Soon after beginning their professional training, student chiropractors lose touch with the patient’s point of view. The result, years later, is a highly-trained professional who has effectively lost touch with the people they desire to serve. And while this has created a career path for me, this all-too-common phenomenon has produced a cadre of chiropractors who are finding practice more difficult than it was even just a few years ago.
Remove the “grease” provided by generous reimbursement and the true nature of your practice becomes glaringly obvious, especially if your practice was largely dependent upon insurance carriers.
This is partly because many chiropractors, weaned on a steady stream of patients with charitable policies, came to believe this was well, normal. And worse, that it would continue endlessly for the remainder of their career. Clearly, a miscalculation. If you find yourself in this position, here’s an observation that could help turn things around.
It’s time to make your practice more patient-centric. Struggling practices usually aren’t. Instead, they are usually…
Doctor-centric. These practitioners have selfishly made their practices about themselves, their ability to pay their bills and have their own needs, financially and emotionally, met by patients. (These chiropractors will often give an inordinate amount of attention to patients who don’t show, rather than lavishing attention on those who do.) or,
Relief-centric. These practitioners are usually burdened by the need to “fix” patients. At first glance, it appears as if Fixers are committed caregivers. But dig deeper and you discover that their main concern is patient compliance so results will be more certain and they will look good in the eyes of patients! Hoping to look good steals the spotlight from the patient. The adjustments, and the one delivering it, become the hero rather than the patient and their God-given ability to heal.
Patients often tolerated these two self-indulgent pathologies when they didn’t have to pick up the tab. But these days, this type of selfishness rarely produces appreciative patients who hang around after they feel better or spread the word about you and your practice.
Making chiropractic about the patient isn’t a new idea. Those who appear to have a “recession-proof” practice employ this strategy. Granted, the practice management boys rarely teach these principles and it may require some “unlearning,” but if you want your practice to flourish, consider some of the characteristics of patient-centric practitioners:
Servanthood. Check your ego at the door. Show up as a humble servant. A patient can’t ruin your reputation—only you can do that. Acknowledge that the only power you have in the relationship is if, when and where to adjust. Patients control virtually everything else. Attempting to “manage” patients (even if you try to justify it as being in the patient’s best interest) is manipulative and off-putting. Remember that being a servant is our highest calling.
Curiosity. It’s impossible to make chiropractic about patients if you lack a fundamental interest in what they believe, what they do, what they like, what they know, what they aspire to and why they want their health back. (Clue: it’s not so they can brag about a restored cervical curve!) Thousands of years of wisdom pass before you each day. Bludgeoning them with your chiropractic mumbo jumbo and filling the air with your philosophy simply because you have a captive audience, is rude. Ask more questions. Listen.
Relevancy. Only once you know what’s important to each patient, can you employ your creativity to make chiropractic truly meaningful. Relating chiropractic to their hobby, their hopes, their goals, their highest values or some other already existing need or want is the key. Foolishly, many chiropractors attempt to install a new value, such as better health, better posture or being subluxation-free. Hopefully by now you have ascertained that this doesn’t work. Instead, find out what need or want is already present to which you can link chiropractic.
Eternity. In the same way the body heals at its own pace, patients come to accept chiropractic principles (or not) on their own schedule. Impatient, wanting the patient to “get it” on your schedule is childish and naïve. Ignoring those who are inactive in favor of new conquests is like planting a garden and never watering it. Take an eternal view of each relationship, assuming there will be periods of dormancy when the patient isn’t under active care, but still see you as their chiropractor. Realize it may take a series of relapses spanning a decade or more before patients embrace your worldview.
The public’s need for chiropractic hasn’t changed. If anything, the demand should be greater today than at any time in history. If your practice isn’t as satisfying as it used to be, chances are you haven’t adapted to the changing marketplace. Please do so.