Business Talk: Good advice
Preparing your practice for the moment of truth
Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.”
If I had to pinpoint the genesis for my success, it would be when I learned how to answer common questions about what I do as a chiropractor, in easy-to-understand terms – in ways everyday people would comprehend.
Today I run a multidisciplinary practice with chiropractors, physiotherapists and massage therapists. I attract 600 new chiropractic patients every year.
The secret to my success? I started preparing for private practice while I was in school. I spent two hours per week on networking and building my future practice by making it a point to meet two new people every week – whether it was the lady at the post office or the butcher at the grocery store. When it comes to preparing for your practice, the earlier you begin, the more prepared you will be in the future.
A chiropractor and my former patient communication teacher at chiropractic college, Dr. Christopher Good, brought the importance of this to my attention back in sixth trimester. Good is now a faculty member and teacher at the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic in Connecticut.
I started my practice right out of school and I used a lot of what he said and taught as my guide to build my practice. In particular, I used his “moment of truth” questions, which was a list of more than 100 questions that, as chiropractors, we should be able to answer in a sentence or two the moment someone asks us.
I used these questions and added more of my own to help me explain the answers to people right away. The answers I provided gave them confidence in my ability, and resulted in them becoming my patients and referring many others.
Good used to say, “It’s a moment of truth when someone is going to form an opinion about you, your practice or the profession.” At that moment you can either take a step forward and address the issue in a forthright, honest and positive way, or take two steps back and stumble and mumble or try to deflect the question.
I was recently granted an exclusive interview with my former teacher, and he provided in-depth answers and explained how being prepared provides the basis for long-term success in practice.
Anthony Lombardi (AL): Why do you feel that your 100-question “hot list” works so well for chiropractic students and new grads entering practice?
Christopher Good (CG): One of the biggest obstacles that prevent people from seeing a chiropractor is their lack of understanding. Not only do they not know about what we do and treat, but there is also a lot of misinformation and disinformation spread about.
Honest and understandable statements about chiropractic make a great impression and that opens the door to new patients. Also, by practicing the answers you get a lot more comfortable and confident in your responses, and in the public’s mind, that translates into a doctor who is probably excellent at working with patients too.
AL: I recall one story you told the class when you had your practice out of your home in New York State. You said you made it a point to see how well your practice could do without promoting and advertising. A bulk of your clientele was the Amish community. You said, from a business perspective, you did very little (by design) but you made sure you delivered an outstanding product. As I recall your adjusting skills were en pointe and I imagine your patients reaped the benefits of your clinical skills. What other intangibles do you attribute to your success that made your patients keep coming back?
CG: The other intangibles that made patients want to receive care included other high quality interactions, in addition to getting a great adjustment.
I focused on becoming excellent at doing the things we are known for and the evidence shows we have great results with. It starts with a comprehensive history and examination especially focused on the incoming complaint. Delivering the diagnosis and prognosis in understandable terms builds the circle of trust, especially when the patient chooses what type of treatment he/she wants and for how long.
For treatments, I was always willing to work on the soft tissue component of the problem using hands-on techniques even though it took more time. And patients always got one or two simple things to do at home, and a warm goodbye and thank you.
Also, at every visit we had two conversations, one about their condition and one about their personal life. Building rapport in this way made patients feel special.
Finally, transitioning from symptomatic care to rehabilitation care to wellness/supportive care was always done with agreement and their understanding. When it came to wellness/supportive care, we always agreed on the next visit date based on their feedback and my examination findings. We usually found their optimal visit frequency by adding a week or two to the time since their last visit.
At some point, the patient would say he was glad he was coming in this week because he could feel it was time, and then we knew this was their length of time between visits. Some patients came in once a week, some once a month, some once a year. But it was always their choice based on their feedback.
AL: When you taught me it was during a different time when technology wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. Do you feel practice development today is as dependent on technology or are the basics still the basics in any time period?
CG: I think that fundamentally the principles that have succeeded over the centuries still apply today. Patients want to like, respect and have confidence in their doctor and it is up to us to give them the reasons to do so. Essentially, this occurs best during the face-to-face care we give patients.
However, you have to stay current with the way people are becoming introduced to your practice and how you are keeping in touch with your patients. So, having a great website and being accessible on social media sites is important. Of course, depending on the quality and content, this can work for or against you. Using email and text messaging to contact your patients is critical, especially for patients who use these a lot.
Paying attention to rating websites (for example, Yelp) is also a smart thing to do, and don’t let bad comments go unanswered – or at least try to neutralize them.
Having another patient advocate on your behalf is pretty necessary in this day and age. This is especially true regarding the generation coming into adulthood. They have a very mixed bag of socially progressive beliefs coupled with a strong sense of entitlement. They are quick to react on social media to the things that upset them, almost to the point of absurdity. It’s why some of the edgy comedians are hesitant to go on college campuses these days. You ignore this at your own peril.
But ultimately, all people want to be heard and cared for on some level, and this is what we are all about. The rapport you build is unique to each person because of his or her beliefs, knowledge and life experiences.
The more you can listen with two ears – one for the clinical information, one for the personal information – the better the rapport building.
Chiropractic has always been a beautiful profession that changes lives in so many ways. We just need to position ourselves so people have the best opportunity to experience this.
Dr. Anthony Lombardi, DC, is consultant to athletes in the NFL, CFL and NHL, and founder of the Hamilton Back Clinic in Hamilton, Ont. He teaches his fundamental EXSTORE Assessment System and conducts practice-building workshops to health professionals. Visit exstore.ca for information.
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