When chiropractors reveal to me that their numbers are down, they reluctantly cite the economy as the culprit, almost as if they know it isn’t true.
“People just don’t have the money these days,” they observe.
Really? While it’s true that their $5,000 deductible insurance policy pretty much makes them a cash patient, their financial reserves are exhausted and their unexpected bout of back pain wasn’t exactly a line item in their monthly budget. (Read Financial Fragility which sums this up nicely.)
However, I’ve noticed that they’re still restocking the organic produce department at the grocery store. And I’m still seeing people putting the smaller, less attractive, more expensive produce in their cart—without expecting to be reimbursed by a third party. (The stock for Whole Foods Grocery hovered around USD $10 a share in November of 2008. Today it’s cresting over $80. Hello McFly.)
Apparently there are still plenty of people in your community who value their health enough to pay a premium for organic produce, grass fed beef, cage- and antibiotic-free eggs and rBGH-free milk. All this, while you’re holed up in your office yakking about the biomechanics of back pain and misleading patients into thinking that chiropractic is about bones rather than the nervous system and symptom relief rather than reviving their ability to self heal.
Tragically, the rope-a-dope effect of being so heavily dependent upon insurance carriers is taking its toll. That does NOT mean the end is near. It simply means you need to reinvent your practice. Along with a new headspace, reinventing your practice consists of at least two critical dimensions:
1. Change how you market your practice
You can no longer afford to wait passively at your desk, looking busy, waiting for the phone to ring. You must either take a financial risk or an emotional risk if you wish to grow your practice these days.
Financial risk: This includes spending money on a website, advertising, lowering your fees, coupons and other techniques to entice strangers to begin care.
Emotional risk: This includes conducting patient focus groups, screenings, public speaking gigs, asking patients about the challenges they incur attempting to refer others and actually connecting with people.
2. Change how you communicate chiropractic
Since the human potential and self-development movement didn’t exist a hundred years ago, chiropractic got shunted off into the health care arena. No wonder since the first chiropractic recipient had a hearing issue and the second a heart condition!
The old saying, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” comes to mind. So the place to start might be to implement strategies that don’t annoy patients. And believe me, many chiropractors annoy their patients. In fact, it causes many patients to seek out a different chiropractor when they have their relapse (since they discontinued care immediately upon the cessation of their symptoms). How do chiropractors piss off patients? Here are a few ways that come to mind:
- Pressuring patients to commit to an annual care plan
- Nagging patients to come in for care they don’t want
- Valuing the patient’s health more than the patient does
- Ignoring their God-given free will to abuse their body
Amazingly, many chiropractors have actually paid to attend seminars that teach them ways to annoy patients, justified as being in the patient’s best interests.
Heads up! There are still people in your community who want what you can deliver. People for whom money is no object, but results are. Only problem is, they think of you as a back doctor hamstrung by the inability to prescribe pain medication.
There’s your real enemy. It’s not the economy.