Keys to Your Practice: Fostering lifelong chiropractic care
Tweak your practice to support effective maintenance care
By Angelo Santin
Chiropractic has a compounding effect on health; the longer people are under care, the better the results. Last summer was when I believe I finally saw the evidence to prove this theory.
Our office had gone through a transition from travel cards to a paperless system. This required some elbow grease and lots of data entry to get the main clinical information of each patient into their digital file. I spent a few lunch hours and any other spare time I could find helping our team type the patients’ original complaints and all re-examinations. What I observed was nothing short of amazing.
The patients who had been under regular care for years all had sustained improvements with their health. As I flipped through the files looking at all their exam findings including their latest one, I saw that very few patients have any complaints left. This led me to conclude that everyone who wants to strive for optimal health should be under chiropractic care for life.
How can we align our practices to foster and support lifelong chiropractic patients?
Share the big picture
When a patient comes to your office for an initial consult it is crucial that you be extremely thorough with your history and exam. Often, their chief complaint is not their real chief complaint. Dig as much as possible in your history.
It is then important to follow up with a thorough exam demonstrating the effects subluxation has on their body. X-rays are effective in explaining to the patient how long the problem has existed and allows you to have the conversation about correcting the problem versus just managing symptoms. Once you tie all three of these together, share the big picture right from the start. Let them know that even though they will likely be symptom-free at some point, their condition is going to need support and maintenance by both you and them. Remember to always make this their choice without pressuring them.
If done artfully, very few patients will decline the offer to continue chiropractic care to correct the problem.
Examine, examine, examine
It’s easy to get into a routine of “get them in and get them out and see you next time” type of practice. The problem with this routine is that after a while, if you cannot demonstrate the need for patients to be under care, it will likely lead to patient drop out.
When they are under long-term care, it is important to treat them the same way as a new patient. Schedule them a series of visits and re-examine them. Your paperwork should be in order so you can look back and see how they have progressed. If you effectively demonstrate that things like range of motion, muscle strength, balance and reflexes are improving, how much more likely are they going to be inspired to stick around for more care?
Keep pushing them
Once you have re-examined your patients it’s always good to check in with the objectives they originally had. If you have reached their goals successfully then celebrate it with them and make it a big deal. Regaining health through chiropractic is significant. If you don’t treat it this way then the patient won’t either, which could lead to a lack of inspiration to stay under care.
Once you have celebrated reaching their goals it is then great timing to see if they want to set new goals. They may not wish to and would be happy just sticking with the status quo, but they may also wish to go a little further. How motivating is it to set a new goal, a new schedule of care, and work together with the patient to get there? Do you think that may motivate and inspire the patient to stay under care for life?
Maintenance care often gets a bad rap from people both outside and inside the profession. Providing lifelong care is not about growing our practices, it’s about keeping people well. I know, without a doubt, that people should be under chiropractic care because their lives depend on it. We should all start practicing as if this is the case. The health of your community depends on it.
Remember, change is going to happen from the inside out.
Dr. Angelo Santin, DC, operates a busy subluxation-based 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-344-4606.