Thanks to Today's Chiropractic for permission to reproduce this article!
By William D. Esteb
Many chiropractors overlook the fact that the number of new patients in their clinic can be a symptom of an in-house problem that requires a solution. But “treating” a lack of patients with a short-term, outside-in therapy rarely produces a satisfactory solution.
If you have the desire to help more people, here are nine keys to consider in taking a long-term, inside-out approach to solving problems that can thwart new patient referrals:
1. Stop thinking about yourself. If you lack new patients in your practice, you’re spending a lot of time thinking about yourself. You’re thinking about the shame of paying your bills late or not being able to pay them at all. You’re questioning your career choice. You’re worrying about yourself instead of your patients. It may require an Academy Award-winning performance, but you should focus on serving patients.
2. Your practice isn’t patient-centered. A common new patient blockage is managing a practice that isn’t patient-centered. Instead, it may be chiropractic-centered, with the objective of perpetuating a certain philosophical model of chiropractic. Or it may be an adjustment-centered practice in which the doctor’s attention is about a particular technique. The third-party-centered practice sees patients as insurance policy delivery systems. The subluxation-centered practice is about subluxation detection and reduction. They share the common denominator of being something other than patient-centered.
3. Do you have the capacity to help more people? Do your patients think they’re buying your time instead of your talent? Or maybe the blockage is the clinic environment, from having too few reception room chairs, inadequate staffing, a poor office layout that wastes steps, or something as subtle as not being proud of your office location, staff or furnishings.
4. Visualize new patient abundance. This may sound a bit metaphysical, but those who lack new patients often focus on their lack, rather than on abundance. Their secret mantra they say to themselves is simple: “I need more new patients, I need more new patients. I need more new patients.” As is the case with all things, the universe manifests what we focus our attention on. The result? The practitioner has a constant need for more new patients!
5. Create extraordinary patient visits. Distracted by mounting bills, it’s difficult to stay in present-time consciousness. Look for ways to focus on each patient. Ask them about their health, their hobbies, their pets, their family and their work. Find something about them to compliment—their hair, their clothing, their cologne, their promptness to appointments or their progress. As you touch each patient, visualize how this one person, renewed by better health, will affect countless others, setting off a chain reaction in your community and around the world.
6. What language do your patients use to refer others? Are your patients describing their office visits with words like “cracking,” “popping,” “wrenching,” “twisting” or worse? It’s more common than you think. In a casual, I’m-just-taking-a-poll tone, ask patients, “I was just wondering, when you describe what we do here to others, what do you say?” Do they need some coaching?
7. Do patients perceive the practice as too full? In some offices, referring friends and family can result in longer waits and less attention from the doctor. Keeping your office a “secret” is the natural result. Ask patients, “Tell me, on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being so full we couldn’t pack another patient in, how full do you perceive our practice to be at the time you usually receive your care?” Referrals often start falling off at about 80 to 85 percent full.
8. Take your best patients to lunch. Create situations in which you can pick the brains of your patients. Buy lunch for a trusted patient or two and ask them how you could improve your new patient procedures, office visits, new patient acquisition and other aspects of your practice. They’ll be impressed that you wanted their opinion. With their newfound emotional investment in your practice, notice a flood of referrals from them!
9. Keep in touch with your inactive patients. Simply put, the people most likely to come to your office are those who have already been. It’s tragic how many offices practically ignore their trophy case of inactive patient files. Send postcards, letters and newsletters. In short, keep in touch. Many of them are in the midst of a relapse or know someone who should be seeing you.
Instant gratification makes drug therapy so attractive to patients, and it makes new patient gimmicks attractive to practitioners who are struggling. If you’ve ever heard a patient express frustration at the slowness of their recovery, you realize that, like so many inside-out processes, change takes time.
Stimulating new patient referrals from within your practice is a lot like chiropractic care. It’s a way of life, not a one-time fix to clear up an episode of pain.
William D. Esteb has been a chiropractic patient, writer and convention speaker since 1981. He supplies patient-centered patient education tools through his company, Patient Media Inc. For more information, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his web site, patientmedia.com
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