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Dynamic Chiropractic Canada – September 1, 2015, Vol. 08, Issue 09
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Understanding Expectations: Just Ask Your Patients

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

My job comes with near-constant traveling. For example, as I write this article, I have just returned from trips that required six flights in seven days. On one of those trips, I needed to make an outbound connection that involved arriving on one airline at one terminal and catching the next flight with another airline at another terminal. The first flight was with Alaska Airlines. I like Alaska, as it generally provides great service.

In this instance, my Alaska flight was delayed, leaving me little time to make the connection with the other airline. As I waited for the boarding call, I realized my chances of making the connection were diminishing with each passing moment. I talked with the Alaska gate agent to see if I could move my seat up and board early to ensure my carry-on bag didn't end up being checked.

The gate agent showed real concern for my situation, moved me up and gave me priority boarding. In addition, after I left the gate desk, she did a little investigative work and found a shortcut at my connecting airport that would take me from the arrival terminal to the departure terminal without having to go through the security checkpoint. This thoughtfulness slowed my Olympic-event dash between terminals down to a fast walk.

This gate agent knew how to care for customers in a way that made a lasting impression.

On the return trip home, I faced the same scenario, but in reverse. The non-Alaska Airlines flight was going to arrive so late that I might miss my connection to the Alaska flight, even using the same shortcut. When I asked the other airline's gate agent for assistance, her attitude was less than helpful. She was not able to move my seat and said I could board early only if she was the one checking tickets at the boarding door.

This airline also made a lasting impression – but not the kind its PR people would have hoped for. Alaska exceeded my expectations and set the bar. The second airline (which will remain nameless) fell woefully short.

My son David (age 16) has enjoyed considerable exposure to chiropractic care over the years. Between soccer injuries and the usual childhood wear and tear, he has seen 4-6 DCs already in his young life. His experiences with different doctors of chiropractic have created expectations they usually either exceed or fail to meet.

While he doesn't understand much of the clinical side of the care he is receiving, like most patients, he does get a definite impression of the abilities and quality of the doctor based upon the presentation, conversation and demonstrated knowledge of his condition. Some of the positive post-appointment comments he has made include:

  • "He's a good chiropractor; he really seems to know what he's doing."
  • "That doctor looked at my whole body, not just the part I injured."
  • "I like him, he's a good adjuster."

Admittedly, the a 16-year-old's impressions can be somewhat naïve – but they are his honest impressions based upon his expectations, which tend to be comparative in nature. This makes the better DCs stand out and puts the (in his opinion) poorer DCs in a category of providers he would rather not see again.

To say doctors of chiropractic spend more time with their patients, are more caring and more holistic than most other health care providers (particularly MDs) isn't necessarily enough. Professionalism, technical ability and condition-related knowledge also play an important role in making a great impression. If you are ready to hear the answers, you may want to ask your patients these questions outright:

  • What do you expect from your time with me?
  • What do you want to accomplish in terms of your health?
  • Am I meeting (exceeding) your needs and expectations?
  • What impressions did you have when you came in for your appointment? 
  • How does this compare with your experiences with other DCs?
  • How does an appointment with me compare to the appointment you recently had with an MD?

The answers may surprise you – but what's important is that you will get a patient's perspective on how you are (and aren't) meeting their expectations. This will give you direction on how you and your staff can improve. Take a few moments to ask these kinds of questions to your patients. Regardless of how they respond, everything you hear will be valuable.

Read more findings on my blog: You can also visit me on Facebook.

Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.

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