Work-related injuries are nothing new— over the years, workers’ compensation costs have continued to soar for companies of nearly any size and in virtually every industry.
Not surprisingly, these companies continue to search for new and innovative ways to alleviate work-related injuries and make their employees more productive, engaged, and healthy. How can a chiropractor’s knowledge and expertise step in to help?
From providing sound occupational safety information in the form of a corporate trainer to engaging in the sale of ergonomic and related office equipment, there are many ways you can contribute to this growing field.
You have a number of options, such as augmenting your current practice by offering ergonomic products and resources to patients and companies, or by entering this field full-time as a paid, certified specialist focused exclusively on improving workers’ productivity and lives.
The business side of ergonomics
Paul Levy president of the clinical services division at Humanscale says his company focuses on the business of ergonomics, assisting chiropractors in educating patients about the importance of working well. The company also specializes in training chiropractors to be resellers of its ergonomically designed equipment as part of an overall effort to achieve wellness.
“We are a designer and manufacturer of ergonomic tools,” Levy says. “Our primary focus has always been to reach corporate America. If you have a fixed- height monitor (one that isn’t adjustable and is sitting on a desk), how will you accommodate for different people who use it?” He says his company is concerned with the “fit between people and their work.” That’s what the science of ergonomics is.
According to Levy, ergonomic tools do help prevent work-related injuries. And because chiropractors are educated about body mechanics as they relate to work environments, “We felt it was essential to begin teaching chiropractors about these products,” he says. “Furthermore, we’ve developed a certification train-the-trainer CEU course designed to help chiropractors identify postural risks associated with long-term computer use.
“In addition to having conversations with their patients, we want chiropractors to have the tools they need to help people have fewer incidents of pain,” Levy says.
Levy’s firm will soon offer a patient portal that will reflect the language chiropractors use and the conditions they treat. The portal will also be available to chiropractors who are interested in embedding it into their own practices’ websites so that patients can see information congruent with what their chiropractors provide.
“When a patient comes to a chiropractor’s office with a musculoskeletal issue, the chiropractor is already asking the patient how they work,” Levy says. If the chiropractor’s own site can rein- force the education they’re providing to their patients, it helps position the DC as an expert in this area.
Levy’s site also includes a section on standing desks and related office equipment. “Chiropractors have been saying that many patients are asking, ‘Should I be standing more at my office or sitting?’ Research is showing a number of health concerns—including those related to metabolic syndrome— that correlate with working in poor office conditions.”
He also hears chiropractors saying that they already tell their patients to get a good office chair, one that is supportive, and he wants to give chiropractors more information on such chairs. Levy says: “A good office chair, for instance, should allow people to freely change their posture without making a lot of adjustments to the chair itself.”
Levy’s website is also expanding to include a section for employees who want to talk to their human resources departments about ergonomic wellness. This, in turn, will reinforce the message to corporations about the importance of ergonomically sound work equipment.
Training to sell
Levy admits that he is still working to determine how much these products—and related education— interest chiropractors, as well as how much chiropractors think this technology can impact their business.
“We are trying to figure out how much time a DC wants to spend on this,” Levy says. “They want to know how the product works and they want to use it, but they want to rely on us to do the selling for them.”
A typical product package would consist of a standing desk with a chair and a monitor positioned at the right height. Because the first step is selling chiropractors on the benefit of reselling these products to companies, “We tell chiropractors that if you want to know what it is like to sit in a good way, you must do it yourself,” Levy says.
If you’re planning to advise patients to purchase this type of equipment, consider bringing these products into your own office to see how they interact with your employees’ ability to sit with good posture. “They need to embrace these ergonomic products, both for their own employees as well as for their patients.”
Ultimately, you can make a real difference in alleviating work-related injuries, and it should be possible to make a profit at the same time. And if transactions are occurring through a doctor’s practice, it establishes a trust factor for patients and corporations alike.
An ergonomics education
Dennis Downing, CEO of Future Industrial Technologies, takes work- related injury prevention and education to a new level; his company offers membership and formal certification for chiropractors interested in this endeavor.
“We’ve certified over 1,000 chiropractors throughout the United States and Canada on how to go into organizations and help them reduce the severity and frequency of musculoskeletal disorders,” Downing says.
Since 1992, his company has worked almost exclusively with chiropractors in helping small-to-medium-sized and Fortune 500 companies lower their workers’ compensation costs by preventing work-related injuries through training and education.
