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It is imperative that as health care providers, chiropractors come together to provide the most efficient for the greatest number of people.
My name is Stephanie Higashi, DC, and I have been an owner practicing chiropractor for 20 years. I graduated from Los Angeles College of Chiropractic and have been running a multi-specialty health care clinic for 10 years and a multi-specialty health care franchise for eight years.
Many chiropractors contemplate integrating their practices and 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 in order to help the greatest number of people.
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. 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 solutions in-office that are most appropriate for their conditions.
New patients from annual wellness visits, 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.
Health care has evolved
Some of the greatest benefits we have seen with practice integration – greater number of new patients, greater number of patients helped, greater number of patients trying chiropractic, acupuncture and massage that would not have ever been introduced or tried any of those services otherwise – provide greater results with patients.
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 like Health Atlast 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 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 be able to successfully help save lives with patients that have the virus who are not recovering, or forming antibodies as readily to fight the virus.
Better and easier wellness care
When we aren’t busy fighting pandemics, Health Altast Integrated practices are offering Annual Wellness Visits to patients, running labs and tests to see how we can prevent underlying health conditions, and keeping 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 while they are in the office.
Small business struggles
The news reports small businesses struggling, and small mom-and-pop shops are closing. What we see and have found in other economic crises 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 in the beginning of my career that was approved based on the physician’s recommendation and had 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 paid 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 American Specialty Health Plan with significantly lower reimbursement per visit regardless of services provided to the patients.
Declining insurance and reimbursements
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 and continue to use our skills to morph, transform and stay ahead of the trends.
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 the patients need and want is also imperative to thrive in the ever-changing marketplace.
Integrated practice and working with MDs
My recommendation is if you haven’t considered integrating your practice — consider it.
See if your practice would benefit from adding new patients, new services, new revenue streams and new ways to help more people in more ways.
For me, knowing that the only way as chiropractors in most states that we can actually legally lower and eliminate unnecessary drugs and surgery is by working with medical doctors, then working with medical doctors seems like an essential aspect of fulfilling the purpose of chiropractic. It’s helping 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. It requires the right doctors with similar philosophies, as well as it requires everything to be set up legally and for compensations to be legal. 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 integrating your practice, it is essential to have the right team, the right advisors, and the correct legal and tax team. Once you have it established it properly, you will help your practice, and most importantly your patients.
About the author
Stephanie Higashi, DC, was a graduate of Southern California Health Sciences in 2000, and is CEO and founder of Health Atlast Multi-Specialty Health Care Franchise. She can be reached at healthatlastclinics.com or (310) 980-9108.