As chiropractors, all of you have heard of and undoubtedly run into patients suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). While this is a growing and pervasive problem in today’s society, the more dangerous “dis-ease” that affects EVERY chiropractic businesses what I call RDD – “Retention Deficit Disorder.”
You won’t find RDD in the ICD-9 or even the upcoming ICD-10 diagnosis categories, but don’t ignore it because of that. This is a real and present danger that faces chiropractors and threatens to undermine profits. Left untreated, it can spell disaster for your practice.
Perhaps the greatest hazard of RDD is that its ill effects are quietly at work, every single day, behind the scenes. It’s something you may not realize, and if it goes unchecked, can hurt the long term survival of your practice.
Let’s define this nemesis: most specifically, RDD can be best defined as the “progressive erosion of the attention span of your patients.” Expressed another way, patients eventually get tired of you, your office and even their own best interests in terms of their health.
Here’s why: Imagine your patients are like a handful of water. As you go about the normal business of your day holding that water in your hands, it’s highly likely that the water is going to slip out of your hands unless you make a focused effort on trying to make sure that it stays put.
Our patients are the same way. If you are not making a conscious effort to get and keep the attention of the patient, their minds wander elsewhere. Face it: you are not a priority in their life and for many, neither is their health. And there are a bazillion competing interests all trying to grab their time and attention. Eventually, unless you have focused on keeping their attention, it just slips away, like the water in your hand.
In other words, you are becoming less relevant to that patient each and every day. This is obviously very dangerous to your future bottom line because eventually, when you have achieved a certain level of “non-relevance” they either quit care or don’t return for more care.
And being a nice chiropractor, having good coffee, a friendly staff or a convenient location won’t bring them back. At this point, these patients are also susceptible to advertising from competitors who are promoting alternative methods of taking care of the same problem you are trying to manage. Put bluntly: eventually someone else will take your place.
Fighting Chiropractic RDD
To combat this, traditional chiropractic marketing focuses on keeping patient’s attention in three ways:
- Postcards (“where have you been?” or “happy birthday” or other such themes)
- Newsletters (email or paper, with “announcements” and/or helpful tips, articles on cooking, stretching, whatever)
- Recalls (“This is Yolanda from Dr. B’s office, just calling to remind you…”)
While these methods are certainly better than nothing, in today’s ADD-driven society, they are simply not enough. Fortunately, there are a host of “new” technology tools that enable you to stay in touch with patients by using email, text message, automated phone calls and the like. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media tools are also a potential source of staying in contact.
But there’s also a limit to the amount of interest one “genre” can capture for most patients. In other words, your articles on chiropractic, friendly messages and other attempts to keep your patients interest may fall on deaf ears not because they aren’t getting them, but because their attention span is more limited than yours.
There’s only so much “chiropractic” that patients can absorb.
Enter the “Widening the Funnel” Strategy
To us chiropractors, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that our patients do not live, eat, sleep and breathe chiropractic. However, they DO have their own set of interests and goals, which still may intersect with our chiropractic work.
It is at this intersection that we can actually broaden the interest and captivate our patients more, better and longer by what I call “widening the funnel.”
In other words, your patients DO want to hear from you. They do need to be educated. But it CAN be about things other than chiropractic, which are still related to their health.
Additional Streams of Interest AND Income
Done right, capturing a patient’s attention on other tangentially related health topics such as massage, rehab, nutrition, weight loss (or whatever you choose) produces both additional interest stimulation beyond chiropractic, it also has potential to produce additional income beyond your chiropractic services.
From a basic business standpoint, do you care if your patient fails to return for their monthly chiropractic adjustment, but one month chooses to treat themselves to a massage instead? Or if your patient decides that they really need to lose some weight so that your adjustments can hold better? Or if the next step to achieve their goals would be to take you up on your offer to teach them exercises and go through your rehab program?
In today’s economy, patients may not have the resources to do everything that you recommend. For some, it will be an either / or scenario. The good news is that if you are offering multiple services in your office, the income still stays in house. The other part of the equation is that you still need to recommend what is best for your patients and let them decide. Some WILL follow all of your recommendations – only if you make them.
The 10,000 Foot View
Step back and look at what we just did in the context of preventing RDD – Retention Deficit Disorder.
By taking a slightly broader approach to how you can help your patients, you have now also found different ways to keep in touch with them, to keep them excited about their care, and to find new strategies that can help them reach their goals – along with chiropractic.
So, now, you are not just limited to sending out postcards to remind them it’s time for their maintenance adjustment. You are not trying to figure out ways to get them to stick to their treatment plan. But you are approaching their health from different angles of what needs to be addressed. Chiropractic can still be at the center and represents your core strategy, but you have branched out from that core.
The beauty of this is that these don’t have to be either/or strategies. You can protect the water in your hands AND add more to it!
Back End Benefits
In my book on growing your massage department Build a $300,000 Massage Practice in Your Chiropractic Practice, I give specific details on how to increase the “back end” benefits of new patient acquisition by utilizing massage as a marketing tool and additional channel for patients to discover your clinic. Long story short: they enter as massage patients and, under the direction of your well-trained therapist, eventually become chiropractic patients that create profits for your primary focus even though their entry point was massage – the “back end.”
Similarly, in my newest program entitled Six Figure Rehab, I discuss strategies to increase the “back end” benefits of your chiropractic profits by strategically employing rehab procedures alongside your chiropractic care. Rehab offers what I would term “dual back end” potential. In other words, some patients may come to you as a chiropractor, for which you provide chiropractic services and help the patient (and your profits) out adding rehab to the back end. Or some patients may select your office because they are primarily interested in your Rehab approach. Perhaps they have been to other chiropractors before or tried other methods and feel that an integrated approach using rehab is what they need. In these way, they may enter with the focus being on rehab, but (like massage), under the well-trained direction of your rehab assistant, they eventually understand the benefits of chiropractic care.
End Result = Happier, More Attentive Patients AND Profits
We could go on and discuss how similar strategies could be employed with all sorts of other services as well. But the end result of making a strategic effort to utilize these tools is this: your patients are happier because you are addressing multiple needs. Your patients are less likely to suffer from RDD because they have interest and attention dedicated, not only to chiropractic, but the other services you offer. And your profits are happier as you increase utilization and retention.
So, doctor, what are you waiting for? Start thinking how you can employ any and all of these ideas to improve your practice today!
And in Part 2, we will discuss some specific strategies to do just that!!!