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Dating, Marriage and Divorce

dating or marriageThe patient arrives seeking relief. Not cervical curve restoration. Not equal weight distribution. Not better disc spacing. Not better posture. Not even better health. She wants relief. And make it snappy. With as little impact on her limited financial resources as possible.

Meanwhile, you'd like to spawn a cash-paying wellness patient who brings her family in for a lifetime of chiropractic care because she gets the "big idea."

The patient wants to date. You have designs on getting married. The patient is cautious. You're dreamy-eyed about a house with a white picket fence, children and happily ever after.

Any objective onlooker could surmise that these divergent, almost opposing motives are destined to create a myriad of challenges, misunderstandings and frustrations. Thankfully, there is a solution.

First, acknowledge that patients bring their allopathic, symptom-treating, germ-fearing, drug-using, short-term perspective with them when they enter your practice. Sure, there are a few wonderful exceptions, but they are the minority. Instead, for most patients, their ground of being, since they've heard that "once you go to a chiropractor you have to go for life" is to beat the house—in other words, get their spinal problem resolved without succumbing to your overtures to embrace regular chiropractic care as a long-term lifestyle adjunct. (Sounds like fun already!)

Second, accept that you have zero, zilch, nada, zippo, as in no control over what a patient does or doesn't do. Worse, abandon the notion that what a patient does is a reflection of you and your communication or clinical skills. (Where did you acquire that belief!?!) Sure, patients may nod with approval at your report, but it doesn't mean your words have changed their beliefs, rearranged their priorities or will translate into the behaviors you want.

And third, play the long game, not the short game.

The short game is so tempting. It involves strategies and tactics that ignore your reputation and only serve the now. As in "I'll-say-this-and-the-patient-will-do-that." In other words, using guilt, shame or exaggeration in an attempt to get a patient to do what you think is best. This has another name: manipulation. Sure, you may try to soothe your conscience by rationalizing that your efforts are justified as being "in the patient's best interests," however the motives are often self-serving and demonstrate a profound mistrust and disrespect of the patient.

If your practice in relatively small jurisdiction, these short term strategies will eventually create a dwindling patient base as the word gets out about your heavy-handedness, forced annual care plans or general dogmatism.

The long game is different. It honors the free will agency of each patient, even if they make choices that are quite different than the choices you would make. The long game acknowledges that most patients, because of their experience with the medical community long before you meeting you or being exposed to chiropractic principles, see their brush with you as a short-term diet; an episode, and not a long-term lifestyle decision. Accept that there is little you can say or do to "convert" them into modifying their lifestyle and the priority they place on their health.

Teach them the principles. Educate them about what makes chiropractic different. Then, honor their decision. If you respectfully warn them of their likely relapse (explaining why, without threats or guilt) and show up as a humble servant, you're likely to be the recipient of their subsequent reactivation and probably a referral or two along the way.

Does this run 180 degrees opposite to what you've handsomely paid practice management groups to teach you? Yes. Does it require a new, higher level of trust and respect of patients? Yup. Will you see a temporary dip in your numbers as you release patients to be self-responsible? Probably. But it's only temporary.

At a time when new patients seem increasingly rare for so many chiropractors, it may seem counterintuitive to relax your grip. However, micro-managing patients and being so heavily invested in what they do is not only thankless, it's exhausting.

It often results in divorce.

Comments (3)

Paul Weber:

What happens if you've already done the heavy-handed approach (because that's what we're all taught) and you are in a small town? Are you finished in that community, or can your reputation be repaired?

WDE: In the same way you sullied your reputation (one patient at a time) you can recover your reputation. But it takes time.

I really enjoyed our 1 hour get together last year. We have implemented what you talked about in this blog. We did see a temporary drop off in patient visits initially. We found 2 things that occurred within a 5 to 6 month time period. We got the reputation as a "peoples doctor". People knew they could get relief from what they suffered from (without getting all that pressure).It was also much easier for patients to refer friends and loved ones. We were safe. We have noticed a bump in our patients that are looking for more than relief care. Patients know we are safe and they are inquiring about corrective care after the pain is gone. Pretty neat. We took Bill's advice and it worked out well!


In our office purpose, we stand very clear and firm in our intention to empower patients to take responsibility in their quest for health and healing. BRAVO (again), Bill. Well said.

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From August 31, 2012 10:17 AM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 31, 2012 10:17 AM.

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