The Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic's original survey on "Americans' Perceptions of Chiropractic" should be nothing short of a wake-up call for every doctor of chiropractic in the U.S.1 Based on the data gathered in this survey, we now know that:
- Fifty-one percent of Americans have been to a chiropractor at least once.
- However, of those, 60 percent want to see a chiropractor only when they are experiencing pain.
- Only 14 percent saw a chiropractor in the previous 12 months.
What this tells us is that of those who have been to see a DC at least once in their life, only about one in four will see a chiropractor in any given year. Contrast this with 64.7 percent of U.S. adults who have seen a dentist in the past year (although that also seems low), not to mention the 85.9 percent of children (ages 2-17 years) who have seen a dentist in that time.2
The Real Reason Behind the Disappointing Statistics
So, why is it that almost three quarters of our current "patients" don't make a chiropractic visit at least once a year? (Not to mention the 49 percent of the U.S. adult population that has never visited a chiropractor.) I believe the answer is twofold.
First of all, with the exception of the past decade, the chiropractic profession has not had a voice. Since our centennial celebration in 1998, we have not had a significant advertising campaign to create greater awareness of the benefits of chiropractic care. Fortunately, the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress has been consistently placing articles, running print advertising, shooting television commercials, posting social media, hanging billboards, wrapping trains and much more to make our voice heard over the past 10 years.
This means the opinions about chiropractic for most people are the result of what they have heard from our detractors, ignorant authorities and others who don't communicate the truth about chiropractic. Sadly, the opinions of most of your patients are the result of this same misinformation.
But the real culprit for our current state of limited patient utilization can be found in our own clinics. We have clearly failed to engage the 51 percent who have tried chiropractic; failed to engage them in educational conversations that result in care that maintains their health, rather than waiting for an episode of pain that exceeds their ability to cope using the usual OTC pain relievers.
The Question You Need to Ask
So, what is the most important question you can ask every new patient (and your existing patients, if you haven't asked this already)? What have you heard about chiropractic, good, bad or otherwise?
By asking each patient this question, you get to dispel the lies, correct the misunderstandings and communicate the value of consistent chiropractic care in a way that is personal to the experiences and misinformation that underpins their opinions.
Take some time (yes, I know you are busy) and have this conversation with at least five patients today. Make a particular effort to encourage them to tell you the bad things they have heard about chiropractic or bad experiences they have had with another DC. Addressing these concerns will go a long way to enhancing their opinions about chiropractic; and may make them more likely to eventually refer.
By asking this simple question and providing the information requested by the answers, we will begin to move the needle on the number of people who see a DC at least annually. Consider what would happen if the number of patients seeing a chiropractor each year increased by just half. That's just moving the needle from 14 percent to 21 percent; still much less than half of our total "patients."
The fact that a greater percentage of children see their dentist every year, as opposed to their parents, should tell us something. After you ask your patients what they have heard about chiropractic, ask them about their children and other family members. Chiropractic should be as natural as dentistry for growing bodies of all ages.
- Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic inaugural report: Americans' Perceptions of Chiropractic. Gallup, Inc., 2015.
- Oral and Dental Health. National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Read more findings on my blog: http://blog.toyourhealth.com/ wrblog. You can also visit me on Facebook and Twitter (donpetersenjr, @donaldpetersen).
Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.