Greetings, doctors. I want to discuss a dilemma that is affecting all chiropractors. You’ll notice that by saying “all chiropractors,” I’m throwing every chiropractor into the same box, because that’s how the public sees you. It doesn’t matter what your philosophies, passions, or techniques are. It doesn’t matter to the average person driving down the street; to that average person, chiropractors all represent the same thing.
It’s interesting that there is a dilemma affecting all chiropractors. You’re probably wondering OK Tom, what is it? Before we get to that, let’s talk about the symptom of this dilemma that proves the fact. Do you know the national average for a new patient’s care with a chiropractor? Is it 5 visits? 12 visits? 18 visits? 25 visits. For time’s sake, I’ll tell you that the national average is six. Now, some of you will say that your visits average 15, 28, or 32. But god’s honest truth, it probably isn’t 80 to 100 per patient which is what it should be. It’s easier to stay healthy than it is to get healthy, so doesn’t that make sense? We all know that its best for a patient to see a chiropractor on a regular basis for a lifetime.
No matter where you stand personally, the national average is six. Now think about this: if your average is 15 and the national average is 6, there must be a lot of doctors who aren’t getting any visits at all. So, why is it six? That’s the real dilemma. The answer can be found in any old phone-book. If you open up a phone book and look through the 20 to 30 pages of chiropractors, there is one word that you will find in every ad of every chiropractor. Do you know what that word is?
You got it. Each one of you answered the same thing, pain. Pain is now synonymous with chiropractic care. Most of you don’t know it, but this started back in ’78 to ’80. Chiropractic was put into what’s now called the “muscular skeletal box.” However, this muscular skeletal box is not what chiropractic was built on. Back pain, neck pain, and headaches did not build chiropractic.
That was different time, and a topic which I’ll cover in another article. What I want to focus on is this: when we operate within the muscular skeletal box and treat our patients according to their pain, we lose two ways. The chiropractor and the patient both lose, actually. First, chiropractors lose when a patient’s only criteria for visiting your office is their pain. When the pain is gone, so is the patient. This means that the average chiropractor will struggle financially. As I write this, 82% of all practicing chiropractors struggle to pay their bills or don’t pay them at all. We have nearly a 50% default rate! Do you think this has something to do with being put in the muscular skeletal box? It has a lot to do with it!
I said we lose two ways as a chiropractor. Number two: as a profession, are we healing sick people? No, because once we treat their pain, which is just a symptom of the problem, they leave! And the root of the problem is still there. And following this pain model, we build the reputation of being “pain specialists” and not “real doctors” who solve health issues.
If the the average chiropractor sees only 6 visits per patient, then something is happening in those six visits which reinforces the idea that pain is the only reason for continued patient care. If you don’t know how to educate the patient, then listen to me: the time has come stop kidding yourself. The solution is not new patients. If the new patients are coming through that front door and heading right back out, that is not a healthy practice. It’s not healthy for the patient, and it’s not healthy for the practice. And your answer is not in marketing. It’s not found in the next unique piece of equipment that you think you need. Your answer is not going to be in insurance compensation, and it’s not going to be in staff training or staff involvement. The solution is found in maintenance practicing.
So how do you build a maintenance practice? By educating your patients, retaining their business, and duplicating them. In other words, you build a self-sustaining, referral based practice. Look, you’ve got to learn how to do this or your days will be numbered. You will run out of money because the pain-specialist model doesn’t work financially.
Now, all of your problems come back to this: why are the patients coming through your door and how long will they stay with you? By the way, it’s healthier for the practice AND for the patient if they stay, and that’s what chiropractic is all about.
I’m tired of seeing sick people stay sick because they are trying “chiropractic, and not “chiropractors.” What I mean is this: if someone has a bad experience with an MD, they will find another MD. However, people don’t do that with chiropractors. They try “chiropractic” and if it doesn’t work, they look for something else. So think about this: that chiropractor down the street from you also represents “chiropractic” in your market. They are either building-up or tearing-down chiropractic, and that directly affects your business.
This dilemma that we all share creates many different symptoms in our practices, and none of them are fun. So if you don’t know how to build a self-sustaining, referral-based practice, the time is now! I’m not trying to sell you on anything, I’m just saying that you will never have a fulfilled practice and life if you don’t take action. Seek it out, find it, make sure it’s a moral, ethical system that teaches you how to build chiropractic up.
Trust me, you will have a much healthier practice and your patients will live much healthier lives because of it. And most importantly, chiropractic will be sustained and prosper.
I hope this has been insightful,
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