Imagining that a script, procedure or technique can cause a patient to abandon their symptom-treating beliefs and embrace chiropractic as a long-term lifestyle adjunct to optimize their health and well-being is absurd. It’s akin to airline passengers imagining that it’s their will power keeping the plane aloft!
Instead, a far more powerful phenomenon is at work. Something that cannot be changed with overt or covert strategies. And that’s the priority a patient places on his or her health.
Simply put, how someone uses health care resources is based upon the value they place on their health. Whether once-a-month visits to a chiropractor, daily teeth flossing or choosing organic fruits and vegetables, these behaviors are the result of far deeper beliefs than those that can be changed with a snappy report of findings or 50 cent brochure!
Instead, think of these core beliefs as the patient’s “operating system.” However, upgrading a computer’s OS is far easier. Instead of installing new software and rebooting, changing a patient’s health habits requires a far greater intervention—something that most health care practitioners can’t pull off.
Chiropractic is attractive because it’s different from medicine.
As much as we wish it weren’t so, chiropractic is often a last resort for many patients who investigate chiropractic only after exploring medical solutions. Often, patients must first become disenchanted with the side effects of their medications, become alarmed that increasingly larger doses are required or find some other defect before being available for chiropractic care or some other non-medical solution.
Them’s the facts.
That’s why you’d want to create a distinctly different patient experience than the medical model they’ve already tried and abandoned. In other words, patients don’t want same, they want different. That’s good news. It means you have incredible latitude to show up truly different. You can show up as the facilitator, guide, coach, partner and cheerleader that patients rarely see in their medical experiences. You could even lose the white lab coat if you wanted to. Gasp!
A common trait among those who are struggling in practice is the predisposition to find someone or something to blame for their predicament.
These days, the most convenient culprit is the economy. Nice try. (Read, It’s Not the Economy.) Yet, when this excuse is used, friends and family will knowingly nod in agreement, essentially holding the practitioner faultless for his or her under performing practice.
And if the economy isn’t sufficient, there are always the stingy insurance companies to be blamed. This one-two punch of excuses is enough for many chiropractors to embrace a “learned helplessness” of resignation, emotionally “checking out” of their practice, waiting for the election, a miracle or some other condition to change their circumstances.
But these pale in comparison to some of the other suspects that are blamed. Ironically, they reveal a pattern, which holds the key to putting the blame game behind you.
Chiropractic is attractive because it doesn't require a prescription.
You might want to ask patients why they think some drugs require a prescription and others don't. It's probably something they've never given much thought about.
"Because some drugs are dangerous?" they might eventually volunteer.
"That's correct. Chiropractic is so safe, it doesn't require a prescription or a warning label."
Most patients are familiar with the "Rx" symbol for a prescription. The letter "R" is from the Latin meaning 'recipe' and the "x" on the tail is said to be from the astrological sign for Jupiter. Preceding a formula with the sign of Jupiter was thought to assure a favorable result. Moreover, according to astrologers, the period during the ascendancy of the planet Jupiter was thought to be a good time to gather herbs and concoct medicines. Huh?
Kind of takes some of the patina off the so-called "science" of pharmacology!
Last month I had a stimulating conversation with Dr. Christopher Kent, whose mental agility and sense of humor I have admired for years. You can experience his wisdom each month by subscribing to his On Purpose program that he conducts with Dr. Patrick Gentempo. Our conversation, part of the Sherman College Connect Call program, was recorded May 21, 2012. Dr. Kent is a brilliant interviewer. As you can hear for yourself! Or right click to download.
Chiropractic is attractive because it's completely natural.
Perhaps it's due to the Baby Boom Generation who avoided polyester in favor of natural fabrics. It seems there's a growing interest in things natural.
Consider the growing interest in organic produce, antibiotic-free poultry, growth hormone-free milk and a myriad of other all-natural products. Those who tend to be more highly educated and attempt to live consciously are inclined to avoid processed foods and artificial just about anything.
Chiropractic resonates with this new focus on natural. However, based on the observations of futurist John Naisbitt, the natural, low-tech and high-touch aspects of chiropractic must be offset by some form of technology. That might be X-ray analysis, surface EMG or some other high-tech tool.
When given the choice, most people would prefer natural over artificial, authentic over phony and the truth over a lie. That's why chiropractic just needs to be told, not sold.
Far too many patients think you’ve permanently “fixed” them when their symptoms resolve. When they have their inevitable relapse they blame you. If they don’t give up on chiropractic, they’re likely to go down the street to a different chiropractor and you lose the reactivation.
Use the Road to Recovery chart to preframe “decision time” when they’re feeling better and inclined to discontinue care. Show how visits are more frequent during the symptomatic stage of care. Give patients a visual understanding of the consequences of stopping care too soon.
It’s so simple, even a 10-year old can understand it:
“The other day a 10-year old patient whom I have been seeing for about four months came in. He noticed the Road to Recovery chart on the wall. His only question was, "What are the white dots?" After I explained that they stand for visits he was able to explain the entire rest of the poster. He even INCLUDED the detail that with continued relapses healing potential diminishes!” Dr. Chris Hanson, Minneapolis, MN
Watch the video to see how this powerful wall chart is a communication workhorse when it comes to managing patient expectations!
For over three decades I’ve been an advocate of a two-visit new patient intake procedure. I’m sure it's familiar.
On the first visit the new patient completes the chiropractic intake form, watches an orientation video, has a consultation with the chiropractor, followed by an examination, instruction on some home care procedures and then dismissed.
The second visit consists of still another video to prepare patients for their report of findings, followed by the report and then their first adjustment. There are variations, but that’s the general idea. In fact, this two-visit protocol is taught by many of the management and chiropractic coaching organizations.
Is it time to rethink this procedure? Might it be no longer necessary? Or worse, could it be creating needless new patient friction?
What makes this so ironic, is that many chiropractors are more sensitive to this than patients or perspective patients.
Sure, the bogus stroke thing is paraded out from time to time by chiropractic detractors, but they overlook the fact that people make decisions based upon how they feel (emotions) rather than what they know (intellect). In other words, most people don't consult actuarial tables before choosing a treatment option.
Credibility, trustworthiness and cultural authority are far more influential than some statistical analysis or comparison with adverse reactions to drugs or iatrogenic statistics from medical interventions. This is why patient testimonials can be so powerful, and financial inducements ("Save $100 off our regular exam fee.") and other questionable marketing practices are so damaging.
The real safety patients and prospective patients want is "social" safety. Proof that choosing a non-mainstream solution won't make them look foolish.