It’s about new patients…or is it?
What is the biggest perceived need in chiropractic? The vast majority of DCs will shout from the rooftops that what they need more than anything is a stream of more new patients. While new patients are important to the health of any practice, when the doctor relies too heavily on them to determine the health of the practice, he or she is oftentimes overlooking the true challenge(s) within the practice. The intent of today’s article is to give the reader an idea of a few of the elements of the practice that, if running smoothly and efficiently makes the number of required new patients decrease dramatically!
First, and most important is the PHILOSOPHY of the doctor. In this case, the term philosophy refers to the doctor’s “world view” on what GREAT care is. Some doctors believe that great care means getting a patient out of pain as quickly as possible and then releasing them. Others’ philosophy has them work with patients to get them through pain, and then work on the structural stability of the spine and muscles. Still others adopt a philosophy that has the spine being adjusted on a regular basis throughout its lifetime. Please keep in mind, all of these philosophies are viable and will attract the types of patients who share a similar belief system. That said, each of the above-stated philosophies has a different inherent need for new patient acquisition in order to keep the practice healthy and profitable. The first needs lots of new patients monthly, the second needs a few less per month and the “lifetime patient” philosophy requires the fewest new patients of the three since patients are educated to continue with regular chiropractic care over their lifetime.
With a little more clarity about the number of patients required by different philosophies, it’s time to turn our attention to three simple systems and procedures that can reduce the need for new patients in the practice whose philosophy is to help with symptom reduction, spinal and muscular stabilization, and eventually implement some sort of spinal wellness program.
System #1- Effective communication of the treatment plan
When sharing your findings with the new patient, be sure to let them know not only what is going on in their spine, but also the care that will be needed to meet ALL of the elements of their issue. Depending on your philosophy, that might include the care required to relieve their pain, to restore muscular balance and proper joint motion, and then what a spine like theirs typically requires to maintain proper motion. By sharing all of this information at the beginning of care, the patient becomes educated on the need for care beyond symptoms.
System #2- Consistent Communication throughout the treatment plan
Whether the patient is on visit 2 or visit 22 in a plan of care, there should be some conversation about how the procedures you are performing are related to your goals for that patient (decrease pain, increase strength or mobility, etc). By continually giving a patient the WHY behind what you are doing, as well as what they can expect in the next visit and/or phase of care, you allow the patient to understand why that visit or phase of care is important to their health.
System #3- Consistent Re-examinations and reports
Not only are re-exams seen as industry standard of care, they are also HUGE in helping the patient know how they are FUNCTIONING! This goes well beyond how they are feeling, and is critically important in the patient seeing an objective improvement (or need for more care) in their case. By doing regular re-exams and reports, the patient sees that everything you told them at the beginning of care has taken place, and it encourages them to continue to follow the original plan that you laid out for them rather than them stopping care once they “feel better”.
By adding these 3 simple systems, the “new patient need” can be reduced so that the doctor can focus more on taking care of their patients and less on the “where the next new patient will come from?” question. It’s not that a practice should avoid regular and ongoing marketing procedures and systems, but rather that a doctor and his or TEAM should be able to DECIDE the number of new patients that they WANT to see each week that meets their philosophy and vision.
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