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Cat Food and Patient Dropout

Its not about you.Marilyn’s an animal lover. Except for the animals you eat, I could take or leave them. And I’m sure the various cats and dogs who live in our house can detect my ambivalence. They tolerate me. I ignore them.

Yet, I’ve noticed two recent behaviors among our household cat population that has revealed certain similarities with some chiropractors I know. The first deals with their communal food bowl.

For years the cats have been fed from a single bowl on a ledge about 18” off the floor in our upstairs bathroom. Not long ago, the two dogs discovered this stash of cat food. These are big dogs. They were eating a lot of cat food. So the cat bowl was moved up off the ledge to a place the cats can get to easily, but the dogs can’t reach. Problem solved.

But like many solutions, it’s created a new problem. A month later, the cats continue showing up where the food used to be. And they give you an “I’m ready to eat—where’s my food?” look. No matter that from where they give you this pathetic stare, they can see their familiar food bowl on the counter a mere 30” away!

These cats, and their difficulty in forming a new habit, remind me of the chiropractors I speak with who are unwilling to admit that the food bowl has been moved. Namely, reimbursement from insurance companies has changed. They still think better coding or adding some new, reimbursable service to their practice is the key. Spencer Johnson wrote about this in his brilliant little book, Who Moved My Cheese? The good old days are gone. Adapt. Need some help? Allow me to offer some common sense and some cool tools to make the job easier in Converting to Cash.

The other ah-ha from these cats is when I approach one of them on my way from one room to another. Invariably as I draw near, a cat will crouch. Sizing me up. There’s plenty of room for me to pass by, but when I get within four feet or so, the cat immediately races off in another direction. There is absolutely no reason for the cat to flee. I’ve never threatened any of the cats, stepped on any of them, nor do I pose any risk to them. I’m completely ambivalent, remember? But they scurry off anyway.

These cats have made my actions inappropriately about them. Perhaps they see me as an intruder in their house, I don’t know. But this is not unlike chiropractors who make patient behaviors about themselves. As if what patients do is somehow their fault. “What did I do?” they worry when patients discontinue care. “What should I have said?” they wonder. Like the cats who think the world revolves around them, these chiropractors think they forgot something in their three-hour report of findings.

It’s not about you. Never has been about you. Oh, you can make it about you. But the free will choice you exercise to make the relationship about you, is the same free will choice that patients exercise that produce the behaviors you find so annoying!

My recommendation? Show up as a humble servant. When you find yourself trying to interpret their sudden dropout without even a goodbye, ask yourself, “Who would I be being that would prompt a patient to leave and not want to announce it?” Either they’re afraid you’ll try to talk them out of discontinuing care and/or you’ll make them feel stupid or shortsighted by quitting. One or the other virtually guarantees that when they have their inevitable relapse they won’t be coming back to your office.

So, thanks Cheena, Vegas and Sydney.

I think.

Comments (3)

Mike Headleee,D.C.:

Bill,
Great post, I couldn't agree more, keep up the great work, you are a genius.

Bryan Siegel, DC:

Bill, I am always amazed and delighted at how you draw and articulate such interesting and dead on relevant analogies about where chiropractic is, where it has been and where it is going. You have the pulse on this profession and continue to offer such mature, responsible approaches so that we can be in this mode of serving others for the long haul. Cheers!

Terri Galant,DC:

It is just a natural reaction to wonder why a person has decided not to continue care. But instead of reacting I find it is better to constantly keep in the rhythm of new and better ways to educate and motivate the thousands outside my office who will get the idea and want to come for a lifetime for the right reason. Constantly doing those things that may not be just about "getting and losing" patients, such as writing, volunteering, expanding social contacts etc. takes away the focus from why a person has decided to quit care. It's about always keeping my eye on the bigger vision.

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From February 13, 2008 11:50 AM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 13, 2008 11:50 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Monday Morning Motivation.

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