Avoiding "Just a Pop Doc" Syndrome
By Steven Visentin
Yes, it's harsh. Patients don't like to admit it. They have an unspoken plan when they first visit you: to come one time, get rid of their pain and then get rid of you. They know it's unrealistic, but they'd like to pay nothing for this service. The best thing you can do as their doctor is create an environment so they'll want to get all necessary care to correct their spines. To do this, you must ask better questions, raise awareness, set up policies, and most of all, deliver the goods.
It's all about communicating the need for care in a way that connects emotionally with the patient. Explain the benefits of your services and possible consequences of inadequate care in a way that is real to them and moves them to continue visits. Do it on the first and second appointments while they're in your office, or you'll probably never have another chance. They must have an understanding that's immediate, deep, emotional and lasting. Here are some techniques for accomplishing this – beginning with your very next patient visit.
Raising the Value of Care
Ask patients questions and see if they understand the consequences of insufficient care. You could ask, "If you let this condition progress or don't get it fixed properly, how will it affect the quality of your life?" Invite them to consider both the positive and negative consequences, asking questions like, "How would your next vacation be if your back gives out on you?" "And if you did get proper care? How would that be?" Get into their brains and motivate them using examples specific to them.
Who are they? What do they want besides getting rid of their pain? Do they want to look better, portray more confidence, influence others, or help their family? You must relate to them as a whole person and explore with them how your care can allow them to live a better life. Most importantly, let them describe to you how their lives may be affected without proper care. You might ask, "How will your life be 10 years from now without care?" You'll be surprised at the answers.
You could say to...
Move patients to action. If you can't involve them this way, all your work will have little meaning because they will not stay beyond the first few visits and won't get their subluxations fully corrected.
Focus on Quality Control
"Stay in business with a constant improvement of quality of product and of service" — W. Edwards Deming
Consistent delivery of quality is crucial in health care. Every visit has to be up to each patient's standards. If not, they will not come back and will probably mention how bad their experience was to at least 14 other people! Be as energetic at 6 p.m. as you are at 7 a.m. Eat snacks, meditate during the afternoon; do whatever it takes to keep your energy up all day long.
On patients' first two visits, before they leave, ask, "How was your visit today?" Find out what they want and make every reasonable attempt to give it to them. Make sure everyone leaves feeling cared for and uplifted, every time.
Be sure your staff knows that they have the authority and responsibility to make things right, so every patient leaves with the best service experience possible. Hold staff to this high standard. Tell them, "Everyone leaves happy, or they don't leave."
Create an Experience
When you create an experience that goes beyond the expectations of patients and deliver it enthusiastically, they will think, "Wow, what a great experience." They'll come again and again, and they'll refer everyone they know to you. Obviously if someone is in severe pain, seems depressed, etc., your tone of voice and demeanor should be sympathetic and low key. Later, when they feel better, become more energetic.
If you want to be successful, create a positive experience and exceed their expectations on every visit. If you're not enjoying good follow-through, start communicating what you do in an uplifting manner. Give an excellent adjustment and say:
Without your guidance, they may have no idea their condition is improving. Report to them what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how they did on every visit. You can deliver an amazing, world-class service, but if you don't communicate, it will be lost on most people. Done correctly, patients will keep their appointments and remark, "I always feel better when I leave here."
Before They Leave...
After each visit, be sure to remind each patient when their next visit is. You can say, "Joe, you adjusted like a champ. When is your next visit?" Delivering quality care and reminding them of their schedule is always a good idea.
Providing each patient with an annual calendar and refrigerator magnet outlining a complete course of care facilitates compliance. On the second visit, agreements should be as specific as possible with patients and they should sign the bottom of their calendar. Train the staff to facilitate this. Giving patients refrigerator magnets with your clinic name, address, phone number and website reminds them of their corrective care programs between office visits. They can plan their lives around their program.
Reward prepays: Offering a discount for prepayment of care also ensures good compliance. Patients who've paid up-front come regularly. Check with you state board about how to do this legally.
Keep it moving: Most patients don't want an hour-long adjustment. The quicker they're served, the more they will come. If they have to wait, it may be their last visit. Focus on providing a quality adjustment and then move on to the next patient.
Take charge: Deep down, most of us hate to be "managed," but letting practice members come and go without guidelines in how to use chiropractic leads to low-quality, relief-oriented crisis care and chaos. Decide to put an end to this by appealing to their needs and communicating the benefits of your program. Back it up with systems that allow people to achieve higher levels of health over a lifetime. Provide the best care and watch your practice grow.
Dr. Steven Visentin, a 1982 graduate of National College of Chiropractic, is a solo practitioner and clinic director at Care Chiropractic in Denver. He is also the author of an e-book, Blow Your Head Off Practice Building Secrets. For additional information, contact Dr. Visentin via his Web site, www.carechiropractic.com.