survive.

Human Innovation

Healthcare, science, and technology are constantly changing and advancing. With modern tools like the Internet, the way humans communicate, research information, disseminate information, automate processes, and conduct business is changing rapidly. Those who do not keep up will likely not be relevant.

An adult female receiving a vaccination that was administered by a public health clinician, by way of a jet injector, also known as a “Ped-O-Jet®”, during the nationwide Swine Flu vaccination campaign, which began October 1, 1976.

In the pharmaceutical industry, the cost for a new medicine is nearly $4 billion, and can sometimes exceed $10 billion. Research and development is major component of this. In technology, companies like Google and Apple are successful because they provide innovation and value to their customers and clients.

Healthcare Evolution

Similarly, the healthcare industry is rapidly changing and evolving with tools provided by technologies. This all stems from entrepreneurs. Take for example the landscape of healthcare due to COVID-19. Telehealth went from an innovative feature of healthcare to a necessary feature of healthcare in order for services to continue. Doctors and nurses on the frontlines have had to adapt to new protocols, systems, and technologies to minimize their exposure to COVID-19 patients while providing the quality of care they need. One such example is remote telecom and communications technologies that minimize the exposure a doctor has with the patient and can allow them to work remotely. This example outlines an area of need and a potential for an entrepreneur such as yourself to solve a healthcare problem.

The Need in OT

Is there a need for entrepreneurs in occupational therapy? The top google hit for “occupational therapy entrepreneur” is an American Occupational Therapy Association Journal Article (AJOT) titled, “Wanted: Entrepreneurs in Occupational Therapy”.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has challenged occupational therapy practitioners to advance the profession so that we may become more “powerful” and “widely recognized” by the year 2017 (AOTA, 2007a).

To fully achieve this vision, this article argues that the profession should encourage occupational therapy entrepreneurship.

Being that it is 2020 in the midst of a Pandemic, we are in need of occupational therapy entrepreneurship more than ever! One of the most affected sectors of OT is the school systems. In an effort to reduce exposure and infection to the coronavirus, nearly all schools in the United States closed immediately, almost overnight. Some transitioned to online classes, but many parents were faced with homeschooling their children. School occupational therapists were furloughed or laid off. Many educators transitioned to technologies such as Telehealth, only to find many barriers to providing quality education and services compared to real-life interactions. For example, educators found that children were unable to maintain or sustain their full attention on a screen remotely compared to face-to-face. How do we overcome this barrier? Perhaps you have a solution. This is another example of a problem and an area of opportunity for occupational therapists to use their education, experience, and unique perspective to solve a specific problem.

Entrepreneurs may or may not be innovators, but they are always experimenters; they are individuals able to recognize opportunities and willing to take the risks necessary to develop those opportunities

Small Business During A Pandemic

Many are frustrated, even angered with the climate of small business owners amidst the pandemic in the US. “Nonessential” businesses were ordered to shut down while many large corporations remained open. Small business owners are facing the reality of having to shut down or go out of business because they cannot run their business as they once did. So it is a good idea to start a small business or pursue your idea? This post is not an opinion piece about the recent treatment of small businesses.

The chocolate chip cookie was invented during the Great Depression

There is a silver lining to this as well. OTDUDE has done quite well in some areas while not so well in others. Our overall volume of sales has gone down, but initial interest in our products that advocated for PPE did quite well, grossing over $1000 in sales in the month of April alone. As many Americans filed for unemployment and have to watch their spending, many sectors of the economy have been affected in addition to ours.

The COVID-19 Entrepreneur

You may be scratching your head right now and thinking, “what can I invent or create during a pandemic”? Now we are not asking you to exploit the system and your local community such as some have done by price hiking essential items (which is illegal by the way). Humanity can benefit from

  • A vaccine
  • More PPE
  • Better contact tracing technologies that are accurate, user friendly, and which prioritize security and privacy of individuals
  • Remote technologies that allow services to continue with social distancing
  • Research for COVID-19
  • (Your idea here)

South Korea has been highly regarded for their preparation and response to COVID-19. They have conducted the most testing on their citizens and implemented the use of contact tracing apps/technologies that resulted in one of the lowest initial COVID-19 infection and death rates. In addition, these companies made a lot of money while benefiting the general public. It’s a win-win for everyone. Meanwhile, in the United States, initial testing was a disaster with contact tracing being done by pre-historic methods instead of modern ones such as Apps and cell phone location tracking. Of course, the two cultures are very different and with compliance / privacy being a recent concern, the US may have had less success with the same technology. However, if you look hard enough, there is an area of opportunity.

How contact tracing apps work

5 brilliant inventions that came out of the Great Depression:

  1. Electric razor
  2. Car radio
  3. Tampon
  4. Chocolate chip cookie
  5. Monopoly board game

There is Never a Bad Time

Entrepreneurship has driven the U.S. economy and way of life since the country’s conception.

Recognizing the importance of small businesses and their connections to American entrepreneurship, Farrell (2001)  stated,

“The entrepreneurial spirit is the best model ever invented for creating growth and prosperity”

In President Barack Obama’s address to the joint session of Congress on February 24, 2009, he called for entrepreneurs to continue to innovate and contribute to the economy despite difficult financial times.

The American public needs you in these difficult times! As an occupational therapist or assistant, you could be the one to change history.

As a potential occupational therapist entrepreneur, what is your next step? -> Read the AJOT article here.