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Changing How Patients Prioritize Their Health

changing-prioritiesImagining 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.

Granted, there are some health nuts (like me) who are committed to their health and seem almost pre-wired to embrace healthy habits. Many such individuals choose a career in some facet of health care (like you and me).

If you want to inspire patients to attend to their health and cultivate their well-being, here’s what it will often take:

Death – There’s nothing like the death of a loved one to remind you of your own mortality. This can often compel an individual to turn over a new leaf and commit to healthier habits.

Serious illness – A brush with cancer, a serious accident or a similar episode can motivate some people to place a new emphasis on their health.

Divorce – Reentering the social scene after the breakup of a marriage can prompt many to lose some weight and attend to health matters to improve their attractability.

Birthday – Sometimes it’s merely a birthday of special significance (often one ending with a zero) that reminds them that they can no longer ignore their health.

As you can see, these circumstances are virtually impossible for you to orchestrate.

You’re hallucinating if you think you can induce patients to embrace healthier habits by merely what you say. It suggests you think you have a far greater sway over patients than you actually do. Worse, it prompts many chiropractors to spend tremendous sums of money chasing after the magic words or procedures that ultimately do little more than annoy patients and make them feel guilty for not valuing their health as they should.

What can you do? You can show up accepting and supportive. Educate patients. Show up as a servant and avoid making a patient feel ashamed by not rising to your standards. Think long term. Alert them to the likely relapse. Invite reactivations. Honor their free will agency. In other words, lighten up. So when that something happens, they will see you as a trusted resource as they commit themselves to better health.

Comments (3)

It's very important that patients know their health is not something to be taken lightly. It's hard to get that point across from the position of a doctor. Some people just believe that the advice I'm giving them is just to make my own job easier, but they don't understand that health is something they are responsible for.

Paul Weber:

I guess the question I have is that if patient priorities are beyond the control of all chiropractors (including successful ones), what is the difference you see between doctors who have a low retention (low PVA) and those who have a high PVA? Somehow the high retentions docs are being or doing something different. What have you observed that quality to be, and doesn't this phenomenon suggest that we DO in fact have an influence over patients priorities?

Read my response here.

Well Bill, it's been about 4 years since our Conversation. I've stopped telemarketing, stopped using scripts, and laid off the heavy, emotionally-driven pitches of year-long care plans with pre-pay "discounts." I also stopped my daily statistical analysis of practice numbers. Instead I've dropped 15 lbs, embraced the patients free will, kept up with your quarterly newsletters mailings, let my/your website organically migrate to page one, tell patients how to end care before it has begun, and stopped being apologetic about my fees.
The results? Initially it was a scary 20% drop on collections. Yikes! That was followed by three 10% year over year collections increases. Given that my advertising budget has stayed flat (website and newsletters) I'd call that an overall plus.
What's hard to calculate is how much I now enjoy going to the office. Gone is the roller-coaster emotional ride of pre-paid collections, never seeing patients after their one year of "treatment," and wondering how I'm going to get the "new ones."
Thank you for helping me create a real practice out of what was an emotionally draining never ending promotion.

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From June 3, 2012 7:45 AM

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