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Do You Ask This Ineffective Question?

stupid_question.jpgSure, we were all told in elementary school that “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” And it’s true, I think asking questions is the key to true patient education and understanding. But I think we can all agree that the question asked on many new patient admitting forms if not stupid, is at least ineffective.

The question has several variants, but generally follows a structure similar to this:

My goal for seeking care in this office:

[ ] Help with my most immediate problem
[ ] Help with my current problem and preventing its return
[ ] Help obtaining optimum function, health and well-being

At first glance, this appears to be a brilliant question, maybe even helpful in designing a care plan that will best reflect what the patient wants. Yet, give this question even the most superficial consideration and you’ll see why it’s such a waste of time.

First, you can’t trust their answer. Put a clipboard and a document to be filled out in front of most patients and they swing into high school test taking mode. The goal? Get as many right answers as possible. Between downplaying their alcohol consumption and wondering if they should reveal their recreational drug use, they have to wonder, what’s the “right” answer to this question no one has ever asked me before? Invariably, they think the right answer is the third one. Even though they don’t even know what optimum function and well-being means!

My guess is this question is an attempt to avoid disappointment. Yours. Trying to flush out who will accept your lifetime wellness message before you’ve even met them at the consultation is a bit self-indulgent, producing inaccurate results. Look over your inactive files and count how many checked your version of the “I want wellness” box, but dropped out after they felt better or their insurance coverage ended.

And finally, since when do you only recommend the care that the patient wants? I thought your job was to offer what the patient needs? Naturally, you have to settle for what the patient wants, so just what purpose does this question serve?

Instead of asking a question, this might be a better time to make a statement:

There are five ways our patients use chiropractic care:

Relief Care for obvious the most symptoms
Corrective Care for their underlying problem
Maintenance Care to sustain their progress
Preventive Care to catch new problems early
Wellness Care to be all that they can be

Be thinking of how far you want to take your care when you meet the doctor.

At the consultation, make sure you are perfectly okay with whatever choice they make and that there isn’t any shame attached to choosing mere relief. Remember, at this stage you have little validity. Many patients harbor doubts that you can help them with their presenting complaint, much less do anything else. So, don’t be disappointed by their unenlightened choice.

By the way, if you like the idea of explaining the five ways people use chiropractic care, we offer it in poster form along with a convenient report handout as well.

Ask questions. But don’t waste your time with questions whose answers are meaningless!

Comments (3)

Rick Humiston:

Hi Bill,

I wanted to know when we should introduce the 5 possible uses of chiropractic you share above? And, once we state them, what do we do with the dialogue from here? Considering they may still answer with what they think is appropriate, but NOT commited to following through with.

Looking forward to your response.


WDE: At the consultation, I'd explain that there are X ways people in your practice use chiropractic and to be thinking about how they will want to use chiropractic. Since most patients present symptomatically, and how they would answer that question has little bearing on their symptomatic care, start there. At your report, again mention the X ways people use chiropractic. During the course of their care as they’re showing improvement, or at their first progress exam, would be good time to follow up. “When you began care in our office I mentioned there were X ways of using chiropractic. Have you thought about how you want to use it?”

Then, their answer might have some value.


Great explanation of how patients choose the type of care they want. However, isn't Maintenance, Preventive and Wellness Care pretty much mean the same thing?



WDE: For some yes. For others no. Patients tend to see two types of care. Symptomatic care and nonsymptomatic care.


I LOVE the Monday Motivation. My husband just opened his office. I am not a chiropractor but I love reading the information and passing it on to my husband. It seems like you are reading our mind when it comes to things we are wondering about! Thank you!

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From March 6, 2008 3:46 PM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 6, 2008 3:46 PM.

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