There is a way to get easier and faster care acceptance from new patients without tons of education, pressure, or you acting like a salesperson.
Every new-patient conversation can be unique.
One of the biggest complaints DCs make is about feeling they have to be a scripted robot with new patients. But even the best care recommendations can be a challenge to enact.
This issue hurts the profession’s credibility. There isn’t a set of objective standards for chiropractic care, and that causes apprehension and anxiety about making honest and accurate recommendations.
If a doctor isn’t 100 percent certain in his or her skills, it shows. Patients pick up on this readily. That’s why care acceptance and referral rates are low in chiropractic compared to other fields. It’s why patient disappearance is so frequent in many practices. It’s also what causes most practices to feel there are just never enough new patients.
But your practice success doesn’t have to be based on new-patient or weekly visit stats anymore. The metric of a business’s success is monetary profit, not number of visits.
So how does our profession break free from an outdated mindset that hurts solo practices and the profession’s public image? DCs must shift the way they recommend care. There needs to be a switch from care based purely on visit number to a timed relationship with the doctor.
The fee-per-visit model keeps doctors chained to their practice and patients. It’s the reason so many DCs sacrifice their Saturdays to see 10, 20, or 30 more patients instead of being with their family, relaxing and enjoying life. It’s also what causes DCs to resent practice, insurance companies, and even patients at times.
When DCs trade their compensation for each visit (even if patients are all on care plans), they end up bound to the clock and visit number.
And your patients sense this, too. Patients in the fee-per-visit model know every time they come in you get paid. There’s an inherent bias that has the patient wondering, “If the doctor wants to see me more often is it because I really need it or because it’s more beneficial financially?” This perception causes more drop-outs, disappearances, and low referral rates.
It’s also not necessary to focus on the frequency with which a patient will need care after the first few weeks. It should be on how he or she is progressing, whether based on subluxation pattern, musculoskeletal or soft-tissue rehabilitation, or purely a symptom-based paradigm of care.
But there’s a way to recommend care that honors what that patient does need, makes complete sense to them, and frees the chiropractor from only getting paid per number of visits seen. It’s an investment for your relationship over a period of time that doesn’t mean unlimited patient visits. The doctor still dictates the care schedule and frequency.
A better model
Patients in this model now value the relationship, expertise, and education provided by their chiropractor far more than ever before. Instead of education being an add-on the patient isn’t expecting, now the patient is knowingly paying for it.
Because everyone values what they pay for, your recommendations on lifestyle will be increasingly followed and respected. This will cause better and quicker patient results.
Patients also won’t be overwhelmed by what they may see as a high number of visits because the final number of visits is never stated. Unlike other health professionals, chiropractors tend to see patients more often. This doesn’t make sense to new patients no matter how much initial education is given.
It is better to have a patient paying for you, not just your adjustment or office visit because your service is being perceived as a commodity. You can easily make your schedule Monday through Thursday without losing visits or income by being closed Friday and Saturday. You can also be authentic in your care recommendations and alter them as the patient progresses, instead of patients feeling locked to a plan that isn’t clearly serving their condition, goals, or progress.
Most importantly, it makes far more sense to patients who can now trust, refer, and comply with your recommendations. Because they’ll be following your lifestyle recommendations, they’ll be getting faster results and needing fewer adjustment visits, which frees up more time for you.
Your average new-patient investment will increase when you create your fee structures appropriately. Then, if you streamline your education delivery with videos, online lessons, and group classes, you can free yourself even more while helping more patients.
Steps to success
The key is that you recommend an initial period of care without ever mentioning the total number of visits required. You can have multiple time-lengths based on different new- patient needs.
Initial frequency is informed by the patient’s presenting problem and subsequent progress, with ongoing frequency determined by the remaining length of their care timeline. Fees for care are not based on the number of visits in a plan, but rather on an inclusive relationship with the doctor for all the services you provide inside your office such as adjustments, modalities, nutrition, testing, and education.
Because you seek the overall betterment of your patients, your recommendations should be no different than those you would provide to a family member.
Benefits for you
- Your revenue isn’t based on the number of visits seen, while your new-patient investment increases.
- You have more freedom in your schedule because weekend appointments are no longer required.
- You are fully authentic in your initial recommendations and care because traditional long-term cookie-cutter care models often have little to no objective clinical validity.
- You get paid and are valued for your knowledge and expertise.
Benefits for your patients
- It’s easier for them to understand and accept your initial care recommendations.
- Patients never feel the reason you want to see them is because you’re profiting more each time they come in.
- Patients take advantage of your education and everything else you provide because they’re investing in it.
Reconsider the old way you were taught to recommend care. That method not only reflects a completely different insurance era but it keeps doctors trapped inside their practice. It also isn’t as easy for new patients nor helping the public image of the profession. With a few mindset and procedural changes, you can have greater freedom, profitability, and patient enrollment. And every DC deserves that.
Josh Wagner, DC, graduated from Life University and is now in private practice in New York. He has authored e- books on fibromyalgia and nutrition, and most recently created The Perfect Patient Funnel System, for DCs to strengthen their practices and minimize stress. He can be contacted through perfectpatientfunnel.com.