I’ve been in practice for about four months and having a really hard time getting patients. I don’t have enough patients to rely on referrals. Please help.
Dear Four Months,
Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to do is consult the notes from the class you took in chiropractic college entitled “Your First Year in Practice” to revisit the essential action steps that new practitioners must take in order to generate their first year’s worth of new patients.
Don’t have those notes? Don’t remember taking that class? Right. Because it wasn’t offered. And while this would be the perfect opportunity to launch into a riff about the shortsightedness of chiropractic colleges, who, fearful of being perceived as a lowly trade school, often offer little more than a perfunctory class or two about the dynamics of actual practice, here are some suggestions. My guess is that these ideas could help experienced field doctors who aren't getting referrals just as much as a newbie, thrust into the real world.
First, lose any chip on your shoulder that makes you angry about the debt you incurred for your education (it's the best investment you could ever make) or the belief that the act of receiving a diploma somehow entitles you to a profitable, fulfilling practice. No, it’s merely the admission ticket into the arena. While you’re at it, forgive your particular chiropractic college for not helping you become better prepared to actually practice. And banish any doubt about your career choice. This is truly a great time to be a chiropractor.
Disengage from the media. Especially now with rising gas prices and the election looming in the fall, fear and uncertainty will be the theme of virtually every news program and newspaper article. Don’t allow any of it into your brain. That applies to reading the doom and gloom articles in the chiropractic media as well.
Get your heart right. Make sure your motive for “getting patients” is to help them get what they want and not so you can pay your bills, look successful or have something to do! Only as you solve their needs can you expect to have your needs met. It doesn’t work the other way around. Many have tried.
Cluster book. The few patients you do have need to be concentrated into the shortest time frame possible. Besides the impression that you have a busy office, it will free you up to...
Get out of your office. New patients come from telling the chiropractic story to as many strangers as possible. That’s difficult to do, holed up in your office, surfing the internet or consumed by worry. Here are some ideas:
- Join a Toastmasters group. If you’re going to tell the chiropractic story to strangers, public speaking is the most efficient, least expensive way to do it. Perfect your ability to express yourself in front of a supportive group of other business people who recognize the wisdom of mastering this important social skill. As you become more confident, arrange to speak in front of any group that will have you.
- Meet your neighbors. Most of your patients, at least in the early days, will come from a relatively nearby drawing area. Put together a one-page biography about yourself, arm yourself with copies of an informative newsletter (consider our Relief & Wellness News) or some brochures (I recommend our Answers to the Questions Patients Ask About Chiropractic) and introduce yourself. No need to pander, you’re merely introducing yourself and becoming familiar. “Hi, my name is Dr. SoAndSo. I’m the new chiropractor over in the Hillsdale Shopping Center and I'm out meeting my neighbors today. Just wanted to drop this off and introduce myself.”
- Serve your community. Join a service club or two in your community. Serve meals at the local soup kitchen. Volunteer at your church or local charity. Look for ways to immerse yourself into your community and meet as many people as possible. You’re new. Community antibodies are activated. Shields are up. Phasers are on stun. You want to be seen as a committed, invested native who belongs, just as quickly as possible. One way to prove it is to give of your time.
Assemble your professional referrals list. Establish an ensemble of resources you’ll be referring to as your practice grows. Find the MDs, dentists, naturopaths, mid-wives, massage therapists, physical therapists, nutritionists and other experts that you’ll want to refer your patients to when necessary. Introduce yourself in a letter, follow up with a phone call and attempt to arrange a time to meet, tour their office and understand their practice philosophy. Here’s a sample letter you can use as a guide. Then, as you can, refer! Those who give referrals are more likely to get referrals.
Most of these suggestions can be implemented at little or no financial cost, which I’m assuming is important right about now. However, there is another cost. It’s largely the emotional risk of meeting strangers, sharing your beliefs and risking rejection or worse, ridicule. If you sincerely wish to help people and profitably run your small business, you must confront and overcome these fears. (You may find Emotional Freedom Technique helpful.) Your community needs you. They’re waiting for you to show up. So, lose the cloaking device, become visible and make some noise!