“The beauty of our program is that a chiropractor can go into a company and help as a true professional injury prevention specialist,” Downing says. “Instead of being a treating physician, they are a professional injury prevention specialist who can help to reduce a company’s workers’ compensation costs by 30 to 70 percent.” He notes that a company obtaining these kinds of results would be likely to consider having such a specialist be the company doctor.
“There are so many benefits for a competent and confident chiropractor to reduce injuries in the workplace through education,” he adds. “And this in turn gives the chiropractor’s practice tremendous exposure.”
The logistics of certification
According to Downing, the first step toward certifying appropriate chiropractors in this field is to teach them their own value.
“We learned very quickly that we had to teach chiropractors that they were valuable, that they truly can help a company reduce workers’ compensation costs,” he says. “Then we had to ask them, ‘What would that be worth?’ We had to help chiropractors be worth a lot of money to corporate America.”
Since 1992, Downing has worked to implement a system that enables chiropractors to achieve the confidence and skills they need to succeed in this arena. He paired with two DCs to design an office ergonomics training program, as well as an ergonomics training program for non-office people. “Combined, these are two curricula that our chiropractors use when they go out into corporate America and help companies reduce injuries,” he says.
Downing works with chiropractors in two ways: His firm helps DCs procure their own corporate contacts, and can also provide opportunities through its own marketing efforts.
“Basically, we combined the art of training with the science of biomechanics and stretching instructions,” Downing says. Because chiropractors have an innate bent toward teaching people, they are the perfect medium to deliver the message.
Downing’s advice to any chiropractor thinking about entering this field is simple: Don’t be an amateur, don’t go out unprepared, and don’t fake being a professional injury prevention specialist. Instead, first get educated on what you need to know, including knowing who in the company will buy into your program.
“You also need to know what to charge,” he says, as there are no free programs when you can save companies so much money. But that also means you have to deliver a meaningful program that ensures companies get what they are promised.
Being a chiropractor is a physical profession that’s tough on the body. A corporate injury prevention specialist can earn good money without the physical demands of delivering adjustments. “But you have to like to teach people, and it’s nice to have a curiosity of what people do for a living,” Downing says.
Getting in on the ground floor
Don Conant, DC, owner of Corporate Chiropractic Works International, has been a practicing chiropractor for 15 years, three of which have been spent as an on-site chiropractor for companies around the country.
“My wife and I are both in practice. We have the experience of being on- site and taking care of employees in various companies, and we’re looking to expand that to get into other companies,” he says. “I think it is fantastic for a chiropractor to add this area of expertise to a practice, whether you are a solo practitioner or you have an associate with you. There are a lot of chiropractors looking for ways to add patients and increase revenue, and this is an effective way to do so.”
In terms of training and education of healthcare providers, Conant says that his company markets only to DCs. “We show chiropractors how to get new companies on board, as well as what to say to them and what presentations to give. We also provide training on what to expect with regard to day-to-day patient interactions.”
A day in the life on-site
In the course of a day, Conant says that he focuses on providing adjustments and teaching employees how that can help them maintain a healthy body.
He also goes into companies to teach people why they should be under regular chiropractic care. “We tell them how they’re less likely to get injured at work, and we tell them how spinal hygiene is similar to dental hygiene,” he explains.
Conant understands working people are busy, and employers are looking to have them accomplish more with less time and fewer resources. There’s a trend toward creating a convenience atmosphere at work, for making sure employees are happy and healthy at their jobs and staying well now rather than reacting after they get hurt. “We thought that if we go to where people are most of their time, we could create a huge on-site practice,” he says.
Currently, Conant and his wife work on-site in 15 companies, and they are looking for others to help them in this area of practice. “Mostly, we want to equip other chiropractors so that they can go out and do this same thing in their communities,” he says.
In Conant’s view, the opportunity for chiropractors to make a significant contribution in this field is endless.
What’s more, you can be selective about which clients you opt to accept. And to be successful? “I suggest you meet as many company owners and human resources folks as you can, since these will be the ones who buy into your vision and the resulting benefits it provides.”
There are numerous positives to getting started working in this arena.
Companies will generally be pleased that they don’t have to do a lot to get a program established, and for the DC, the effort to promote wellness and a proactive approach to health and wellness is minimal. Those companies who chose to enact a program are often surprised at how many employees take advantage of the service.
When workplace safety and ergonomics are addressed, employees feel better and are happier at the jobs, which ultimately leads to them being more productive at work. That’s the best return on investment an employer could hope to gain.
Amy Stankkiewicz is a freelance writer based in Cleveland. She has written for trade publications for more than 15 years. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.