I’ve been making an assertion at my recent speaking gigs that, to date, no one has disputed. My claim? That the initial patient consultation is more important than the report of findings.
Seems that many chiropractors invest an inordinate amount of energy on their reports. And while that’s great, by the time a patient gets their report, especially if it’s on the second visit or later, they’ve already decided to follow you. In fact, if anything, the relationship is yours to lose.
Why the focus on the report? Hard to say. But it seems that for many who coach the profession, the report of findings is perceived as a crucial sales event—getting the patient to buy something. Or do something. Or commit to something. If they show up for your report they’re doing all three. And there’s little you can say or do at this stage of the relationship to secure more than a couple more “test visits.”
Seems to me that if the consultation is handled properly, reports can be shorter and considerably less stressful for you and the patient!
If you’ve been to the Louvre in Paris, or any other major museum, you’ve noticed that most paintings, especially the older, larger ones, are placed in frames. Many are especially ornate, hand carved and embellished with gold leaf. These frames set off the painting, separating it from the background—almost defining a window in which to see the painter’s reality. It might be helpful to think of the consultation as a “framing” for your relationship with a new patient.
Why is this even necessary?
1. Patients enter your practice with a lot of wrongheaded ideas about chiropractic.
If you don’t regularly take excursions into your community to explain what chiropractic is and what it isn’t, new patients are largely selecting your office based on the prevailing cultural notions about chiropractic. Namely, it’s a last resort for neck and back pain after conventional methods fail. Use your consultation to reframe chiropractic as a discipline that attends to the integrity of the nervous system.
2. Patients are inclined to superimpose their medical doctor experiences onto you.
Based on their experience with allopaths, most patients are inclined to surrender their headache or ache and pain to you with an implied, “Here. Take it. I don’t want it.” If you have any hope of having healthy patient relationships, use your consultation to explain the purpose of pain, why pain is never the problem and that pain is the body’s perfect response to the circumstances of their life.
3. Establishing clear boundaries avoids assumptions and clarifies responsibilities.
You’ve heard the old adage that good fences make good neighbors? Same thing here. It’s crucial that you define the terms of your relationship; what’s theirs and what’s yours—what you’ll do and what you won’t do. Offer hope, but be clear that if any healing is going to happen, they’ll be the ones doing it, not you and certainly not your adjustments. Make sure they understand that every patient responds at a different pace, determined largely by what they do to support your care.
4. Patients buy the messenger before they buy the message.
Use the consultation to “plant your flag.” Obviously, listen to their story. When they’re through it’s your turn. Explain what you believe to be true. The objective isn’t to get them to believe what you believe, but to reveal your worldview. Why? Because you’re going to touch them! So, after you’ve had a good listening as they describe their particular health complaint, it’s your turn to return the serve. “Sounds like you’re an excellent candidate for chiropractic care. And just so you know, here’s what I believe and the lens I look through as I attempt to help people who choose our office. I believe…
Health is normal.
Your nervous system controls and regulates your entire body.
Interference to nervous system control produces ill health.
The nervous system can be interfered with from physical, emotional and chemical stresses.
The body’s response to these stressors is called subluxation.
Chiropractic care locates and reduces the effects of these stressors.
Because of its focus on the nervous system, chiropractic care can have whole body effects.”
“Gosh Bill, I cover most of this at my report of findings. Why do it at the consultation?”
1. Not explaining what makes you different from their medical doctor is deceptive.
2. Keeping your philosophy secret, but revealing it after they’ve paid for an examination, is a form of entrapment.
Perhaps the fear is that you’ll divulge what makes you different and the patient will bolt for the door. Unlikely. Turns out that by the time a patient makes it to your office, they’re fed up with the medical model. They want something different. Use your consultation to reassure them that you are different.