Many chiropractors use a structured chiropractic treatment plan as the basis for their chiropractic care recommendations. But from a marketing standpoint, can a treatment plan do more harm than good?
The answer depends in large part upon how the plan is presented to the patient.
Traditionally structured chiropractic treatment plans—those that include a detailed appointment schedule, a formal-looking contract, and a high price tag—can be a source of alarm for many patients.
Most of the patients we interviewed said that when the doctor starting talking about weeks of visits, combined with a sizable payment plan—they began to get nervous. They felt it called the doctor’s motives into question.
We’re sure the doctors who offered these treatment plans had the best intentions. And they may be following standard chiropractic business recommendations, but should chiropractic care be one-size fits-all?
When considering how to deal with the issue of chiropractic treatment plans, several factors come into play. Consider whether or not the patient is a good candidate for chiropractic care, his/her willingness to comply with treatment suggestions, along with their health insurance benefits and other financial considerations.
Sensitivity to the unique needs of your patient will help you make the right recommendations. Propose too much care and the patient may limp away never to return. Recommend too little and the patient may be disappointed by marginal improvement.
Here’s the reality. The chiropractic profession still battles its share of skepticism in the public eye. Some of it deserved, most not. Not every patient requires permanent weekly care. Yet a few chiropractors continue this practice, earning their share of critics.
Additionally, in some venues, chiropractors continue to receive bad press from the mainstream healthcare industry. Some of the negative promotion even originates from former colleagues.
Let’s use the internet as an example. If you need proof of the type of hooey bombarding prospective patients, perform a Google search and type in the search phrase, “chiropractic treatment plan”. One of the first matches you’ll receive is an article written by a chiropractor who advises consumers to be wary of chiropractors who recommend treatment plans. Although, as chiropractors, we might find this website entertaining, our prospective patients may not have enough information to separate fact from fiction.
When operating in such an unfriendly environment, we need to be especially careful about what we recommend to our patients and how it is perceived. Obviously, certain individuals will require more chiropractic treatments than others to achieve a successful outcome. And it is important to help patients understand the steps and time involved in treating long-standing conditions. But discussing treatment plans requires a light touch.
You might present your chiropractic treatment plan informally by having a casual discussion with your new patient following his/her first visit. At that time, explain how chiropractic care works and what you think it will take for him/her to feel better. Offer specific treatment recommendations for the first couple of weeks and tell him/her you’ll evaluate her progress at the two-week mark. You can reinforce your suggestions and further educate your patient on the benefits of chiropractic care by using brochures and informative hand-outs.
During the initial two week time-frame, carefully monitor your patient’s progress. Request your staff to assist you in evaluating patient satisfaction and compliance. Specifically, ask your chiropractic assistant to report on any questions or concerns the patient may voice during treatment. Following the two week period, complete another short evaluation and offer new recommendations.
This non-threatening approach is less likely to frighten your patient or leave them feeling trapped by a long-term commitment. A pay-as-you-go option is usually more financially manageable as well. Now, the patient feels in control of the situation. If your patient improves faster than anticipated and decides to cut the round of treatment short, he/she will feel less guilty that if he/she reneged on a “contract”.
No chiropractic treatment plan receives 100% compliance, but in our experience an informal approach will be better received. You’ll end up with happier patients, who later can be converted to maintenance care. At the very least, your satisfied patients will be likely to return to your office in the future and refer their friends and family members as well.
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