The evolution from student, to student clinician, to new practitioner is exciting and challenging.
But for many others, however, this transition represents an emotional, professional, and financial struggle, often tragically ending in a failure to thrive in practice.
The chiropractic profession cannot survive without successful practitioners. Equally as significant, there are millions of patients who simply will not have access to the chiropractic care they need and thus will be forced to pursue less effective, less safe, or more expensive alternatives.
With the above in mind, let’s explore the required foundations to build and sustain an ethically successful practice, which applies to all practitioners, regardless of years in practice. The ability to build a successful, self-sustaining practice is determined by the same variables.
It is just a tremendous advantage to gain these foundations as early in your chiropractic career as possible. With the cost of chiropractic school being so astronomical, the stakes are higher for today’s new graduates than they have ever been.
Step 1: Identify and define the desired outcome
Ethical practice success is defined as the delivery of ethical care from doctors that elicits highly satisfying patient outcomes in exchange for a fair fee.
An ethically successful practice involves a win-win—a highly satisfying relationship between doctor and patient. Thus, the variables that determine ethical practice success are those that determine a high level of mutual satisfaction.
Step 2: Identify the variables that determine ethical practice success
Never forget that patients are most satisfied and most willing to pay—and to refer others—for care that has resulted in documented and perceived health outcomes.
Patients are not satisfied paying for care; they are satisfied paying for desired outcomes elicited from care. The foundation of ethical practice success is satisfied patients paying a fair fee in exchange for documented and perceived benefit from care— not simply the receipt of care.
For doctors to be satisfied, they also must feel that their care is eliciting the best possible outcomes. The happiest clinicians with the highest professional self-esteem and satisfaction are those whose patients are most satisfied with their care.
Over the years I have asked tens of thousands of chiropractors to name five of their all-time favorite patients. When asked about the criteria they used to compile their list, none have ever said it was how much money the patient had paid them. All have said it was how much benefit the patients had received and perceived and how satisfied they were with their care, and how often they referred others.
It would be disingenuous to deny that for a doctor to feel fully satisfied in practice, in addition to eliciting patient satisfaction based on outcomes, they also must be making a fair income. Clearly one of the variables that doctors use to define practice success is profit. There is nothing immoral, unethical, or incongruent about a doctor having financial success. The accumulation of a series of exchanges of fair fees for patient outcomes naturally and inevitably results in ethical profit.
The number of ethically profitable exchanges and the amount of ethical profit form an indissoluble union and are correlated directly. Thus, by definition, the more ethical profit a doctor makes, the more successful health outcomes patients have received. Ethical practice success results in a win/win relationship between doctor and patient. Never believe that you have to sacrifice ethics for profit or that making a profit inherently is unethical. Seek to earn ethical profit based on excellent results elicited from excellent care.
A crucial fact to acknowledge
It’s very important to identify the variable that is absolutely, unequivocally, not responsible for any lack of individual or professional chiropractic success — our product. Our core unique product, the chiropractic adjustment, is superior when compared to its competitors.
The amount of evidence regarding the effectiveness and value of the chiropractic product, and the consumer satisfaction levels of those who purchase this product, is such that the product itself simply cannot be the cause of failure to thrive in chiropractic practice.
Step 3: Identify the abilities required to control variables toward ethical practice success
There are six specific abilities needed to control these variables:
Sufficient integrity, compassion, and work ethic.
Sufficient understanding and certainty regarding the evidence-based value of the unique expertise, health care paradigm, and products and services of the chiropractor.
Sufficient ability to communicate the evidence-based value of the unique expertise, health care paradigm, and products and services of the chiropractor, honestly and ethically.
Sufficient evidence-based knowledge and clinical expertise for delivering the unique chiropractic products and services in a way that elicits the most value (best possible outcomes) for the patient.
Sufficient valid documentation and honest communication (measurement and reporting) of the delivered value from products and services, which maximizes perceived value.
Sufficient ability to communicate the evidence-based value and safety of our products and services to other health care practitioners and to the general public effectively and expertly.
There are no shortcuts. Self-sustaining ethical success requires hard work over time. There will be setbacks, but the rewards for both patients and doctors are more plentiful with every step toward clinical excellence and with every stone added to the pillars of success.
James L. Chestnut recently developed his Evidence-Based Chiropractic and Lifestyle Protocols to help practitioners implement evidence-based exams, reports, and patient education in order to achieve outstanding patient outcomes and ethical practice success. He also founded Innate Choice, an evidence-based essential nutrient supplement company. For more information go to thewellnesspractice.com or innatechoice.com.