24 Sep 4 Reasons Your Athletic Patient Volume May Be Decreasing (and How to Turn It Around)
By Christina DeBusk
The number of Americans engaging in chiropractic care is on the rise according to data collected in a recent National Health Interview Survey, growing from 9.1 percent to 10.3 percent in just 12 months’ time. Therefore, the question you want to ask yourself as a sports DC is: Is your patient list growing too?
If the answer is no (or not as quickly as you’d like), the reasons why could be numerous. That said, there are a few common themes that seem to exist when it comes to patient volume within sports chiropractic specifically. Here are four to consider.
Not Attracting the Right Patients
“We all want new patients,” says Spencer Baron, DC, DACBSP®, president of NeuroSport Elite, PC, “but are we critical of who we’re letting in our home?” In other words, are you attracting the type of patients you want to treat most as a sports chiropractor?
Answering this question requires asking yourself who your ideal patient is. Is it an athlete who is paid to engage in professional sports, for instance, or the weekend warrior who typically only pushes his or her body Friday through Sunday?
Or maybe you’re more interested in treating some other demographic that is also physically active and has health-related goals? “Ultimately what you want is to be bringing in these active patients,” says Baron, “because they’ll refer other physically active patients.” That’s how your practice will grow. But how do you do this?
“One of the keys is embedding yourself in other physically active programs,” Baron says. “For instance, today I’m lecturing to a bunch of athletes. Who do you think they’re going to refer?”
Too Lengthy Adjustment Times
“I would say that one of the largest constraints among chiropractors having an underperforming practice is that they’ve fallen for a belief that longer adjusting times improves patient outcomes,” adds William D. Esteb, chiropractic patient educator, founder of Patient Media and author of 30 Days to a Busier Practice. Yet, this isn’t exactly the case.
For example, when doctors or chiropractic students go on missionary trips, they’re often adjusting hundreds of people a day, says Bill. Obviously, to do this, they’re not spending a lot of time with each individual person being treated, but the adjustments are still providing benefit.
“It has to do with a belief that they acquired at some point along the way that’s got them trapped,” Bill says, adding that this often results in DCs “selling their time rather than their talent.” How do you overcome this practice-limiting belief, enabling you to see more patients per day?
While it may seem like the common sense thing to do is to reduce your adjustment times, it typically isn’t that simple according to Bill. Instead, what he recommends is that you look for a DC who already has a high patient volume and shadow them for a day or take them for a coffee and find out how they do it. “Truly successful chiropractors are quite generous with their time,” says Bill, “but you have to ask.”
Admittedly, this isn’t always easy for healthcare professionals as sometimes pride can get in the way. But letting this emotion stop you from reaching out to others in the field can slow your practice’s growth, says Bill, because “if you have to reinvent the wheel, it just takes longer.”
Baron adds that, ideally, your normal adjustment time—which includes the spinal and extremity adjustment and is not to be confused with total treatment times—should be around 5 minutes. “Spend focused time with your patient,” he says, calling this “the absolute key” that has always worked for him as a sports DC. “When you can be high quality, you can be shorter duration.”
This involves developing something that Baron refers to as PTC, or Present Time Consciousness. “When I’m adjusting somebody, I close my eyes,” he says. “When you remove one sense, your others enhance.” This increases your ability to be more effective in less time.
Lack of Education About Wellness and Prevention
Another trend that Bill has noticed with chiropractors who are struggling to increase patient volume is that they tend to have a greater focus on providing pain relief and less of a concentration on wellness or prevention.
“Many chiropractors embrace the belief that if patients are pain free, they are subluxation free,” Bill says. However, by thinking this way, you’re missing out on an entire demographic of patients: those who feel fine physically, but are willing to take additional steps to protect or enhance their current level of health.
One way to overcome this issue is to do what Bill calls “cross-fertilizing patients.” This involves educating your current patients about the value of chiropractic beyond the issue or issues they’re asking you to treat.
Put another way, help patients see how regular chiropractic care can help them live a fuller, healthier life. Talk to them about all of its benefits, not just the advantages associated with the condition that brought them in your doors.
At times this can be difficult, says Bill, especially if you have a patient who isn’t interested in engaging in prevention-based healthcare. Yet, if you work with athletes, this demographic is often more open to taking a preventive approach since doing so can result in a higher level of performance.
That said, it’s up to you to help them realize this. Talk to them about the value that chiropractic offers athletes specifically.
“The buzzword now is ‘recovery,’” says Baron, so share with your patients the benefits of using chiropractic to help recover from grueling practices and games. Talk to them about how it can help them improve speed, performance, and strength.
“A doctor is meant to inspire his patients,” says Baron, “and when you have athletes, that’s everything to them.” So, talk to them in a way that makes them want to do more for their health and wellness. Tell them they had a great adjustment. “They want to know they did good,” Baron says.
Poor Marketing Practices
One final issue that Bill says he sees all too many DCs face is poor marketing practices. Specifically, they are “like a spider,” he says. “They’ve woven a web and [are just] hoping a patient is going to walk into it.”
To increase your patient volume, you must do things that both get you noticed and establish you as an expert. “It means giving talks or being the trainer for the local softball team,” says Bill. “It’s getting out there and becoming familiar.”
It also involves letting them know the areas in which you specialize. When you do this, “people will drive past 20 chiropractors to get to yours,” Bill says. For example, if your specialty is with a certain sport or helping heal a specific sports-related injury, share that information in your marketing campaign. Let the community know that you are an expert in that area.
“It goes back to the notion that if you don’t get out of your practice, if you’re not writing articles, if you’re not reading articles, you’re just not going to see chiropractic on your radar screen,” says Bill. “If you have an underperforming practice, you’re not encountering strangers and telling them the truth about chiropractic.”
DoCS is committed to raising the bar in chiropractic for athletes, so if you have any questions or article ideas, please feel free to contact us or share them in the comment section below. Reprints of this article permitted as long as it links back to the DoCS website: www.DoC-Sports.com.