Lie #10: If I can get enough new patients my troubles will be over.
There's no question that an abundance of new patients can cover a multitude of practice sins. Underperforming staff members, inconsistent policies, clumsy procedures, or sketchy patient communications are less obvious when there are plenty of new patients waiting in the wings.
Most chiropractors wanted a practice, but actually find themselves in a small business with the same needs as other small businesses—getting customers. Repeatedly told the "build-it-and-they-will-come" lie, many chiropractors discover they are saddled with a burdensome marketing problem for which they received little or no training and have even less interest in mastering. In fact many incorrectly believe that practice promotion is somehow "dirty" and only necessary if your clinical skills are subpar.
If a practice survives a decade or more most chiropractors have had enough new patients. Instead of a patient getting problem they actually have a patient keeping problem. Which are two very different problems.
This is often because they have been practicing allopractic (symptom relief) or orthopractic (joint dysfunction) rather than chiropractic.
Focusing on the cultural notion of why you'd see a chiropractor (short term episodes of treating back and neck problems) without successfully changing that belief produces a voracious appetite for new patients without the social authority afforded medical doctors.
You have two choices. Shift your operational premise from a "catch and release" model of relief care to offering a whole-body lifetime family wellness resource. Or, become a master of practice promotion and marketing. Both are honorable pursuits. Just know that those are the choices—unless you want to be an employee. And if you'd rather work for someone else, you'll merely be working for someone who has come to grips with one or the other or both.
Truth: Regardless of your philosophical orientation, getting new patients is about telling the chiropractic story to as many strangers as possible. There are countless well-known tactics to do this, whether through lectures, screenings, digital marketing and the like. If you resent or think it beneath you, it will be impossible to do it well. Better yet, inspire enough patients to become long-term practice members who see you regularly to stay well. With time your need for new patients will diminish.
Bill Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate since 1981. He is the creative director of Patient Media and the co-founder of Perfect Patients. He’s been a regular speaker at Parker Seminars and other chiropractic gatherings since 1985. He is the author of 12 books that explore the doctor/patient relationship from a patient’s point of view. His chiropractic blog, in-office consultations, patient focus groups and consulting calls have helped hundreds of chiropractors around the world. His Monday Morning Motivation is emailed to over 10,000 subscribers each week.