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August, 2010

Selecting Topicals: Let Your Patient Be Your Guide

By DCPI Staff

As previous articles in this series have shown, there can be a multitude of factors to consider when selecting equipment and supplies for your chiropractic office. Cost, company reputation and ease of use for the DC can all be factors. In the case of topicals, however, it all pretty much seems to come down to one factor - the patient. If they are satisfied with the results, then you know the product works. Dynamic Chiropractic PracticeINSIGHTS went to a panel of vendor experts to get their opinion not only on what qualities a chiropractor should look for when selecting a topical, but how to be successful marketing the product, which conditions are best suited for the use of topicals, and how they stack up against over-the-counter pain relievers.

(Editor's Note: In preparing this story, Dynamic Chiropractic PracticeINSIGHTS asked a panel of industry experts how they would go about investigating topicals if they were in the market to buy. Obviously, an expert allied with a particular company will tend to be biased to that company's products. Therefore, in this series, we report the comments that reflect a consensus on the general characteristics that make for a good product in order that you may make an informed decision as you do your research into a particular product or service.)

The Proof Is With the Patient

Let's be honest. Patients want fast results. If they get those fast results with very little unpleasant side effect, they will not only be willing to go along with your treatment plan, but they are also more likely to purchase that product that gave them those fast results. All of our experts agreed that this is the key to selecting and marketing topicals for the office.

Jean Shea, president of Biotone, located in San Diego, summed up this concept very neatly: "The easiest way for a practitioner to market a topical is to apply the product on the patient as a trial. If patients like the feel and the smell, and most importantly the results, more than likely, they will be interested in finding out more about the product and, in turn, purchasing it. When patients purchase topicals from a practitioner, they should feel a sense of confidence they are paying for a quality product that will provide needed results. Practitioners can be trusted to recommend and sell products that work."

Mark Mettler of Mettler Electronics, based in Anaheim, Calif., elaborated on the importance of not only a pleasant smell and feel to the topical, but its effectiveness. He stated, "Use the product in the clinic. Patients that use topicals that work, will want to buy some for home. Practitioners can also be more successful when they choose a product that smells good and works quickly. Patients can be turned off by bad medicine smells and obviously if it doesn't work, they aren't going to take it home."

Jeff Mathers with Performance Health, Inc., based in Akron, Ohio, agreed, explaining, "Use the product on patients before treatment. Teach patients about the benefits of the product and why you are applying it. Recommend that patients purchase the product for use between visits. Utilize marketing support provided by the companies."

Dr. Kim Vanderlinden of Hope Science, in Coronado, Calif., also keyed in on the advantage of using marketing material supplied by the topical manufacturer. He explained that it is key for the chiropractor to be on the cutting edge of knowledge regarding topicals: "When a better solution is available, but requires a little time for an explanation, consider this an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and caring. Companies know the realities of a busy practice and that the time taken to explain a product can interrupt your practice flow. Educational brochures and Web sites not only save you time, but also have you appear as leading edge to your patients."

Educate Yourself

What Do Topicals Treat Other Than Sore Muscles?

Probably the most common condition that topics treat are musculoskeletal issues. However, according to our experts, other conditions topicals can treat might include:

  • arthritis
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • diabetic neuropathy
  • fibromyalgia
  • gout
  • headaches
  • insect bites
  • leg cramps
  • pain from shingles
  • restless legs syndrome
  • rheumatism
  • sunburn
Obviously, the other half of this is properly educating yourself and your staff on how to sell the topical. This is where it becomes very important for not only the chiropractor but their staff to be as educated as possible about the product in question. Justin Toups, with China-Gel, located in Arlington Heights, Ill., explained the importance of having the staff on board with selling the product: "Educating and preparing the supporting staff with information and success stories (HIPAA-compliant, of course) is also critical. Often patients seek another voice of approval and if the feedback they receive from the doctor's staff is uninformed or ambivalent, they will be less likely to purchase. On the other hand, if the patient hears why the doctor carries the product and how it helps others, not only will the probability of purchase increase but also the comfort level with the decision."

Renate von der Beeck, with Kool Fit, also based in San Diego, also noted the importance of staff education and support, adding that chiropractors should "display the product prominently in your front office, instruct and inform your employees and CA about the product, and encourage them to recommend the product to your patients as an effective tool to minimize pain between office visits. Maybe offer a program to the employees and see who sells the most."

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