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Have You Adapted?

dinosaur.gifSoon 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.

Comments (5)

Dr. Dan Hestera:

I'll never forget the 7 or 8 months I spent with Dr. Maurice Tiahrt in Fort Collins, CO. At the time (1998) he had been in practice for at least thirty years. I was going to buy his practice and I spent several months just observing him interact with patients. He was fantastic at just loving on his patients and connecting with who they were and and the important things in their lives. The most striking thing is how many patients had been with him for sooooo many years. He would introduce me to his patients and ask "how long have you been a patient in my office?" and the answers were amazing. 25 years, 15 years, 22, 27, 18, etc... Ultimately I did not purchase Dr. Tiahrt's practice but I learned so much about what it means to serve people through a chiropractic practice. From that experience I consciously decided that I wanted to create patients for life. I believe the key to doing this is being honest, dependable, loving, forgiving, compassionate, trustworthy, and consistant. ALWAYS making it about the patient and not me. Serving and unconditionally loving the patients will produce a practice to be proud of for the long- haul that will never have a shortage of money, patients, or new patients. Thanks Dr. Tiahrt and thank you Bill for all you do!
Dr. Dan Hestera

Although your focus should be on the patient-- I definitely feel it is important to take care of the doctor's finances and get results-- It would hardly be the thriving practice to give free care that does not "work" (releive symptoms). Having said that I understand and agree with your point that you can't be extreme with these positions-- the selfishness will shine through.

Terrri Galant, DC:

Thank-you for your insights. They always call for some re-thinking on my part which is good.
I would like to comment on your thoughts about relevancy. Of course I have to relate to the patient before they can "hear" what I have to say. The patient has to "connect" and feel that I have something valuable for them. However, I have found in my experience that saying something like "You will enjoy your time with your grandchildren or you will have better times on the golf course or you will think clearer on your test is still something that I cannot truly guarantee. What I have to offer them "without a doubt" is that my service is very unique and it will change them for the better. When this fact is always on my mind then I can BE THAT CHIROPRACTOR WITH THAT EXTRA SOMETHING that BJ Palmer referred to and it frees me from wondering what exactly I am going to say to the patient. It's always better when the patient tells me the positive things they noticed and then I can continue to re-inforce the life enhancement properties of regular chiropractic care.

Tony Russo:

I mirror Bryan's position. Very bold, very avant garde and very precise. That's exactly how to build a practice. Exactly! My God, if I had this 15 short years ago. If all you new Doctors of Chiropractic out there would just adapt this and Bill's many other helpful excerpts, you too will be recession-proofing your well as applying Michael Gerber's book "E-Myth Revisited" and Dave Ramsey's book, "Total Money Make Over".
I did...

Bryan Siegel, DC:

One of your boldest, most direct blogs yet Bill! You have such an interesting way of making so much sense of what so many of the chiropractic profession has been blinded to. I think the allure of being dogmatic about our principles has overshadowed the option to ask questions, in the sake of saving time during patient visits and demonstrating authority. It's a hard habit to break.

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From April 19, 2008 8:47 AM

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