Do you know the number one desire for most chiropractic offices? Most chiropractic offices want more new patients, yet, if you look in your inactive filing cabinets, you'll probably find a wealth of people who are no longer coming to your office. Why is that? How come almost everyone we know has a professional in almost every aspect of his or her health care? People have dentists to check their teeth and have optometrists to check their eyes. I wonder how many patients know that chiropractors check spines and nervous systems.
Now this seems pretty ridiculous to think that patients don't know that chiropractors are experts at analyzing the function and structure of the spine and nervous system, yet if you ask your patients tomorrow morning, "What do you come into the office for?" the vast majority of patients will say, "for my head, neck or back pain." Where did we go wrong?
As a Doctor of Chiropractic, have you or any member of your staff ever stated that you plan to be their chiropractor for the rest of their life? That if they choose to leave your office then another chiropractor should be contacted to continue their regular "check-ups" but that leaving a profession that focuses on the spine and nervous system is NOT an option? Then give the patient examples of how people have all kinds of professionals in their lives, regardless of how they choose to utilize that professional. I wonder what would happen if more patients heard that right from the get go.
Most chiropractors choose to recall patients when the office is not attracting as many new patients as they would prefer or when things tend to slow down a bit. This is not an effective strategy! You never want to contact people when the energy is low or you're in "need" of patients. Patients have an uncanny way of knowing that you are off purpose and will give an excuse to get off the phone. And, most of the time, the patient has already experienced some type of pain relief from the chiropractor and as far as they're concerned ... they're fine! So why is the chiropractor contacting me to come in? What is the purpose of the visit?
You probably see why so many recall systems fall short. There may need to be a shift in the thinking of the entire office if your goal is to truly have "lifetime patients." Let's take a closer look at the two types of recall procedures that can dramatically increase the fulfillment of the chiropractor and his or her staff when it comes to creating results!
The first recall procedure is utilized during the intensive or corrective phases of care. This is the period of time when a patient is coming into the office on a two or three time a week basis and begins to miss appointments. Want to guess "why" they are beginning to miss appointments? Of course, the pain begins to go away and so do the regularity of the scheduled appointments ... big surprise, eh?
You then ask your staff member or CA to call the patient to re-schedule their office visit and often times; the CA is reluctant to do so. Why do so many CA's have this feeling? It's probably because a great many patients feel harassed after receiving call after call, or never really understood why they were coming into your office in the first place! It's no wonder that recalls have a negative connotation at so many offices.
To make matters worse, often times the CA has been improperly trained, which is why a CA might ask a patient who has missed their appointment, "Hi Mr. or Mrs. Patient, how are you?" The patient exclaims that they're "doing better" and everyone is dead in the water. The CA, the patient, and the chiropractor have all had a negative experience during this recall procedure. It is any wonder why so many offices don't "like" to do recalls?
What if the patient knew that you don't take care of pain alone? What if they knew you were really specialists when it comes to the structure and function of the spine and nervous system? Do you believe that if your staff were really trained as a Para-professional that they might ask better questions? An example of this might be, " Hi Mrs. or Mr. Patient, did we make a mistake or did we have you scheduled for an appointment today?" The patient will usually exclaim they forgot or that they were busy. The CA would then say, "No problem, would later today or early tomorrow be better for you?"
If the patient re-schedules his or her appointment then all is good in the world again…or is it? If both the CA and the chiropractor have to remind the patient to constantly keep their appointments, does the patient really understand why they are coming to the office in the first place? And how much time and energy is squandered if this is a regular occurrence in your office?
The bottom line is that patients need to know that you are developing a "program of care" designed to alleviate their pain and symptoms, slow down the progression of an ongoing chronic problem and eventually reach a time in the patients' care where they would choose to have regular check-ups to obtain the necessary information about their spine and nervous system.
So I ask you; if more patients understood exactly what you are looking to accomplish and the patient had already given you permission to develop such a program of care because they were truly aware of the ramifications of their decision, would people be leaving chiropractic offices as often as they are now?
What if the CA is recalling the patient and the patient states that they are too busy or are feeling fine and that "they'll call"? Does your CA know to say that they are not the DC and therefore do not have the authorization to change the patients schedule of care? Does the CA then know to offer choices that either the DC is available to speak to the patient or that the DC will call later that day to discuss the patient's options? These are just a few of the many examples that your office can choose to implement during the first recall procedure.
The second type of recall procedure is normally utilized when the patient has mostly adhered to the DC's recommendations and the DC has recommended "maintenance." This is usually when a patient is coming the office less often and "forgets" why they should come to the office, so they slowly but surely discontinue their act! The DC wakes up one day and says, "What happened to so and so, they were such a great patient", only to realize they haven't been in for weeks or months! What do you say now?
How about the CA calling the patient and saying, "Hi Mrs. or Mr. Patient, the DC was going through your permanent chiropractic file and wanted to know if he or she is still your chiropractor?" The patient will often times exclaim yes, or, of course. The CA will then say, "The reason we're asking is because we haven't seen you in the office for x number of weeks or months". The patients will usually then say that they feel fine, they don't need you now or that they're busy. The CA would then say, "Mr. or Mrs. Patient, we didn't say you need care, we said you overdue for your check-up, when would like to come in…this week or next?" You should expect at least 20% or more of the patients to make an appointment and return to the office!
Although recall procedures can work, isn't it better to educate the patient to what you really do first? If patients understood that you could leave the chiropractor but never leave chiropractic, would we have the need to do so many recalls? Albert Einstein said that you could never solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.
Maybe we need to change the initial conversation we have with patients and position chiropractic as something that cannot be replaced with anything else in the marketplace. If you position chiropractic as only a means of taking care of symptoms or pain, then there are truly dozens of choices for the patient to make. However, if you position chiropractic as the specialty of focusing on the structure of the spine and the function of the nervous system, then maybe we'd never need to do so many recalls in the first place. That sounds good to me ... how about you?
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"On behalf of the New York Chiropractic Association, thank you for your time last evening at our monthly meeting.
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