It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me why so many of my overtures during the last 29 years have produced polite head nodding among chiropractors, but have rarely been implemented. And while it’s disappointing to acknowledge the inability to inspire significant change, it’s at least a small comfort to finally understand why.
And it’s not just my unique “patient’s point of view” perspective. It goes far deeper than acquainting chiropractors with the beginner’s mind of an anxious, apprehensive new patient encountering a radically different health care paradigm. Instead, what I’ve learned explains why so many of the suggestions I’ve offered chiropractors over the years in my chiropractic seminars and chiropractic books are acknowledged as truthful—even good, but remain unimplemented.
It all began with the realization that most chiropractors wanted a practice, but found themselves in a small business.
As I’ve recently shared that observation with chiropractic audiences, it has produced even more vigorous head nodding. Yet, I already have ample experience with making these sorts of observations and seeing the solutions virtually ignored. Thankfully, what I think is different this time is that I may have stumbled upon the underlying cause of this phenomenon.
Turns out, the importance of patient education, flag-planting consultations, choice-filled reports of findings and discussing the goodbye process at the beginning of the relationship is all symptom treating. And like all symptom treating it’s relatively ineffective. The recipient of your overtures appreciate feeling better, but the change is largely short lived.
Apparently, chiropractors have two brains: a practitioner’s brain and a businessperson’s brain. The former is overdeveloped and the latter underdeveloped. This is the underlying cause of what prompts chiropractors to search out consultants, attend practice-building seminars or spend money on the promise of profits from some new gadget or adjunctive service. This “brain imbalance” is best understood by examining the constituent parts and how they function.
The Practitioner’s Brain
This is the limbic system of the practice, with just enough left-brain detail to be proficient in essential diagnostic and clinical matters. The Practitioner’s Brain houses the compassion and empathy that is necessary to be a professional caregiver. This area of the brain is concerned with processing and responding to inputs dealing with patient physiology, biomechanics and the healing process, plus the more difficult tasks of monitoring patient satisfaction, commitment and follow through. Like the right hemisphere, the Practitioner’s Brain solves problems by relying on hunches and looking for patterns and it is the emotional seat of the practice. When patients discontinue care, express frustration with the speed of their recovery or there are few patients in the practice to help, the Practitioner’s Brain is activated.
The Business Brain
This is the detail-oriented, logical side of the equation. The Business Brain is the center for words, language and persuasion. Plus, this is where a sense of time and the ability to perform math are located. The Business Brain is keenly aware of the bills that need to be paid, the consequences of not paying them and how many patients are on the book for the day. Office procedures, marketing systems and other linear processes that bring predictability, security and sustainability to the practice are found in this region of the brain.
Where the Practitioner’s Brain tolerates the Business Brain, the Business Brain resents the ignorance, artistic whims and unprofitable indulgences of the Practitioner’s Brain.
Since I’m not a chiropractor, I’ve only recently discovered how it’s the Practitioner’s Brain that hijacks most chiropractic businesses. Since my message over the years has largely been directed to the underdeveloped, vestigial Business Brain, I now have an explanation for the sometimes-quizzical head tilt of the RCA Victor dog I get when speaking to chiropractic audiences!
You must feed the Business Brain if you are to nourish the Practitioner’s Brain. Because you have a business first, and a platform for your Practitioner’s Brain, second. You’ll either come to love your Business Brain, develop it, strengthen it and allow it to expand, or you’ll work for someone who already has or is willing to do so.
Good Business Brain = Bad Practitioner Brain
Somewhere along the way, having a mature Business Brain has come to mean that the chiropractor must be a poor adjuster or lack the competency to be a good chiropractor. Perhaps this is based on the lie that having golden hands means you shouldn’t have to market your practice. Or that great results is all it takes to have a great practice. Or that successful businesses run by chiropractors can only be achieved if they cut corners, screw insurance companies, rely on distasteful scripting or more likely, are doing something illegal. The self-righteousness behind these beliefs is the perfect way to justify one’s own incompetence, unfamiliarity or lack of interest in developing their Business Brain.
Being on the HMO lists, PPO panels and insurance plans the last 10 years made it easy for many chiropractors to neglect the new customer acquisition issues that virtually all small businesses face.
Resolving now to attend to your Business Brain at a time when your numbers are slumping, the economy is strained and you’re living off your savings isn’t the most pleasant way to face this reality, but as we say, what is, is.
What to Do Now
Even though many patients may only think of you as a way to obtain relief from a one-time episode of some neuromuscular-skeletal complaint, you’ve probably built up some goodwill among your inactives. Especially, if you’ve avoided the habit of making patients feel small, stupid or ashamed when they discontinue their care. This may be the time to deploy some time-tested reactivation strategies as you get your bearings and implement a more sustainable marketing plan.
Postcards – Sometimes just a postcard letting inactive patients know that you were thinking about them is all it takes. Get some ideas about what to write by checking out our most popular reactivation postcards.
Newsletters – Sending a newsletter when you need some new patients is akin to a patient showing up for a pop to help relieve a headache. Our quarterly patient newsletter is a great way to begin the habit.
Birthday Cards – Again, a proven strategy for helping create top of mind awareness of your practice on the day each year that aging patients are most likely to be thinking about their health and well-being.
New Year’s Resolution – The other time each year patients think about their health is the first of the year. This is when health clubs do a majority of their business. Plan now. Many use our Wellness Wheel with good results.
Apologize – Retrieve the file folders of patients you’d like to see again. If you think the circumstances under which they discontinued care might be standing in the way, apologize to their folder and ask for another opportunity to be of service to them or someone they know.
Your Business Brain is much like a muscle. If not regularly used, it has atrophied and tires quickly. Or maybe you’ve successfully shunned that aspect of your life. No matter. Business skills are not innate and are completely learnable. Everything you need is available freely on this website and on countless others. But you have to want it.