Keys To Your Practice: Clear communication
Simple, concise dialogue to improve your practice
By Angelo Santin
One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received from one of my mentors was to further my faith, confidence and belief in chiropractic. It was something I took seriously and continue to work on in order to deliver the chiropractic story to my community.
As I continue on in practice however, I realize that faith, confidence and belief are not enough. If we cannot honestly and clearly communicate our belief and knowledge, our practice will suffer. Communication of your confidence in chiropractic is the fuel that allows your practice to really take flight. Let us take a look at some critical communication topics that could use some work.
If you believe that someone needs daily adjustments or care for months to correct the problem then they deserve to hear about it. It’s not for you to withhold the truth nor judge whether they’re going to accept it. It is your job to do a thorough consult, find out what their true goals are, demonstrate the effects that subluxation has on their health, and deliver a schedule of care that is appropriate.
It’s crucial that you start off the doctor-patient relationship being one hundred per cent forthright. Tell the patient what they need to hear, not what you think they want to hear. This concept also applies to maintenance care. If you can clearly communicate and demonstrate how important it is to have regular chiropractic care, a patient will know what to expect right from the start. I was recently doing a talk at a local business where I was asked a question about how long I believe someone would have to be under chiropractic care. My response was, “Based on the information I showed you today, what do you think?” Her answer was, “Well, probably for life.” I smiled inside and it affirmed my intuition that people already understand the idea of maintenance. I believe that we as a profession are royally messing this up and are not communicating to the public nor stakeholders what everyone already knows.
Pain and results
It will take years for many of your patients to understand chiropractic is not just for pain relief, so this topic will come up time and time again in your practice. It’s very important to be clear about your ability to produce results – specifically, pain relief. Guaranteeing results is a dangerous slope and using terms like “chiropractic treats asthma” or “it cures headaches” is also a problem, because we all know healing is an individual experience and is complicated by many factors, including the patient’s lifestyle.
Let’s communicate clearly from the start what the patient can expect. They can expect that we are going to locate the source of the problem, remove the interference, and allow the body to heal the way it’s supposed to. Their job is to adhere to the schedule and follow the home care instructions. You can then state that, “often if you follow your schedule and home care instructions then yes, the body will work more efficiently and, yes, symptoms will start to improve over time.” This should be clear and to the point. It puts the onus on them to participate in the process.
This is one area in my earlier days that I lacked confidence in and failed to communicate well. If you don’t communicate well in this area patients will hold you solely responsible for their results and it will suck the energy from your practice.
Patients should fully understand what subluxation is, what it does to their health, and how subluxation happens. If they understand how it happens then they need to know the areas of their life that are contributing to it. Whether it’s not enough daily movement, too much harmful exercise, poor diet, too much stress or lack of sleep, they need to hear it. This has to be communicated artfully and with respect. If you can come across that these recommendations will reduce subluxation, time and money spent at the chiropractor, and improvement of overall health, then I think you will have greater success with them accepting the invitation for change. If, after all of that, they don’t follow through, we still need to be there to pick them up, empathize with their struggles and encourage them.
I know this may sound really basic to many of you reading this. I can tell you, from personal experience and from what I hear in the profession, that we tend to over complicate things and forget to do the things I’ve shared with you really well. My advice is to not overlook the basics, which is a continuance of increasing our confidence in chiropractic and to be clear, honest and concise with our communication. I challenge you to forego learning anything new until you’ve mastered these areas.
Success in practice is an inside-out experience, not the other way around. Don’t forget that.
dr. Angelo Santin, DC, operates a busy family practice in Thunder Bay, Ont., and is president of the Thunder Bay Chiropractic Society. Dr. Santin is also a Carter Universal proficiency-rated chiropractic coach. He can be reached at email@example.com or 807-344-4606.