Various health care integration approaches have helped chiropractors weather economic downturns and pandemics
MANY CHIROPRACTORS CONTEMPLATE INTEGRATING THEIR PRACTICES and also may have even tried it in the past. More than ever, I think it imperative that as health care providers we come together to provide the most efficient help to assist the most people, which can include various health care integration approaches.
Seeing that typically 92% of patients see medical providers and only 8-12% see chiropractors, if we want to see and help more people, we need to have practices that are integrated and offer services for what and where patients go the majority of the time.
All in one place
Having an integrated practice, I have noticed that many patients come in to see primary care when many of their problems would be best addressed with chiropractic, physical therapy or massage.
Have all the services in one place and office patients are better able to be directed to in-office solutions that are most appropriate for their conditions. New patients from annual wellness visits, or with back pain, neck pain, headaches or high blood pressure will schedule to see a medical doctor, yet the treatment provided by chiropractors can help yield better responses, with in most cases no medications.
Some of the greatest benefits we have seen with practice integration include greater number of new patients, greater number of patients helped, and greater number of patients trying chiropractic, acupuncture and massage. Patients would not have ever been introduced to or tried any of those services otherwise, and most importantly experienced greater results.
Health care integration approaches tackling COVID
Health care constantly evolves with needs of patients, insurance benefits and in today’s world, pandemics.
By adding and having an integrated health care model, we have been able to do COVID testing on patients, both antigen testing with nasopharyngeal swabs to discover if a person actively has the virus, and antibody testing through blood to test if the patient was previously infected and has antibodies for the virus. Offering these services to patients has allowed patients to come into the office and get tested before exposing elderly or at-risk family and friends.
There was actually a patient with zero symptoms and he came in and got tested before visiting his elderly family and was found to be positive. Thankfully he discovered this prior to visiting them and spreading the virus to high-risk relatives.
Additionally, we have been testing patients to identify who has antibodies. We have found patients with antibodies that have donated their antibodies to successfully help save lives of patients that have the virus who are not recovering or forming antibodies as readily to fight COVID.
When we aren’t busy fighting pandemics, our practices are offering annual wellness visits to patients, and running labs and tests to see how we can prevent underlying health conditions and keep people healthy with early detection while promoting health and prevention.
We are better able to have patients receive needed services all at one convenient location. When patients come, and when and if medically necessary, they are able to receive medical, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage and physical therapy in any combination that may be needed.
Withstanding economic dips
The news reports that small businesses are struggling. Small mom-and-pop shops are closing. What we see and have found in times of economic crisis is that franchised businesses with a specific system and support statistically withstand economic dips more successfully. By having additional services offered to patients you are able to diversify revenue sources and not be solely dependent on one particular service or payer.
Over the last 20 years I have seen trends such as workers’ compensation approved based on the physicians’ recommendation with covered services. Later it was found workers’ compensation was only covered with authorization and utilization review and reimbursement was decreased.
Many clinics that were solely based on workers’ compensation closed.
There used to be PPO payers that allotted a decent reimbursement for chiropractic care and therapy. Now it seems more and more plans are outsourcing their chiropractic, acupuncture and now even physical therapy through specialty health plans with significantly lower reimbursement per visit, regardless of services provided to the patients.
Surviving in a difficult health care environment
In order to survive as a profession, which as chiropractors historically we have been survivors, if employee wages and overhead continues to go up yet reimbursement gets reduced, cut, or even in some cases no longer even covered, we must evolve.
Cash practices have been many doctors’ solution, which is a great idea and for sure throws away many of the insurance headaches. But when patients are not doing well financially with large layoffs and loss of businesses, if people have insurance or if they have to choose between food and shelter vs. care, they will usually choose food and shelter.
We have even seen many affluent patients come to our office after having the same chiropractor for decades and change simply because their chiropractor no longer took their insurance. Providing what patients need and want through various health care integration approaches is also imperative to thrive in this ever-changing marketplace.
Consider the various health care integration approaches
In most states the only way chiropractors can actually legally lower or eliminate unnecessary drugs and surgery is by working with medical doctors who can legally lower them. Working with medical doctors seems like an essential aspect of fulfilling the purpose of chiropractic — to help people experience actual health without drugs and surgery and actually restoring health and function.
Of course, it requires the perfect match with the right team in place — the right doctors with similar philosophies, as well as everything set up with legal compensations. Too often doctors get involved in a non-standard compensation arrangement with other providers and get into trouble.
If you decide you want to pursue the various health care integration approaches for your practice it is essential to have the right team, the right advisors, and the correct legal and tax team. Once established, you’ll find satisfaction helping more patients more of the time.
STEPHANIE HIGASHI, DC, is a graduate of Southern California Health Sciences and CEO and founder of Health Atlast, a multi-specialty health care franchise. She can be contacted at healthatlastclinics.com or 310-980-9108.