By Ed Lubberdink
I read the Canadian Chiropractor magazine every time it arrives in my office and usually start with the “from the editor” note inside of the front page. In the last issue it mentioned chiropractic utilization rates from “as little as three per cent to as high as 25 per cent”. Having been in practice for thirty-five years, I have never seen the 25 percent but certainly believe in the three percent. Not entirely sure what that statistic relates to – whether it means that at some time in their life a person has gone to a chiropractor, or that they regularly see them on an ongoing basis for wellness care. There is a big difference. If a person has gone once or twice in their lifetime and qualifies as a statistic is different from the person that comes in on a regular basis for wellness care.
I am tired of hearing speakers at seminars stand up and say, “there has never been a better time to be in chiropractic,” when the truth is, “there has never been a more challenging time to be in chiropractic.” Those speakers have often themselves exited from the day-to-day practice to now just promoting their programs.
The truth, in my opinion, is that the ’80s were most likely the best time to be in the profession. The truth is that this profession is still as wonderful as it has always been and the changes you make in a person’s life are fantastic.
This all brings me to the title of my article. Our provincial and Canadian associations have done a lot of marketing on the value of chiropractic from the perspective of pain over the years, and yet our utilization rates have stayed the same or declined. One may argue that we have saturated the marketplace with chiropractors, and that may be true if we continue to promote chiropractic merely as “pain-based.”
Most of the public already know that chiropractic can help with lower back pain, headaches, neck pain etc. They also know that they can see their MD at no out-of-pocket cost about this, get meds that are paid for by extended health or the government if over 65. If they choose a non-drug approach then they have a choice of chiropractic for sure but we share that playing field with physiotherapists (which most MDs still defer to), massage therapists, acupuncturists, etc. The point is that the patient has many choices for “pain-based” care.
Let’s now switch gears and do what the dental profession did years ago, when the drill, fill and extract model of dentistry was producing a declining utilization rate: create wellness-based dentistry. Their associations no longer promoted pain-based dentistry because everyone knew that dentists could help with tooth pain. Instead, they promoted wellness-based dentistry; the importance of maintaining teeth became the focus. Regular cleanings, checkups, implants, etc. now was on the forefront of marketing to the public.
Pro-active dentistry was introduced so now everyone with teeth was expected to see the dentist, and not just those with pain.
We in chiropractic need to model this marketing style. I would think the majority of chiropractors would agree that everyone with a spine should be under regular “wellness” care with a chiropractor. In fact, while bad teeth can be replaced with implants, we do not have that technology yet for vertebrae.
Why not have ads that say, “you don’t need to have pain to keep your spine healthy,” or pictographs that show two images: one with a senior walking with a walker, while the other same aged senior on the golf course and the caption reads, “taking care of your spine is important, get checked by a chiropractor today.”
How about two images – one of a middle-aged person bending over in pain with three or four opened prescription bottles opened, versus one out walking with the kids, with the caption, “Take care of your spine now and enjoy your life.”
How about a picture of a person sitting at a computer rubbing their neck and then the next picture being someone with an obvious postural issue arising from that? The caption could be, “Computers are doing more to damage human posture than anything else. Don’t wait for pain, its time you see a chiropractor.”
How about a picture of vital organs and the spine with the caption, “Did you know the nerve supply to your heart, lungs, stomach, bowels, liver and reproductive glands all come from your spine? Does it not make sense to have your spine checked?”
Many other captions and images come to mind. Hire a good marketing firm and promote wellness instead of pain, and see the utilization rates climb.
There will always be those who only care about their health when it is lost, but there is a growing segment of the population that go to health clubs, buy organic food, exercise regularly, do yoga etc. We need to tap into that growing group. We cannot do that with a limiting message about back pain. Many of these people will not have back pain, yet these people, if marketed to, correctly will see value in chiropractic to regularly maintain their spine.
Again, if all your marketing messaging is only about pain, then that is all people will think chiropractic has to offer. My patients always tell me that when they tell a colleague that they are going to the chiropractor the response is usually, “Why, does your back hurt?” That’s what the public thinks we are all about.
I am sure if they mentioned they were going to the dentist the response would not be, “Why, do you have a toothache?”
There is currently a TV ad for an extended health care insurance provider that says, “covers expected costs like dentists, prescription drugs…” and on to say, “unexpected costs like chiropractors…” I don’t think chiropractic should be an unexpected cost. If marketed properly and correctly, most people would go to a chiropractor a lot more often. We have countless families that see us for wellness care year after year because they understand. Get my point? Most chiropractors get adjusted regularly – not because of pain but to promote wellness. It’s the same reason we adjust our families. We see the results of neglected spines everyday in our office.
The definition of insanity is, “repeating the same old thing and expecting a different outcome.” Avertising that demonstrates how to rake or how to stretch will not bring more patients under “wellness care.”
Creative ads that stress the importance of wellness-based versus pain-based care is the way of the future. Hey, this is only my opinion. If you agree then it is important to relate this to your provincial associations as they are currently doing what they think is best for chiropractic. I think we need to think outside the box.
Dr. Ed Lubberdink has been a chiropractor in the same location for 35 years. His middle daughter has just started her internship at CMCC. He has three chiropractic associates, four massage therapists and a naturopath on his team. Lubberdink has attended over 100 post-graduate seminars to stay current and inspired. The clinic focus is certainly on wellness.