This is the final part in a five-part series on building your chiropractic practice (start at part one).
Today’s contributor is Dennis Perman, DC. Dennis is a healer, author, speaker, producer, coach and co-founder of The Masters Circle, a leadership-coaching and practice-building company for chiropractors.
His original concepts on identity, self development and practice fulfillment have inspired thousands of healers and touched millions of chiropractic patients. He is the author of New Patients Every Day.
Understand the Real Source of New Patients
As you might expect, I get questions on how to build a practice almost every single day, from both clients and non-clients. But before I get into the actionable specifics of the answer I invariably give, I think it’s worth offering an important reminder.
And that’s to become more mindful of the superior portion of the patient’s nervous system – the brain. Frankly, patients showing up in chiropractic practices today are different from those of even 10-15 years ago.
Many have been brought up on video games, fast-cutting television commercials, texting and a tsunami of information from the Internet. The result? Increasingly shorter and shorter attention spans, partly because a key portion of their brains never formed the way it was supposed to. That phenomenon has been observed again and again by functional MRI.
I mention this because it places new demands on the practitioner in their most critical patient communications.
Building a Practice From the Inside Out
When I get asked about strategies and tactics for getting more new patients, I offer up what most chiropractors say is an inscrutable, almost Eastern assertion that new patients come from you, not to you.
This is often confounding to people who make their best effort in a linear world to assume that there is a cause that is external to them. That success is “out there.” That happiness is the result of something “out there.” That the secret to getting new patients is “out there.”
It’s not true.
Patients coming from you, not to you, means that who you are is what determines how well what you do works. The very same healthcare class in two doctors’ hands leads to different results. It’s an inside-out process because the most important things in life are lived inside out.
Love is inside out, happiness is inside out and health (obviously, since we’re chiropractic people) is inside out. As it turns out, success is inside out too. So, what many doctors fail to do is develop themselves on the inside with the values, hierarchy, infrastructure, tactics and tools they need to generate new patients.
Practice-Building Blockage #1
That said, what determines the growth of a practice can be predicted by two dynamics. The interplay of these is what determines how well a practice excels.
The first is capacity. How many patients can your practice hold?
You simply can’t put nine ounces into an eight-ounce glass. So, if there is any aspect of the doctor’s physical office, procedures, time management, support team, patient communications, systems or technology that constrains capacity, the practice cannot and will not grow in a sustainable way beyond the smallest limitation.
Oh, you can get a temporary uplift, but the practice quickly returns to its capacity-determined “set point.”
This is all at the “do” level. Capacity is also influenced at the “be” level – in other words, your state management, drive, energy level, motivation, beliefs, values and even the handicap of certain personality types.
The bottom line is that if there isn’t “room” for more new patients, a practice can’t grow, regardless of how badly the practitioner wants it to.
Practice Building Blockage #2
The other metric that affects the ability of a practice to grow veers into the metaphysical a bit, but bear with me. Simply put, are you attractive?
There are already enough resources out there describing the Law of Attraction, so I don’t want to beat a dead horse. However, this is one of the subtle nuances that many overlook, probably because improving this area of the practice is far more difficult than simply adding another set of hands or reducing your adjusting times or other capacity-increasing initiatives:
Like it or not, personality plays an important part in your likability and attractiveness. First, become aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Your ability to be more versatile and tolerant, while difficult, can hold great promise in improving your relationships with current and future new patients. Remember, we buy the messenger before buying the message.
The busiest practitioners are masters of state management, which permits them to set aside personal distractions and be 100% with the patient. No multi-tasking. No financial worries. No daydreaming about the future. They’re able to achieve and remain in a healing consciousness and not become distracted by pedestrian concerns or shiny objects.
It’s essential that you know what your job is and what the patient’s job is. Chiropractors who are able to help a lot of patients set clear boundaries, alert patients of their responsibilities and are fastidious about honoring those borders. You cannot perform at a high level when there is the slightest uncertainty about where your responsibility ends and a patient’s begins.
This is a common problem in underperforming practices. Whether projecting one’s financial circumstances onto patients or being critical of a patient’s health choices, judgment minimizes and objectifies the patient. Instead, show the opposite of judgment: curiosity.
All these dimensions of attractiveness are based on having airtight clinical certainty. Only then can you consistently deliver the adjustment “with that something extra” that B. J. Palmer identified.
Granted, there are far more dimensions, but these are some of the ones I most frequently encounter in my day-to-day dealings with chiropractors.
The fact is, there are an unlimited number of new patients out there. If you walk down the street, ninety percent of the people you see are not under care. And ninety-nine percent are not under your care. The issue is not enough new patients, but rather your ability to create a practice with the needed capacity and attractiveness.