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March, 2012

Walk In Your Patient's Shoes

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

Have you ever wished you could experience your own chiropractic work? Over the years, I have yearned to know what it feels like on the receiving end of one of my treatments. But, of course, that's impossible. The closest I came was receiving work from my friend, Maryann, who several people "said" was exactly like me. Afterwards, I was disappointed ... not in her work, but in the idea that we were alike. You see, you can never really tell what it feels like to be your own patient. But is that really true?

When you consider your patients, technique is probably the first thing that comes to mind. After all, isn't that why they come to you? But the truth is, technique only makes up a small percentage of your retention.

Rule of Thirds

Sure, you have to have good hands and solid technique, but I don't think it tells the whole story. I am emphatic when I say, "Retention and success are one-third business skills, one-third marketing and one-third hands-on skills." I really believe this to be true yet, health care professionals flock to technique and modality seminars, thinking the advanced and increased skill set will guarantee a steady stream of patients. It may add more to your bag of tricks, (and I am an advocate of having a varied skill set from which to draw) but it won't necessarily increase your numbers. A solid focus on business skills and marketing is what makes a chiropractor successful.

Interestingly enough, when I present at a convention, my marketing and business classes tend to have a smaller number of attendees compared to the technique classes next door. It is often my attendees, wildly successful already, who are seeing the maximum number of patients they are already capable of seeing. However, they recognize the benefit and necessity of adding more business skills to their repertoire.

Furthermore, when polled for the number one reason people frequent an establishment, location topped the list. You've heard it said before: it's all about location,location,location. But it may not be possible to change your location. Is all lost?

Think of other reasons why you may frequent an establishment. Consider your favorite restaurant. Why do you return? Location, certainly, has something to do with it.

But how about parking, wait staff, atmosphere, customer service, pricing and value? And of course, the food plays a role. All these factors spell loyalty to your favorite restaurant. The same is true for your practice. What this means is that the actual treatment is only part of why patients return or come in the first place. There is so much more that goes into patient satisfaction, retention and your overall success.

If You Are Replaceable, You're Doing It Right

I know this to be true first hand. I lived in Boston for 22 years and had a thriving practice for 12 of them. My clinic occupied a quintessential New England house that was converted to commercial office space with 15 practitioners on staff. I was earning a very comfortable living and saw 85% retention of patients. The office patient list was more than 8000. The practice started with just me; it was my name on the door.

As the practice grew, I hired more practitioners, building each one's practice from scratch. When I moved, I sold the practice to another provider in the office. She retained 100% of the staff and 90% of the clientele.

Even without me, the patients stayed. Truth to tell, this hurt my feelings (for about a minute) but of course, I wanted her to be successful. Not only did she need to make monthly payments for the sale, but she was nurturing my "baby" and I wanted it to live on and thrive. The bottom line was that I was replaceable.

Another provider had assumed my patients and the practice went on as if I was never there. This proved to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that technique is only part of the reason why patients frequent a practice.

How to Experience THEIR Experience

There are countless ways to "experience" your work through your own eyes. In fact, I encourage you to do so on a regular basis. Put on your "patient glasses" and view all elements of your practice; that is, everything but your hands. Having the opportunity to experience your work is a great way to discover areas for improvement. It is the savvy practitioner that learns from being their own patient and makes the necessary changes. Just how you go about this task starts at the beginning of the relationship.

Put yourself in the position of a new patient coming to you for the first time and run through the following:

  • Listen to your outgoing message. Is it friendly, warm, unrushed? Does it offer a call to action?
  • Use your website and go through the "request an appointment" process. Was it easy to schedule?
  • Call your office staff and make an appointment or ask for information. How quickly did they answer the phone? Did they have a smile in their voice? Was the call rushed? Did they sound distracted? Did they have answers to your questions?
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