Monday Morning Motivation | Lie #5 - Affordability

Posted by Bill Esteb on Jun 28th 2020

Monday Morning Motivation Masthead

Lie #5: Today's patients can't afford chiropractic care. 

This lie is often used to justify sucking up to insurance carriers.

The truth is, most patients can afford just about anything they want—not necessarily what they need, but what they want. Confusing these two very different motives is a common mistake.

Patients need to take better care of themselves. But patients may want to spend their money on a Caribbean cruise or a nicer car.

Patients need some type of ongoing supportive care to help avoid a relapse. But patients want to use their time and money for other pursuits.

Patients need to bring their children in to help prevent problems that show up years later from uncorrected birth trauma. But patients want...

Need I go on?

Ultimately, this is about how each of us values our health. Each of us prioritizes our health and the 400-some odd other human values (appreciation, precision, frugality, control, significance, etc.) the way we see fit. Because you've chosen a career in health care, the value you place on health is probably high on your list. It's likely among your top 10 values.

However, if a patient ranks their health in position 42 (which they aren't even conscious of doing), then there are 41 other values that they perceive as more important than their health. Which they can hardly wait to get back to when their episode of headaches or back pain resolve. Which is why many patients choose not to stay for the ongoing nonsymptomatic or wellness chiropractic care that you and I enjoy.

By the way. There is nothing you can say or do to change the priority they place on their health. Or stated another way, there is nothing you can say or do to change the priority they place on their health.

Many chiropractors think they have an obligation to try. But it takes a major life issue to disrupt the deeply-ingrained value structure surrounding their health. Death of a loved one might. Retirement could. Divorce sometimes. But certainly not a snappy report of findings.

Patients can often scrape together enough money to handle the expense of an unplanned bout of back pain since it interferes with something more important. But once the episode resolves, they're out the door. Set your hair on fire if you wish. Shame them or scare them and you may extract an additional visit or two. But your scorched earth tactic merely reduces the likelihood of a positive review, referrals and a subsequent reactivation—you won the battle, but lost the war.

This centers on the distinction between patients who are seeking better health versus those merely wanting symptomatic relief.

Who are you attracting?

Consider the people in your new patient drawing area that shop for organic produce and grass-fed beef at Wal-Mart. (It's a sizable number or Wal-Mart wouldn't bother.) These health-oriented individuals pay extra and don't expect to be reimbursed for their healthier choices from an insurance carrier.

Further, these are the folks paying cash for gym memberships, workout clothing, Pilate's workshops, meditation retreats, grocery store supplements and getting the mercury removed from their mouth.

If they understood the value of an optimized nervous system, they might become one of those once- or twice-a-monther patients who would serve to stabilize your practice and permit vacations—because they would happily schedule their visits around them.

But, they think you're a back doctor. And maybe you are. That's okay. You can help a lot of people reducing back pain without the use of drugs or surgery. But many who pursue better health by countless other means don't think they have a back issue. So chiropractors aren't even on their radar screen.

Truth: Patients can afford anything they want. Turns out, many patients prefer short-term pain relief to long-term health. And there's little you can do about it other than seeking out people in your community who value their health and have the means to afford it. Which is actually a marketing problem.


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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.