Take products to the next level in your practice.
Chiropractors tend to obsess about finding new patients, and there’s no shortage of advice on how to reel them in. True, gaining new patients is important, but how many DCs give serious thought to what it takes to keep and leverage existing ones by making the most out of every visit? With diminished reimbursement rates that are likely here to stay, and other familiar challenges facing the profession, chiropractors who understand the power of product retailing will have a significant edge.
Most DCs—nearly 95 percent—already offer some sort of product in their practice, according to Chiropractic Economics’ 2014 Salary and Expense Survey (see sidebar).1 But there’s a big difference between the DC who sells an occasional pair of orthotics and one who has successfully leveraged retail as an important revenue stream.
Get out of your own way
The first challenge the product-retailing DC must overcome is a mental one. Many DCs confess that they don’t feel comfortable selling, that a sales mindset feels unprofessional.
Successful doctors have reframed their thinking, focusing on the optimal patient experience. Patients like to look, touch, and feel. They are ready to invest in their health with your services and products. Ask yourself why you would not offer everything you can to ensure your patients are getting better, both in your practice and at home. Why would you not use every tool at your disposal to engage patients in their care.
Think about an optometrist’s office. There’s the clinical side, where examinations take place, and a beautiful gallery of products to fulfill the optometrist’s prescriptions. Most DCs who offer products tend to keep them stuffed in a closet, mentioning them only as an afterthought. Taking your products from the closet space to the showcase makes your office a more interesting and engaging place to be; it shows you’re serious about offering the best and latest tools to enhance patient health and recovery.
Do your homework, and start small
Once you’ve trained yourself to think differently, it’s time to do your homework. You already know your patient base, so what are they interested in? What are their lifestyles like?
Tailor your inventory, which should be modest at first, to fit your demographic. For example: If your patient base is heavily skewed toward athletes, then hot-cold compresses and foot orthotics are an easy place to start.
Also consider the profit margin: Does the return on investment make sense in your practice? Talk to your peers and see what’s working for them. Your confidence will build as you start to see payoffs. Small investments that build over time won’t tie up your cash flow and yet allow you to experiment with what sells (and what doesn’t).
Be creative and get your staff on board
Remember, products aren’t all about your patients or the bottom line; they can be used to engage your staff, too. Once you commit to a product line, get your employees behind it. Let them try the goods—it’s a perk employees appreciate and their firsthand experience will enable them to speak knowledgably to patients.
And have fun—be creative. Say you have an ambitious goal of selling 100 items from a particular manufacturer in 90 days. You can institute a bonus system for your staff: For every sale, $5 goes into a pool. Fifty sales will create a $250 bonus pool, and so on up to 100 sales. Once your staff reaches 100 sales, every one of those $5 drops in the bucket doubles to $10, instantly making the amount $1,000.
Your office manager can create a poster depicting a spine with 50 vertebrae—with each half of a vertebra representing a sale that you color in as you go along, tracking your progress. This will encourage employees to come together as a team and make the goal. While the financial payoff of reaching the goal is great (for both your practice and your staff), the experience can also boost morale and encourage creativity and cooperation.
Technology adds even more “wow” factor
Using technology in your practice not only helps with assessments but also impresses your patients. The digital foot scanner is a commonly used tool during the intake process in many practices. By talking patients through the onscreen results, you can introduce them to the concept of body imbalances and how the feet play an important role in posture.
Even if a given patient decides not to invest in orthotics, the printed report they take home is professional and reminds them of their eye-opening experience with you. That can generate discussion with family and friends.
Make investing in health easy
The “good, better, best” model is a way to help patients invest at a level that is comfortable for them. If you as a doctor have any remaining hesitation about selling to patients, this approach may help you overcome it—you’re not “pushing” anything; you’re simply laying out the options.
“Good” can represent the basic chiropractic program of care you recommend, with adjustments as the cornerstone. “Better” adds home exercise with products to help. “Best” adds additional products and resources like foot orthotics or pillows. It’s up to the patient to decide on a level of investment.
Nearly 60 percent of DCs offer payment plans for services, according to the aforementioned survey.1 Why not offer the same for products? Rent-to-own programs can be effective. For example: Invite those patients who could benefit from TENS and ultrasound therapy to rent the devices for $10 a day. Later, they can convert the amount spent on the rental toward purchasing the item. Some practices have seen a 90-percent conversion rate.
Reatailing healthcare products can help turn a struggling practice into a thriving one, motivate beleaguered or bored staff, and get patients engaged with their own care for better health outcomes.
Whether you sell foot orthotics or supplements, TENS units or pillows, some patients will consider making an investment in them. Once they start to see results, they feel even more empowered by their choices, and their trust in your services grows.
Happy patients will tell others about you, so you don’t have to choose between beefing up your retailing efforts or marketing your practice to new patients. If you approach retailing the right way, it can add to your revenue and build your patient list.
Daniel Davidson, DC, is a second-generation chiropractor practicing in Salem, Virginia. He graduated magna cum laude from Palmer College of Chiropractic has been voted “best chiropractor” by the readers of his region’s arts and leisure magazine three years in a row. He can be contacted through backresort.com.
1 Heyboer M. “Sweeping Change.” Chiropractic Economics 2014 Salary and Expense Survey. Accessed Dec. 1, 2014.