Q: I got this feedback from one of my first patients five years ago. She’s a very successful real-estate agent who's been in the area for decades and knows a lot of people. You stress the importance of continual patient education. There's no disagreement from me. However, this lady told me recently that the only negative thing she's ever heard about me is that I educate too much. "I don't want to be educated, I just want to be cracked!" is what people are telling her. What’s going on?
A: I suppose there are worse reputations you could have, but nevertheless, this one isn’t especially helpful if you want to enhance the referral process.
Seems to me there might be a couple of things worth exploring. The most significant is that you probably haven’t been educating them!
It’s more likely you’ve been teaching patients. Teaching, which rhymes with preaching, is usually some derivative of nagging or a form of ear raping in which there is a non-consensual conversation (instigated by you) in which you attempt to enlighten, illuminate or communicate some chiropractic principle against the patient’s will.
“Table talk” doesn’t sound so attractive when put in this context, but often it’s a form of verbal violence, regardless of your motives or intentions.
In simple terms, chiropractors guilty of this common social faux pas are in the habit of making statements rather than asking questions. No wonder patients find the words spoken by some chiropractors irrelevant or laden with self-serving assertions. If you want patients to have the slightest interest in what you think, you’ll want to first demonstrate your interest in what they think.
“I was thinking about this the other day and curious to get your take on it. Do you mind? Great. You know how surgeons wear those surgical masks during an operation? What’s the purpose of the mask? Is it for the surgeon’s benefit or is it for the patient’s? Or is something else going on?”
And then explore the reason for their beliefs. “That’s fascinating, why do you think that?” The key is to have the discipline NOT to offer your opinion unless asked. Hard, I know. “But aren’t the germs small enough to pass through the mask with every breath?” The key is to get the patient thinking. Which, when it comes to health matters, most patients don’t. Which makes it easy to fall for the germaphobia of the culture.
The most effective patient education is when it occurs without the patient’s knowledge, because it’s authentic and respectful. Which requires curiosity, some creativity and like all processes, time.