There is a song by the rock band Queen titled, “You’re My Best Friend.”
It was on the radio the other day, and it got me thinking about chiropractors and their No. 1 asset: chiropractic assistants.
What you typically find is that among the issues of time, money, systems, processes and talent, the best resource for any chiropractic practice is the use of an assistant. The chiropractic assistant (CA) can aid in the establishment of processes and systems as well as help create the patterns necessary to grow a practice.
Now there are times when a chiropractor might say:
- I cannot afford a chiropractic assistant.
- I don’t have the time to train an assistant.
- It will be too much trouble to hire one.
Yet the larger question to ask is what is it costing you to not have the proper resources? Most doctors are spending more time making copies, conducting billing inquiries, and obtaining billing codes than building their practices. This is when a chiropractor requires the necessary help so they can focus on patient acquisition and providing care.
The purpose of a CA
The main reason for hiring an assistant is to delegate work. To a certain degree, delegation is a sign of control.
It’s a win-win when done appropriately; however, that does not mean that you can delegate everything. But if you can delegate certain tasks to a CA who is more efficient at them (and perhaps more knowledgeable), it is definitely worth it. If you’re doing the work yourself, you’re failing to make the best use of your time.
By involving another person, you develop that person’s skills and abilities. This helps to make you a better manager, a better doctor, and it creates less labor for you.
A classic mistake
While many chiropractors imagine that they would like to have their spouse work as their CA, this is not in the best interest of the practice. Discussing work and having unfriendly differences of opinion is not conducive to marital success. There is no level of trust comparable to that with one’s spouse, but your personal relationship is better with a supervised assistant.
Also, some chiropractors will use their spouses as a means to save money on hiring or training proper staff. Yet what you often find is that some spouses come with varied levels of education in chiropractic. The amount of time invested in having the spouse learn systems, processes and procedures can cause anxiety and waste time.
The stress involved in creating foundations while also learning billing and coding creates high levels of burnout. For example: Take doctor Phil. For five years he has used his wife to help run the practice. But she has become so frustrated with long evenings and battling insurance claims that she has threatened him with divorce. He has three children and over 20 years of love for her and five years of practice struggle. He needs to manage his professional chaos to alleviate his personal discord.
Additionally, a chiropractor must be good at hiring, providing direction, and establishing accountability. This is where adopting the role of leader is vital. You must hire for talent; the person chosen must have the skills required to do the job. You then provide the framework so that the CA knows what they need to do, the timeframe allotted, and the rationale for it. Finally, the CA must have key performance measurements to understand whether they are meeting criteria and succeeding. What gets measured can be rewarded.
Hallmarks of success
One might see the role of the CA as more of a glorified assistant, doing things that the chiropractor doesn’t want to do. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Used correctly, the right CA provides partnership, handling items the chiropractor wants to do but cannot.
For example, one of the many things chiropractors have difficulty with is growing, establishing and flourishing their brand. However, the four-hands-are-better-than-two approach actually works. You only have so much time in a day to market in addition to seeing patients; you need the additional set of hands a CA can provide with setting up speaking engagements, discovering networking events and working on internet materials.
Additionally, as a practice grows, there is a need to establish a culture and a foundational ideology. With that in mind, a good CA can help you create an office operations manual, an employee handbook, and office policies. Chiropractic practices (much like any organization) need established bureaucracies to function properly.
To that end, one of the many things that a purposeful CA will provide is finding additional talent. The helpful CA will always be on the lookout for good employees, always seeking to find staff who can harmonize with your practice. Good, balanced employees who understand their strengths and limitations can balance each other while also helping you provide consistent and passionate patient care.
While reading this article, you may well agree that obtaining a chiropractic assistant is useful, but still feel it is unaffordable. If that’s your concern, consider finding temporary help, part-time assistance or an independent contractor. Doing so can improve your cash flow while letting you delegate labor, allowing you to concentrate on marketing and patient care.
When you’re getting started, you don’t have to hire full-time talent. After all, you yourself are likely not working a true 40-hour week. Therefore, to maximize your budget, part-time aid might be exactly what you need. And you also get the opportunity to “trial-hire” a person to determine if they are a proper fit that allows you to work on your management direction and people skills. While they create a bit more labor upfront, part-time employees reduce risk.
The right CA will bring much needed knowledge, assistance and guidance to your practice. They can provide the skills needed to make the practice more efficient and profitable while allowing you to be more strategic.
When you hire a good assistant you return to your avocation—patient care. The right CA is like Queen says, “the best friend, that I ever had….” Hire right and find the best friend you might ever have in practice.
Drew Stevens, PhD, is a world-renowned marketing mentor for chiropractors. He transforms struggling chiropractors into wealthy practitioners. He is a frequent contributor to Chiropractic Economics and can be reached through stevensconsultinggroup.com.