Stop Doing New Patient Orientations?
by Miles Bodzin, DC
What? What do you mean stop doing new patient orientations? For as long as I’ve been a chiropractor I’ve been told to get my patients to a new patient orientation class and I am sure you’ve been told the same thing.
Why do we do them? Why do we want our patients to attend such a workshop in the first place? As far as I can tell there’s really only two reasons we do them. The first is we want to “educate” our patients about chiropractic so they get it. Second, it’s a great way to get new patients by having your patients bring a guest. Of course, there may be some other reasons to do them, but these are the two big ones.
I am going to examine these two reasons and then give you my opinion. And remember, we all have opinions and reasons are nothing more than our own justification for our opinion. So take this examination for what it’s worth to you and form your own opinion.
In fact, if all you do by reading this article is take five-ten minutes to reflect on the “why”, then I’ve done my job. Otherwise you’ll forget all about this and we’ve both wasted our time.
Since a new patient orientation is primarily a method of patient education, let’s talk about patient education for a moment. Why do we educate our patients? Why do we spend so much time, energy, effort and money to educate them? As I can see it, there are only two reasons to do so. Getting new patients and keeping existing patients.
This begs the question; how does patient education do that? I mean is it really the education that causes people to seek you out? Sure, if you go out in your community and do a lecture, people will likely come and see you. And of course, if your patient’s bring a guest to your workshop they likely come in for care too. Doing a new patient workshop or orientation is a great way to get warm leads and prospects for new patients. A good workshop will have a call to action that results new patient appointments.
If the focus is to get new patients, an in-office new patient workshop is good. However, you are better off going out in the community where your audience will all be new prospects. If you are really after new patients, go where the fishing is great. Go where the new patient are – in the community.
So what about keeping existing patients? You know, building retention. If they (patients) just knew what I knew, they would do what I do. Isn’t that right? Really? Do people know they shouldn’t smoke? Do people know they should exercise? Do people know they should eat a healthy diet?
Have you ever had a patient who really got the big idea? You know what I mean. They really understood chiropractic and the power of the nerve system. You often thought that they knew more about chiropractic than a lot of chiropractors. They sat on the front edge of their seat and hung on every word of you class. Have you ever had one of these patients stop coming in for care? My question to you is, “why do they stop?” I mean, if they really got it, why do they stop coming in. What changed? Think about it.
It seems to me that “knowing” something doesn’t necessarily mean people will do something. How many things do you know you should be doing, but aren’t. The fact is patient education is important. Doing lectures is a great way to get new patients when done out in the community. It’s a great way to help people. However, if the goal of your workshop is to have your patients learn chiropractic so they get the big idea so they stay for life-time wellness care, then you are sadly mistaken.
“I mean is it really the education that causes people to seek you out?”
How long did you have to be in chiropractic school before you “got chiropractic”? How long did you have to be in practice before you “got chiropractic”? How many of you reading this right now, still aren’t sure if you “got chiropractic” yet? The point being, if you expect your patients to attend a new patient orientation and “get chiropractic”, you are nuts.
Let me backup and rephrase that. The ultimate purpose of patient education is to change our patient’s behavior. That is to say, we want them to think differently than they did prior to coming in contact with you. And not only do we want them to know something different, we want them to act different. We want their actions to be in alignment with what they are being taught. Bottom line is we want their behavior to change. This is why the workshop is good for getting new patients. It’s easy to influence their immediate behavior while they are sitting in the chairs in front of you. It’s your call to action.
However, changing a person’s ongoing behavior is not easy and it takes time. Certainly a new patient workshop will influence your patients in the short term, however unless you consistently educate them, its effect wears off rather quickly. In this equation, it’s the ongoing consistent patient education that really has the lasting effect of influencing your patient’s behavior.
Look at how advertising works. Does Coca Cola convince people to buy their soda by making people attend a workshop? Does Starbucks require attending a workshop so they can teach you why their coffee beans are better than anyone else? They influence behavior by providing a product that people like and they consistently remind the public over and over and over and over why they like their product. They remind us of their benefits and won’t let us forget it.
The point being that changing the behavior of your patients is most effectively accomplished by having a “simple benefit message that you consistently remind them of”. For example, “you get adjusted to stay healthy and active”. Once you have your simple, easy-to-remember benefit message, you consistently share that with your patients in as many ways as possible. Using every opportunity to remind them of the fact that “you get adjusted to stay healthy”.
At the end of the day, we want to have new patients who initially learn enough to commit to a program of chiropractic care. It may be that your new patient orientation class is part of that process. However, it’s during this program of care where your opportunity to consistently share your benefit message lies. It’s a process that takes time. Your patients will change their behavior with this type of education. I refer to it as Drip-Education, like drip-irrigation. You consistently drip your message on your patients over and over so they grow into a chiropractic lifestyle. The new patient workshop is more like flood-education where you more likely soak them in too much information.
Where does that leave you in regards to whether you should do new patient orientation classes or not? As I see it, it’s up to you to decide. Here’s what I can share from my personal experience of 16 years of practice. I haven’t done new patient workshops in over 12 years, yet my patients are with me an average of over 300 visits, with many in the 400 & 500 range. Of course this is over many years that these wellness visits occur.
How is it that we get such high retention? The answer is we consistently meet the values of our established patients, while at the same time we’ve identified and removed the roadblocks getting in the way of them staying. I will address this further in future articles. In the meantime, make it a point to (1) simplify the message you want to teach, (2) make sure the message is a benefit message and (3) consistently teach the message in as many different ways as possible.
Dr. Miles Bodzin is Founder & CEO of Cash Practice Inc, providers of the Drip-Education® System, Auto-Debit System® and Cash Plan Calculator System®. To learn more visit www.CashPractice.com. Dr. Bodzin can be reached at 877-FIFTY-50 or [email protected]. Cash Practice® is a registered trademark of Cash Practice Inc.