One of the biggest benefits of the chiropractic profession is that you actually get to know your patients and create relationships. Very few doctors have that advantage. In most doctors’ offices, patients present themselves once or twice a year, sick and in pain.
In chiropractic offices, you get to see the results of your care every single day. Many of your patients present themselves on a regular basis, especially at the beginning of their care.
One way to keep patients coming back is to find ways to make them feel “special.” Many patients may think about dropping out of care during the first five to six visits, because they are starting to feel better. This is the ideal time to establish a health-care relationship, which can turn a new patient into a wellness patient.
On this journey, it is important to visualize your purpose. That purpose should be to bring every patient to wellness care.
The following advice can help your patients on their journeys to wellness:
Always make your patients feel special by greeting them with genuine sincerity and care. Be ready for them, introduce yourself, use their names, shake their hands, and use proper scripting for a professional presentation. First impressions are lasting impressions.
New patients should be given a tour around your clinic to make them feel comfortable with their surroundings. Specific instructions should be given at that time, such as, “When you arrive at our office, always sign in at the front desk,” or, “Upon leaving, always check out and make your next appointment.” During this tour, introduce each team member the new patient sees, and explain his or her function. For example: “Mr. Smith, this is Debbie, she is the doctor’s assistant and administers the therapies.”
Very often, this office tour is given even before new patients fill out their paperwork, because it makes for a professional first impression. Be sure you don’t overdo it. Some patients may feel uncomfortable with overly friendly staff. Just be professional in a positive way.
Remember, the first visit is the discovery visit. It is not recommended that the patient be adjusted on the first visit. Your goal is to make sure the new patient comes back for the report of findings for educational purposes. This is a critical step for retention. Surgery does not take place on the first visit to the surgeon, and adjustments should not take place on the first visit to the chiropractor. Adjustments are too important to be given without the proper preparation and ground work.
One designated team member should be assigned to each new patient. This set-up helps the patient feel more comfortable. This team member should explain exactly what the new patient will be doing next, such as, “Mr. Smith, Dr. Jones requests that you view this video. The video will explain what you can expect with chiropractic care. It will last approximately six minutes, and I will be back as soon as it’s over.” Every aspect of the first visit should be explained in detail.
A new patient should never be allowed to wander around the office unescorted. The new patient is unfamiliar with your procedures, and will often be apprehensive and may not understand your instructions. Remember, your goal should be for the patient to have a positive experience in your office.
Once the new patient visit is completed, the patient should be escorted to the front desk for check-out. This is a very important step and, if done correctly, will create a protocol for the patient to follow on subsequent visits.
During check-out, the patient should be given written instructions, telling him or her what to do and what not to do at home. These instructions should include exactly how to administer ice or heat, what exercises to do and how to do them. Never assume the patient will remember verbal instructions. Giving written instructions is the professional thing to do.
Use the proper script for presenting the second visit. “Mr. Smith, tomorrow Dr. Jones will sit down with you and discuss the results of your examination and X-rays. She will have an individualized, written report for you and will discuss the possibility of chiropractic care.” Do not automatically assume the patient will be accepted into care.
Let the patient know how long the next visit will take and be sure to emphasize the importance of time-lines. “Tomorrow’s visit will take approximately ____ minutes. Dr. Jones has set that amount of time aside to meet with you. If, for some reason, you find that you will not be able to arrive on time, please contact us and let us know and we will rearrange your appointment.” This will help set a precedent. Make sure the patient has an appointment card with the clinic phone number. It’s also a good idea to make a call to the patient that evening, confirming the appointment for the next day. It helps the patient realize the importance of the report of findings visit.
Make sure you collect proper payment for services rendered, starting with the very first visit. The patient should be expected to pay the portion of the service for which he or she is responsible. Making sure the patient pays on the first visit sends a clear message.
Getting a new patient’s journey to wellness off to the right start will reap benefits for your patient, your team and you. Spending a little time in the beginning to make your patient feel confident and safe is paramount in order to begin your health-care partnership and create a patient for life.