Feeling vs. Functioning: A Simple Solution to a Common Practice Problem

Despite our extensive background in the philosophy of our profession, we, as chiropractors, often fall into the “MEDICAL MODEL OF THINKING.” We may find ourselves making care decisions based upon the symptoms the patients report on the day we see them, rather than relying upon objective data collected that day or at a previous appointment.

People in today’s society have been led to believe that, if they feel fine, then they are healthy.

They also have been indoctrinated to believe that, if they have a symptom, then they need to see a doctor. Symptoms, therefore, are believed to mean that a person is not “healthy.” When the symptoms are no longer present or are less bothersome, people feel they no longer have the need to see a doctor.

Many times, chiropractic patients also fall into this medical model of thinking. They base their progress and the need for future care on how they “feel” rather than the objective actuality of their current physical condition.

When a chiropractor asks the patient how they are feeling, the medical model of thinking is intensified. When a patient enters your facility for the first time, the chances are good that he or she IS experiencing symptoms. If you ask them on each and every visit how they are feeling, then they will begin to adopt symptom-based criteria for their continued chiropractic care. As a result of this method of thinking on their part, they will likely decrease their care or drop out of care as soon as they are feeling better. We have all seen them, The Relief Care Patients.



The Primary Objective of Your Office Visit!

The primary objective of a chiropractor is to effectively communicate to patients, thereby changing this medical model of thinking. An educated patient with a good understanding of how their body should function is more likely to follow through with their prescribed treatment plan and also pay for the care needed to improve their health and well-being. The well-educated patient knows their health is their responsibility.

Knowing how entrenched we are in this symptom-based medical model of thinking, we should quickly realize that a change is in order. The first step of this process is to change the way a patient is greeted every single time they enter your practice. Keep in mind, if the receptionist asks a patient how they are feeling, they will typically answer the question with a symptom. Then, the doctor asks them how they are feeling. Once again, they will answer with a symptom. Very quickly, your patients will develop the idea that it is important to be aware of how they feel each time they visit the chiropractor. Do you see the problem?!!!

You have the power to change this sequence simply by changing the question. Greet your patient in a new way. You and your staff should always ask, “How are you FUNCTIONING?”

Initially, out of habit, people will answer the question with a symptom. It will be your responsibility to immediately change their thinking. You will want to shift their focus toward how their body is functioning and away from their current symptoms. When you ask a patient to consider how their body is working as opposed to how they are feeling, they will begin to realize symptoms are not the only factor involved in determining whether they are “healthy” or whether they need continued care. The answers you are seeking from your patients include statements regarding improvement in their ability to carry the laundry basket up the stairs or an increase in energy levels when playing with their children. As chiropractors, we can ascertain whether we are improving the overall health of a patient as it relates to their ability to function in their activities of daily living.

Instead of the patient thinking we, as chiropractors, are trying to improve their symptoms, they will quickly get the viewpoint that we, as chiropractors, are really improving their life, and all aspects of it. What a difference this can and will make in your practice when you shift the patient’s focus away from symptoms during the course of their care plan.

When a chiropractor improves a patient’s functional capabilities, lifetime patients are created. When the symptoms are the only things that are improved, the relationship with the patient is going to be short lived, and so is your referral cycle. When you change the way people function, and they truly understand that the mechanism for their improvement is due to your educational process, you will broaden the scope of referrals this patient will contribute to your practice. When a person realizes they no longer suffer severe pain, but ALSO have more energy, a better appetite, are less irritable, perform better at work, sleep better, create better relationships among their family members and friends, etc., they WILL refer others!

This type of patient is more inclined to be a long-term chiropractic patient, because they have experienced the increase of function and the benefits of optimum health and well being. They will want the optimum condition to continue, and will, therefore, be willing to pay for maintenance or wellness care.

Chiropractors and their staffs need to make this change and be consistent with the change in order to make a difference in this widely accepted medical model of thinking. The change of only one word in your dialogue with patients over a few weeks time will make a difference. Your patients will begin reporting they have, indeed, experienced a change in the way their body functions. The amount of words used and the amount of time spent on handling patients regarding their symptoms can be saved and used as dialogue for all of your new patients. This one word is worth a million words! TAC


Dr. Maurice A. Pisciottano, CEO and founder of Pro-Solutions for Chiropractic, is a practicing chiropractor, noted lecturer, author, producer and research and development technologist. He is well known for his practice management expertise, as well as new patient development programs. He has devoted the past twelve years to the development of the instrumentation and the computerization of chiropractic treatment and documentation. Dr. Pisciottano regularly lectures at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, IA, and at Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, MO. He can be reached at Pro-Solutions for Chiropractic in Pittsburgh, PA, at 1-877-942-4284.

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