How to Get Patients to Say Yes

sayyes.jpgThat was the subject line of a recent email I received. You may have received it too. Getting anybody, whether patients, employees or teenagers to do your bidding can be challenging. Apparently, there is a desire in some quarters to learn techniques that can turn patients into obedient servants.

Careful! There’s a name for using one’s strength, position, social authority, procedures or words to compel others to do what you want them to do. In a practice setting, it’s not doctoring. It’s manipulation.

While these behaviors and techniques are often promoted and justified as being for the patient’s own good, it’s paternal, unsustainable and ultimately destructive to your practice brand. It’s the difference between a practice based on promotion and one based on attraction.

If you practice in a small community, implementing any one of a myriad heavy-handed techniques designed to get patients to, at least temporarily, say yes, can eventually use up your goodwill. As you attempt to circumvent a patient’s ignorance, low self-esteem or misplaced values, you can gain an unhelpful reputation.

“They make you go forever.”
“He makes you sign up for a year’s worth of adjustments.”
“She made me bring in my entire family.”
“I went there once. I wouldn’t recommend them.”
“They’re kind of bossy.”
“They seemed more interested in the money than in me.”
“I felt like a number.”

When you employ techniques designed to manipulate, you must constantly seek new conquests to feed your new patient habit (since few patients willingly refer). Even if you’re raising the dead in the back room, toxic social skills can put a damper on the natural demand for your service. Instead, you have to be on the lookout for the next new promotional thing that promises to produce spines for your ministrations.

This opens the floodgates to a parasitic industry designed to fuel the demand for new ways to produce, seduce and induce people to begin chiropractic care. They can be clinical (decompression, cold laser, massage, nutrition, etc.), financial (no out of pocket, “regularly $395 today only $45,” $19 adjustments, etc.) or social (Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, auto responders, squeeze pages, etc.). The history of chiropractic seems littered with overtures that promised to deliver new patients. And did. For a season.

Yet, countless chiropractors quietly go about serving their community, shunning gimmicks, virtually ignoring the Internet and doing little more than posting a modest sign out front. Their practices thrive using the strategy of attraction:

The adjustment. It starts by delivering the goods. There is nothing quite like a masterfully delivered adjustment. We’ve all experienced them. I’m hoping you regularly deliver them. When innately conceived, artfully prepared and tenderly delivered, it is a life-affirming masterpiece. And it’s not about using a lot of different techniques. Or adjusting every articulation. It’s about being present, precise and having the intent of releasing rather than controlling.

Simplicity. These practices are simple and straightforward. Their policies are simple. Their procedures are simple. Their fees are simple. Their explanations are simple. And if asked, most would say they are simple. No acting. No drama. Everyone is unassuming and authentic.

Character. They are honest and trustworthy. Almost to a fault. Their impeccable boundaries tell everyone that they can be entrusted with secrets. Patients drop their guard and feel emotionally safe. These chiropractors never utter an angry or negative word about any one or any thing. They show up as humble servants. Titles and degrees mean little to them because their objective is to serve in whatever capacity they can.

Respect. No preaching. No nagging. No shame or guilt. These practitioners have a gentle spirit that honors the decisions and choices of each patient. This has a way of producing long-term relationships. Not just as multiple generations seek care, but also the frequent reactivations from prodigal patients who know that their reappearance won’t be greeted with an “I-told-you-so” or even so much as a raised eyebrow.

All of this is possible when you’re comfortable in your own skin. When you know that the principles of chiropractic work—even if its manifestation in a particular patient is compromised by the patient’s habits, beliefs or the limitations produced by long-term neglect.

A healthy practice is only possible if at its helm there is a healthy chiropractor. In the oft-quoted health definition of “optimum physical, social and mental well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” it’s tempting to focus entirely on the physical and ignore the social and mental parts. Yet, the physical health that many chiropractors hope to produce is only possible if there is a degree of social and mental health. That’s true of patients. And it’s true of practitioners.

Extracting a “yes” from patients isn’t nearly as important as being able to look yourself in the mirror and not feel dark inside.

(Originally posted December 9, 2013)