In previous blog posts and in your Monday Morning Motivations you often mention selling one's talent rather than one's time. I'm guilty of selling my time. Do you have some strategies for making the switch to selling my talent?
The way I see it there are three key elements to making this transition.
Your Beliefs About Time
Many of the barriers you'll face in making the move to selling your talent revolve around your beliefs about time. This may be rooted in self-esteem issues, patient perceptions and the casual vibe you may have come to prefer in your practice.
Since our beliefs produce behaviors, here are some wrongheaded beliefs you'd want to jettison:
- More time with the patient produces better clinical outcomes.
- To justify my fee I need to trade it for my time.
- I need to monitor the patient's commitment and that requires time.
- I'm selling my effort rather than the goal of reducing nerve interference.
- I'm responsible for the patient's symptomatic improvement.
- Patients love my practice and want to spend as much time here as possible.
These are all lies. They're not true.
There are two related issues. The first is about getting your social needs met at the practice. How many times do you look at your schedule to see if you can afford to linger a bit longer with a favorite patient? Yet you profess to want to help more people.
That doesn't mean you should be curt and distant. But rather focused, attentive and present. As patients perceive your business-like attitude, they are more likely to reduce their chitchat about the weather or the news. That may mean you'll want to learn some tactics for extricating yourself from a talkative patient. Some chiropractors do it my maintaining eye contact, but slowly walking backwards to the door and eventually freeing themselves. Or suggesting setting a specific appointment time to discuss an issue in more detail. At the very least, if you want to visit, do it somewhere other than in the adjusting room.
The second related issue is to realize that besides your talent, time is your most valuable resource. There's only so much of it each day and there's even less of it that patients are available to see you.
Even more significant is that not all time is created equal. In most practices 10:30 AM isn't as valuable as 5:30 PM. Compute the value of a minute during those two times of the day. That may help you be more mindful of how you use this valuable resource.
Further, you want to make sure you're not doing $25/hour work when you should be doing $250/hour work. Which is why you don't read your email at 5:30 PM and should consider delegating time consuming soft tissue work and rehab to others.
Once you've come to terms with these issues you'll be more articulate in your patient communications.
Patient Communications About Time
"How do I get my current patients to accept shorter visits?"
You don't. At least not for a while. Part of the covenant with your established patients is the amount of time you spend with them. I'd advise maintaining that until the overwhelming majority of your practice is on your new regimen. Then sit down and have a heart to heart. If your once-a-monthers prefer a longer visit and are willing to come in during off-peak hours, it may be a legacy you'll want to wear.
Shorter, higher amplitude visits start with your next new patient. With an important distinction.
If your next new patient is a chiropractic veteran, you'll want to find out how long their previous chiropractor spent with them. Just like uncovering what adjusting technique their previous chiropractor used, knowing their experience with adjusting time is part of managing a new patient's expectations.
"After your orientation and report of findings visits, a typical visit should only take about four or five minutes. After practicing for over 20 years, helping thousands of patients and attending hundreds of hours of post-graduate continuing education, that's what it will take for me to size up your spine and nervous system and deliver the adjustments you need to advance your healing.
"I could spend more time but over the years I've learned that patients aren't living to get adjusted, but rather they get adjusted so they can live. So my objective is to get you in and back to your life as promptly as I can.
"If from time to time we need to spend more time, just let Cindy at the front desk know and we'll happily schedule it in.
"Will that work for you?"
Here's a different approach.
"Our primary form of care is to use a series of chiropractic adjustments to help your body ‘right itself' and reduce interference to your nervous system. There are many ways to adjust the spine. The most effective approach I've found is the XYZ technique.
"On a typical visit it will take me four to five minutes to size up your spine, see how it's progressing and adjust you at the right place, at the right angle and at the right time to build on your previous adjustments.
"Now, at our busiest times, usually when people are getting off work and everyone wants to get in on with their lives, we only offer these short, highly-focused five-minute visits.
"Some of our patients want a more leisure visit. We offer longer visits, but only during our off-peak hours. Such as around the lunch hour, mid-mornings and in the early afternoons.
"So tell me, do you think you'd prefer the shorter visits or our longer visits?"
You want to avoid a patient getting off your table and muttering, "That's it? I pay $45 for that?"
If so, he or she is clearly confusing the time it takes to deliver an adjustment, with the talent it takes to know when, where, and how to adjust. Without addressing the issue of time you minimize your expensively obtained education and the profound impact and value of the chiropractic adjustment.
Get a couple of these patient explanations under your belt in your own words without a hint of apology and you'll discover that shorter visits are actually a bigger problem for you than patients!
Visit Procedures and Time
But it's more than getting your headspace in order and setting appropriate patient expectations.
There are some practice procedures you may want to adopt to optimize the way you utilize your time.
Face down. It's obvious that watching patients get on your adjusting table is not a good use of your time. Train patients to be ready when you enter the room and approach the table. Surgeons don't prep the patient. Think of yourself as a bloodless neurosurgeon.
Maintaining contact . Once you touch the patient to begin your clinical intervention stay in contact. Even if you have to go around to the other side of the table, maintain contact. Repeatedly starting and stopping, mounting and dismounting, diminishes the impact of your touch.
Sacred time. Reserve certain blocks of time as off limits to interruption or other pursuits. The office team would know that interruptions during those agreed upon times, short of fire, death or something similar, aren't permitted so you can remain in a healing consciousness. During those times, you'd practice the discipline of being 100% present. Avoid the temptation of eavesdropping in on conversations at the front desk, surfing the Internet or taking telephone calls.
Repetitious explanations. Keep a record of every question that patients ask you. Then, write a thorough answer in the form of a blog post to which you can direct curious patients. Answering questions, while not as wasteful as monitoring your social media feed or opening the mail, isn't the highest and best use of your time.
When you fall into the trap of selling your time instead of your talent, you put a cap on your income and the influence you have in your community.
If you can adjust your spouse in a fraction of the time than a typical patient, then stretching out the visit may be the result of a lack of discipline, ineffective patient communications, poor boundaries, or all three.
Thanks for the question!