Most DCs want to increase their personal injury practice.
The reason is simple yet can be very confusing with so much “noise in the space” by consultants and organizations looking to capitalize on preconceived notions of what will build your practice in a “get rich quick scenario.” First, the reason: most personal injury cases pay more than non-personal injury cases for doing the same work. Although that makes economic sense as a business strategy, are you prepared through advanced clinical training to manage trauma cases at that level?
Your strategic business plan
Successful personal injury practice marketing
Based on the number of advertisements in our trade journals, emails, podcasts and direct mail, there are many opinions from those who want your business. This often becomes very confusing to the practitioner, who typically has little experience in successful personal injury practice marketing. At the end of the day, it could also become a very costly mission with no guidelines or background on how to choose beyond “trial and error.”
To help clarify the decision-making process, you must consider three things:
- What isn’t working?
- What part of the process will foster long-term relationships?
- What will work in the short term?
These three pieces of your strategic business plan will help you plant the seeds for long-term relationships, while having enough immediate successes to allow your practice to “spiral upward” over time.
Expand your referral sources
The goal of building personal injury practices is to create sustainable referral relationships. Anything short of a sustainable relationship is doomed to failure with a horrible return on your investment. Also, you need to expand your referral sources beyond lawyers. Your strategy needs to include medical primary care providers, medical specialists, urgent care centers, emergency rooms and past patients. Over 40 years of market research have confirmed that having more referral sources is better than less. It also doesn’t take 40 years to figure that out.
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners, even at the best country clubs, will not motivate any of the above sources to have a meaningful and sustainable referral relationship with you. Marketing through advertisements, either in print or digitally, has consistently proven a failed pathway to attract ongoing new cases. You will mostly attract “shoppers” looking for deals in short-term relationships or “doctor hopping” to find someone to document their injuries where previous doctors refused. Search engine optimization (SEO) is another failed pathway for sustainable referral relationships. Here again, the return on investment is poor.
Beyond the marketing, which has rarely proved successful in our industry, there are the very creative “get rich quick schemes.” Some of those schemes include pushing “value drivers” to lawyers to increase their case values, teaching you how to document 30, 40 or 50 diagnoses per case on a regular basis, giving you a vast amount of research articles for attorneys, and my favorite, the “one thing a lawyer will need to refer to you.” All the above typically come with legal risk, where the “consultant” will not be around to share the risk, leaving you to answer for poor advice. It has played out too many times.
If any of the above gets you a new case (some will drive a few cases to you), you stand a high probability of being “one and done.” The lawyer, medical primary care provider, medical specialists, urgent care center and emergency rooms will look at your work, understand you are not a solution to their business or a safe alternative to their patients, and never work with you again. The hard truth based on 40 years of market research has validated those referral sources will never consider working with you again, which is worse than not getting the referral.
All the above scenarios do have a place in the overall strategic business plan for building a personal injury practice. However, you never lead with them, although many should be part of your long-term strategy to build sustainable relationships. It is past time the chiropractic profession advances in our level of sophistication of penetrating an increasingly competitive personal injury market space to ensure success because we are the best “first line of treatment” for mechanical spinal-related injuries secondary to trauma.
Intermediate and long-term strategy
Your intermediate and long-term strategy should include social media and all other digital platforms. Taking an academic marketing approach builds your reputation over time with your referral community. A core professional principle in marketing is “reputation drives referrals.” Ask cancer patients if they want to see a doctor with the fanciest ad or the best credentials. We in chiropractic are no different, as our care often gives patients back their ability to function in life.
The importance of continuing education
Every genre of practice, ranging from pediatrics to sports to geriatrics to trauma, requires different skill sets not taught in your basic doctoral training. That is why mandatory continuing education has been codified into regulation by every licensure board in the country. Those before you realize, it is “in the public interest to ensure a doctor has advanced training to best care for patients in the future.”
Continuing education is critical to your success should you choose correctly in the courses you take. It should be part of your core strategy to take courses that are co-credentialed through chiropractic and medical academia. Unfortunately, there are still prejudices in our profession where medical credentials can overcome that dogma. Fair or not, it is a sound business strategy. It is those credentials that encompass the center of your academic marketing. Attempting to use any “technique-driven” marketing is the surest way to failure in personal injury.
With the medical profession, your credentials through medical academia combined with your advanced knowledge in case management will be the core of the referral. With lawyers, it is the above, along with being able to demonstrably document all spinal pain generators. Little things like perfect grammar, meeting all the elements of the coding billed, and legally defensible fees are the little things that can either enhance or destroy relationships.
2023 is no longer business as usual, and I urge you to “hold your wallet and run as fast as you can” from any entity touting “get rich quick” programs. Getting rich for your entire career requires a strategic business plan centered only on your clinical excellence.
MARK STUDIN, DC, FPSC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, is an adjunct assistant professor of the University of Bridgeport, School of Chiropractic and an adjunct post-doctoral professor at Cleveland University-Kansas City, College of Chiropractic. He is a clinical instructor at The State University of New York at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Office of Continuing Medical Education. He also earned his Fellowship in Primary Spine Care certified in joint providership from The State University of New York at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Office of Continuing Medical Education, and Cleveland University Kansas City, College of Chiropractic. He also runs the Academy of Chiropractic’s Personal Injury Program. He can be reached at 631-786-4253 or DrMark@AcademyOfChiropractic.com