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April, 2010

Five Points: Must-Have Elements of a Successful Practice

By Louis Sportelli, DC

Sounds simple, right? Five elements to success, that's all it takes. Well, not quite; as any practicing DC knows, success can be influenced by a wide range of variables, some beyond your control. However, in the majority of cases, what can make or break you over time boils down to whether or not you do some fairly straightforward things in your practice and professional life.

Here are five ways to position yourself for success now and in the future. Whether you're a new graduate just starting a practice in a down economy, a DC with 5-10 years of experience looking to take your practice to the next level, or a seasoned practitioner at the height of success but unsure of how to maintain it, these suggestions are for you. In fact, they may apply the most if you think you're already successful and don't need any help staying successful.

Don't Forget the Basics

This does not mean your office should be devoid of high-tech equipment, up-to-date computers and modern amenities. However, it is a reminder that in general, the more successful you become, the greater the tendency is to forget basic things that initially made you successful (and will keep making you successful). Doctors often call to ask why their practices are down and my initial response is always, "What aren't you doing now that you did when you were at the height of your practice success?" The message: Develop a sound protocol and continue to refine it, but never lose sight of that original protocol. It's what made you a doctor of chiropractic and will make you successful at it, regardless of the economy or any other challenge that might come your way.

Patient-Centered Care Comes First

Sure, we all know that the patient is supposed to come first - but can you say that's always the case, particularly if your practice is growing and your available time is shrinking? If practice expansion, money, recognition, or any other variable (even a personal issue) seems to be taking precedence over patient care, then you've got some re-prioritizing to do. Your first and most important job should always be to provide unsurpassed care to the patient. After all, that's why they chose you as their doctor. That's what will keep them coming to you and referring friends and family to you. Keeping this concept in mind every day with every patient will provide the basis for developing powerful, meaningful doctor-patient relationships. Primum non nocere must be the cornerstone of every practice.

Do More Than Is Expected

Going above and beyond should be the standard in your practice and your professional life, not something temporary to boost income or accomplish some other goal. Doing more than expected means continually finding innovative ways to deliver more than your patients anticipate. It's not that hard to do, if you think about it. Try simple things like calling each patient after their first visit, sending books and personal notes for special occasions, writing thank-you notes, taking time to listen to patients' questions, being aware of patient preferences such as how they wish to be addressed. Already doing all that? Then brainstorm what to do next to exceed expectations. Going the "extra mile" is not just nice to do; people expect and demand more today. Be the one to deliver it.

Set the Communication Standard

One of the things that provokes anger or disenchantment with patients today is the perception that their doctor does not tell them enough. Whether it is an appropriate "informed consent" discussion or the basics of what was found on physical examination, patients today are less likely to accept a hurried or rushed encounter - and yet it's often just what they get, particularly in the primary-care setting. It is more important than ever to communicate patients' report of findings, expectations and goals in a clear manner and with no surprises. And remember, patients now have access to more health information (via the Web) than ever. That means they have more questions about their health. The information age has leveled the playing field for everyone. Answer all their questions and build their confidence in how you will help maximize their health.

Determine What Success Means to You

Most of the time success is not really about economics, although that is what is hyped the most. Success is individualized in many ways that often are impossible for others to measure: the joy of helping others regain health, the satisfaction of knowing you have made a difference, the gratification that comes from accomplishment. The phrase "the most important things in life are not things" truly echoes the inner satisfaction of success. Sure, money is important; after all, chiropractic is not just your calling, it's also your career. If you want to make lots of money, more power to you; but hopefully that's not the primary reason you became a doctor. Care for your patients, feel good about what you do and how you do it, and the economic side will usually take care of itself.

Take a little time to truly analyze how well you're accomplishing each of the above suggestions. They aren't new ideas, but they're easy to forget in this day and age, and can actually be quite challenging to put into practice on a consistent basis. But don't let that deter you, because these concepts are the foundation for long-term success. Be patient. Be persistent. Be the doctor of chiropractic you are meant to be.

Click here for more information about Louis Sportelli, DC.

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