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Dynamic Chiropractic Canada – November 1, 2008, Vol. 01, Issue 02
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Adding Value to Your Practice

By Allen Unruh, DC

In this day and age of mangled care and HMO third-party systems, every chiropractor needs to discover ways to increase their cash flow. This increase should always be a result of increased service to your patients.

In this article, I want to explain how a simple, minor modification to your practice can increase your annual income by $25,000 to $50,000 and make your patients happier.

As chiropractors, we are selling an intangible. A cardinal principle of selling is to sell benefits, value and yourself (your unique knowledge, talents, abilities, and genuine, caring attitude). You're selling your patients on their ability to work, play golf, or engage in their favorite hobby or sport again. You're selling them on improving their relationships (even a grouch doesn't like to live with a grouch).

The late Dr. Joseph Janse, from National College of Chiropractic, made a statement 40 years ago that burned into my brain. He said, "If all you do as chiropractors is make it so patients don't have to live on drugs for pain, you'll add 10 years to the average lifespan." The research is in that prescription drugs are a leading cause of death. NSAIDs can have devastating side effects on the stomach, liver and kidneys, and they all can potentially cause a heart attack. More than half of a typical Celebrex commercial is consumed with product disclaimers.

The average consumer is conditioned like Pavlov's dogs that "relief is just a swallow away." People are conditioned that health is a state to be bought, rather than sought. They don't stop to read the label that says, "For fast, temporary relief." It doesn't say, "To regain your health, take this."

Every patient comes to you for relief of pain. Adjustments don't always produce miracles on the first visit. Therefore, it's essential to provide as much relief as possible between visits. Recommending home care with cold and heat is vital. And providing a topical analgesic that lets your patients avoid taking drugs is also essential. You ask, what kind of analgesic should one look for? Here are some things to consider:

It should be all-natural. Many analgesics have chemicals, dyes, and parabens. Patients do read labels, so chemicals should be avoided if possible.

It should not smell like a gymnasium. Many patients, especially women, won't use a topical if it stinks! A product is only as good as a patient's willingness to use it.

Does it have healing agents in it? Some topicals don't particularly enhance healing or reduce inflammation. They are simply analgesics, like taking an aspirin. Today, there are products that provide all of these benefits - they can decrease pain and enhance healing. Consider what your patients need and what you're trying to accomplish.

Is it a cream or gel? Some may leave a sticky residue and the skin can't absorb them. Again, ask yourself what your patients will benefit from the most.

It should be exclusive to professionals. Many analgesic companies market the products you sell to grocery and drug stores. They may sell the product at deep discounts, and when patients find out, they think they've been taken advantage of by their chiropractor. This not only takes away from your professional image, but also can turn off a good patient from following through with care.

You should prescribe the product to your patients as part of their therapy to get well. MDs don't tell patients, "Charlie, just try this sample, and if you like it we'll sell it to you." They prescribe it and tell the patient they need it to get better. We need to do the same with natural products. Patients with acute symptoms should be told to use a topical analgesic three to four times a day for the first two weeks, or every four hours. Giving home-care exercises, heat and cold, and prescriptions for a topical analgesic should be among our most basic procedures.

Many doctors do not carry topical analgesics in their office or even prescribe them. Every patient needs something for relief between visits. By selling direct, you can add another $50-$100 a day to your cash flow. This doesn't even consider repeat business from patients who "refill" once they discover the benefits.

The bottom line is the bottom line. If all you sell is the adjustment in your office, you are going to have to treat a very high volume of patients. Offering a few items that improve your service to your patients can make a profound difference in patient satisfaction and income. Remember, if patients don't get adequate relief fast enough, they often discontinue care prematurely and go somewhere else. And as we all know, patient compliance is a significant factor in overall success.

Maybe every chiropractor should put an affirmation reminder on their desk that says, "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." Put it on your CA's desk as well. This will remind them to ask patients if it's time to refill products that help them feel better.

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