I co-exist with four cats. If it were my choice, our home would be cat-free. (Hang in there, this has profound implications for your practice.)
Four months ago, we moved the place where these cats were accustomed to being fed. All the cats, except one, continue going to the former location looking for food.
If this sounds like the parable of the mice in Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, it’s because it is. Except with one distinction: one of the four cats adapted far more quickly to the new food arrangements than the others.
So, if you’re feeling a bit disoriented because of the practice environment has changed, and things that used to work no longer do, you’d want to know more about Tommy.
Tommy is the fourth, most recent addition to the needless cat population in our home. He adapted the quickest to the new feeding arrangements. What makes Tommy different from the other three cats? Tommy used to be an outside cat. A barn cat. Living in the elements. Prowling. Catching mice and birds. Thriving in the wild. The disoriented cats who habitually go to the original feeding location have known nothing but room temperature bliss and easy pickings at the bottomless food bowl.
Similarly, if all you’ve known is third-party reimbursement, and learn of the chiropractor across town busily helping people, even in the face of the economy, you might wonder what their “secret” is.
What I’m about to reveal is so subtle; you may dismiss it and continue to look for the food bowl in its former place. In other words, better insurance coding, some new reimbursable gadget or practice marketing idea.
You will be disappointed. Worse, you’ll lose some of the momentum you may by currently enjoying.
What makes Tommy so adaptable is that unlike the other cats, before he won the cat lottery and got an inside gig, he never relied on the Purina god to supply his needs. This gave Tommy a huge advantage when we changed feeding locations. He doesn’t have the entitlement-feed-me-I-deserve-it-I-want-it-here-and-I-want-it-now mentality shared by the other cats. In fact, he knows it’s possible to live without the Purina god supplying his needs.
Can you practice without the insurance god supplying your manna? Do you think it’s even possible to practice without reimbursement? Are you putting your trust in the bureaucrats in Washington to provide? Do you offer something valuable enough that patients would pay cash for—even if they could obtain drug solutions for “free”?
Many chiropractors haven’t given their enterprise enough introspection to determine their Unique Selling Proposition, which makes them different from the chiropractor down the street with the “Chiropractor” sign out in front of the shoppette. Sure, back in the heady days of easy reimbursement there was no need to dig this deep. But those days are gone.
You might want to become more mindful of these nuances:
Celebrate your difference. By the time patients find themselves in a chiropractor’s office they want something different. Be different. Not weird different. But proudly and enthusiastically different. You probably take it for granted, but the nervous system focus of chiropractic is not only new to most patients (even those who have been to a chiropractor before), it actually makes sense!
Set the rules of engagement. If you don’t establish the “contract” for your patient relationships, patients have little choice but to superimpose their medical doctor contract onto you. In other words, “Here’s my [health complaint], fix it please!” Taking credit (or blame) for the effect of chiropractic care is inappropriate and one of many signs of poor boundaries.
It’s not about you. Remember, most patients didn’t “budget” their latest health crisis into their monthly budget. So, unless you give talks in your community explaining what chiropractic actually is, expect patients to show up with spinal conditions and expecting their insurance carrier to make them whole. When you sense that they seem less than fully committed, it’s not about you. Or chiropractic. They’re just experiencing an uncomfortable “uh-oh moment” in your presence.
Remain 100% certain. Chiropractic principles are timeless and remain true regardless of the economy, what Washington does or the time of the year. True, patients may be hindered by other stresses, instant gratification, an unwillingness to co-participate, have more pressing priorities, a lack of interest in true health and have other issues outside your control. Still, the principles of chiropractic are timeless. When you know that deep in your own sinew, you exude a certain kind of confidence and hope that patients find attractive and compelling.
Be in, but not of. When asked, virtually every chiropractor I speak with on the telephone who is going through an uncomfortable “practice recalibration” phase, admits to still being engaged with the fear-producing, doubt-creating, allopathic-promoting, helplessness-producing media. It’s impossible to remain a beacon of hope and a “rock” for patients if you’re under the same mass hypnosis as they are! Turn off the news. Shun the radio. Ignore the newspapers. Set yourself free.
No one is owed a living simply because of his or her skill set, debt load or 20-years-of-service-at-the-same-location. Yes, the practice environment has changed. And will continue to do so. If things aren’t going as you planned, chances are you made some assumptions about the future that weren’t true. Get over it. Make some new assumptions. Tommy did.