As a general rule, the chiropractic consultation is more important than the report of findings. Ask any chiropractor and see if he or she objects. Chances are, you won’t get an argument.
First, consider the report, which in many practices is little more than confirming that the patient has a problem the chiropractor is able to address (the patient already assumed that), or it’s a sales session to get the patient to buy something beyond pain relief. Or both. Either way, when patients hang around long enough for your report, they’re already sold. The relationship is yours to lose.
Most chiropractors seem oblivious to what a huge concession it is for a patient to come to your practice in the first place. Not to mention the imposition of coming three times a week for who knows how long.
We’ve all heard the stories of the crusty old chiropractor who says, “You’ve got a problem here, here, and here, and I can fix it, so let’s get started.” This reputation follows many chiropractors who don’t give a formal report of their findings. If you conduct consultations correctly, your report of findings can be meaningful and might last five to six minutes.
Report for rapport
One of the most powerful ways of establishing rapport with a new patient is to answer a common, unspoken question: “Why did you become a chiropractor?” If you have a story that includes being a chiropractic patient yourself, share it. Admit any concerns, fears, or unfounded beliefs about chiropractic that you may have had back then. Doing so will put patients at ease, while addressing their hidden fears and concerns.
Don’t have an inspiring story? Address their concerns more directly. “Many people have some wrongheaded ideas about chiropractic. So, before we get started, I’d like to put some of them to rest.”
Assuring patients that their particular problem is within the scope of your practice, and so common as to be routine, is a significant message. Give hope without guaranteeing a cure; express your confidence without making a promise, e.g., “We see this sort of thing all the time,” or “Chiropractic can be very helpful in cases like yours.”
Hope is an essential part of the healing process, and it’s something you can invoke even before a complete examination and report.
Planting a flag
The consultation offers the opportunity to contrast patients’ prior medical doctor experience with what they can expect in your practice. For example: “I think it’s only fair that I explain a little about what I believe to be true, and the lens we’ll be looking through as we evaluate your current problem and offer some help and direction for improvement.” Explain your philosophy and your focus on the nervous system.
The point you’re trying to make is that chiropractic differs from allopathic medicine. Your patients want something different. They’ve more than likely already encountered the limitations of mainstream medicine.
Put them at ease
Almost every new patient has heard the myth that once you go to a chiropractor, you have to go for the rest of your life. Put patients at ease by explaining how this myth originated from the distinction between sick care (short-term diet of pain relief) and life care (wellness and health optimization, lifestyle choice).
Explain that, “How long you decide to benefit from chiropractic is always up to you.” Then be congruent with this statement of truth.
Listening to learn
The consultation is also a time when you want the patient to do most of the talking. By demonstrating your ability to really listen – repeating in your own words what you’re hearing, and asking for clarification when patients use unusual or meaningful terms, you communicate respect and understanding.
Make a lasting impression
You’ve heard the old adage that you “only get one opportunity to make a first impression.” And the first impression is usually the longest lasting. This makes your paperwork, consultation, and first-visit procedures vitally important since they can permanently color your patients’ perception of you, your practice, and chiropractic. It may be time to reinvent your consultation.
What would your consultation look like, sound like, and feel like if you were to create it from the ground up today?