Dear Bill | Patients Or Practice Members?

Posted by Bill Esteb on Jan 10th 2020

Dear Bill

I seem to recall that you used to advocate labeling the participants in a practice as "practice members." I notice that you have returned to the label as patients, not clients or anything else. I would appreciate your letting me know the reason why the change.




I believe it was Dr. Donald Epstein who originally suggested that individuals receiving care be called practice members.

Perhaps because the word "patient" comes from the Latin word meaning "to suffer." Which implies that the chiropractor is "treating" aches or pains, the classic definition of practicing medicine.

More recently I've taken a compromise position.

Because individuals showing up in a chiropractic practice have been taught the medical mindset, they see themselves as patients. Calling them something else simply dials up the weirdness quotient at the very time you're trying to establish rapport and build trust.

My recommendation is that you refer to them as patients while they are symptomatic. When they reach the point where some type of wellness/supportive care is offered, if they accept, call those individuals practice members. They've graduated. They apparently "get" that chiropractic isn't only about pain relief.

Having a "rite of passage" and a language shift could go hand in hand.

Obviously, if someone where to begin care on a nonsymptomatic basis, it's possible they could begin at the practice member stage.

Similarly, if they have a new problem that returns them to a three-times-a-week visit schedule, then they're a patient again.

This is part of a bigger conversation about the precision of language. Sloppy language, sloppy life and sloppy practice.

Thanks for the question!

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