Take an inventory of your practice-stabilizing, once-a-monther patients and you’ll discover that most of them have had two, three, four or more chiropractic episodes prior to embracing chiropractic as a long-term lifestyle adjunct. If this is true (research your own patients and see), then it takes a lot of pressure off trying to find the magical words or the seal-them-in-for-life procedures that so many chiropractors seem searching for.
But what about the chiropractor who thinks they somehow permanently “fix” patients? Even more concerning are patients who think they were “fixed” after a dozen or so visits with you? Have you created an "echo chamber" that has misled you into believing that you make permanent, lasting change because patients rarely return?
Here's how the perception gets started, and what you could do about it.
Most chiropractors have a patient keeping problem, not a patient getting problem.
It's one of the most significant characteristics distinguishing those who practice chiropractic from those who practice chiropractic medicine.
Because chiropractic care can enhance the ability to accommodate or recover from physical, chemical and emotional stress, chiropractic care can be a lifestyle adjunct, like brushing and flossing, not merely a short-term diet of pain relief.
Those with a voracious appetite for new patients often fail to effectively communicate this precept. Instead, their practices seem to attract those who want only the most superficial symptomatic relief. While better than drugs and surgery, this form of chiropractic takes on the characteristics of a medical practice, without its cultural authority, acceptance and effortless stream of new patients.
Review the trophy case of inactive patient files in most chiropractic practices and it appears getting new patients isn't a problem. But apparently keeping them is!
Many newer chiropractors seem to believe that merely outfitting an office in a highly-trafficked location, hanging up a sign and doing a great job is all that is needed to be successful. That may have been almost true in the 1980s when everyone had insurance with $100 deductibles. But today, that is merely the admission ticket into the arena of professional practice.
What so many chiropractors seem to overlook is that chiropractic is a personality-based small business. Naturally, if you don’t have one, it can be a handicap.
If you don’t tend to be outgoing, leaning toward the introverted side things and generally shun social settings in which you’ll encounter strangers, a busy, successful practice is more difficult to achieve. Not impossible, but difficult. Because patients see you “living in your head.” It can prompt one or more unhelpful patient perceptions that can thwart your practice.
Long-term relationships are more rewarding than short-term relationships.
On purely a financial basis, of the nine chiropractors I've received care from, chiropractor number seven and number nine, whom I saw eleven and six years respectively, collected more from me than the others combined.
But that's not what I mean by more rewarding. I mean the more valuable emotional and spiritual rewards of seeing patients grow, blossom and create offspring; to be an active participant and witness as they grow and flourish. That's where the "juice" is! That's where the soul satisfying sense of significance is found!
Naturally, most of these practice members are hardly suffering from the aches and pains whose relief become such an easy and traditional measure of success. Instead, success is counted by productive lives, intimate marriages, meaningful conversations and assisting others becoming more fully themselves.
How are you keeping the excitement alive on the 300th adjustment?
Mortimer, who his friends called “Mort” or “Mo” and Lester, whose close friends were inclined to shortened to simply Les. While Mort and Les practiced about 100 miles apart, from time to time they would check in with each other on the telephone.
Here’s a recent conversation.
“Hey Mo,” asked Les. “How are your numbers doing?”
“Doing great,” replied Mo. “Naturally, I’m having to work a little harder, but the practice is doing well. How ‘bout you?”
“Not so well,” confessed Les. “The insurance companies are beating me up. The economy has patients on edge and frankly I’m having to dip into savings a little more than I’d like.”
“Yes, it’s definitely not business as usual,” observed Mo. “So, what are doing to turn things around?”
Patients do what they do because they believe what they believe.
This runs counter to the popular, but incorrect chiroism, which suggests that patients would "do what you do if they knew what you knew."
Instead, there is a profound disconnect between knowing and doing. Most of us know that regularly flossing our teeth would enhance our dental hygiene. Yet, most of us neglect this simple, inexpensive procedure. Why? Because we believe something about flossing. Or our teeth. Our future. Our time. Or something else.
Bottom line? Behaviors are symptoms. We act in ways to remain congruent with our beliefs, even if we're not conscious of them. And, like most symptom treating, nagging patients about what they're doing (or not doing) to enhance their health and well-being is largely a waste of time. Instead, seek to uncover what they believe about themselves (or you) that would produce such unhelpful behaviors.
Q: “After going for a complimentary exam/consultation at a chiropractic office, when I returned the next day the doctor tells me I have to come back to his clinic for three times a week for six weeks, then two times a week for four weeks, and then once a week until a review is made. Is this a legit chiropractor or is he just wanting my money?”
A: Tragically, this is an all-too common treatment plan among chiropractors who are lazy, lack critical thinking skills or think they can use their limited social authority to get patients to do their bidding. (This is addressed in more detail in a March 2010 blog post entitled “Take Two and Call Me in the Morning.”)
While the three times a week sounds legitimate, I’d be suspicious of a chiropractor who claims crystal ball skills sufficient to predict the number of weekly visits required a month or more into the future. Seems reasonable to expect a progress evaluation to be performed 10-12 visits into your care. You might want to get a second opinion.
I’ve never been to a DE meeting (Dynamic Essentials), but when Dr. Brian Lieberman invited me to speak at the weekly Tuesday night Principled Chiropractic Conference Call, I was honored. Not sure how many chiropractic patients get the opportunity to share at a philosophical meeting like this, so I was on my best behavior, sharing the 12 things I believe about chiropractors and patients after these past 30 years as a patient and advocate.
My 41-minute session was recorded and I’ve included it here. (Click the square button). Or download it to your computer. (Right click on the link and choose Save Target As...)
The Band of Brothers is an apolitical organization that meets regularly to cultivate a passion for the principles of chiropractic. You might want to listen in some Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. EST. Simply call 213-289-0500 and enter the access code 6141535#.
The busiest chiropractors recognize they’re in the belief-changing business.
Since patients do what they do because they believe what they believe, then one objective is to be an agent of change. Yet, patients rarely show up in your practice because they want a more complete and intellectually honest understanding of health principles!
Instead, most patients merely want to feel better. And herein lies the tension. Many chiropractors believe that producing great symptomatic improvement without the use of drugs or surgery will change a patient’s wrongheaded beliefs.
Hardly. In fact, great results may inadvertently affirm countless unspoken beliefs about their spine, the “outness” of a vertebra or your even role as a mere spine mechanic!
Chiropractors with stable practices full of lifetime once- and twice-a-monthers know that adjusting above the atlas is far more important than adjusting below it. In fact, if forced they would choose the former over the latter.