You no doubt feel the pressure that comes with being a primary health care provider. Patients have many expectations of you, your office and your service. I think that, in our reaction to this pressure, we have unconsciously built psychological walls of self preservation that add to our stress. These walls are built on a belief that in order to benefit from our care a patient must, in some way, reach out and demonstrate a willingness to change their core beliefs.
You may have heard others say or may even have said this yourself, “As long as a patient is willing to meet me half way I can help them” This feels like the right attitude, but is it? I suppose we sometimes think that if we stand firmly on our ideals and extend ourselves half way that this will teach the patient to be more responsible for their health. I do my half, they do their half. Good intention, bad results.
Why half way is not enough
The emotional mind of the patient perceives this position as indifference. They might even feel as if it is a power game of superiority and control. Not only will they not follow through with their care, they will tell as many as 12 people about you and how you made them feel. This is not the reputation you want.
In the town where I practiced there was a chiropractic office that had a prominent flight of stone steps leading up and into the clinic. The steps were wide and reminded me of the platform leading up and into a cathedral. As an eager, new practitioner hungry for success, this didn’t make sense to me; yet, the doctor was well known in the community so I had to ask him about it.
“Doctor, I know you don’t just see people with severe back pain, but seriously, how do you expect people to climb up those stairs and into your office?”
He replied quickly and in a stern tone said, “I want them to “step up” to chiropractic and realize that they have finally found the true way of health.”
His attitude was that he shouldn’t even meet the patient half way. The patient should abandon their old ways and embrace the new. Old school arrogance and an attitude of superiority carry over into our culture even today. Doctors tell me that they are willing to meet a patient half way and I tell them, “Half way is not nearly far enough.”
What does this mean?
What does meeting you half way look like? Well, it’s filled with your agendas and it would take a week or more to share all of the examples I have personally witnessed. Here are few common examples that produce common practices:
- Meeting you half way means the patient must be willing to learn the things you are interested in teaching.
- Meeting you half way means the patient must show up on time and NEVER miss an appointment
- Meeting you half way means the patient must drop their old ways of eating, sleeping, exercising and just general “change -ING”
Barriers to your office are mostly behavioral and if you intend to out behave the competition you will want to look at your beliefs and attitudes. While these blocks are not blatant displays like the stone staircase, the result is the same. People stay away. And that big reputation in the community is not the one you want.
You are the leader, the care giver. You must let go of your need to receive respect and appreciation. You cannot expect to receive attention until and unless you give attention. Once you let go of your agenda and reach out you will receive more than you can imagine.
I know that you want an uncommon, extraordinary practice and achieving this is easier than you think. So here is what I want you to do with the next new patient; meet them half way then take three more steps forward.
A word of caution! If you think you are already taking these steps and you are not attracting 30 or more new patients a month, then think again and make sure you have the right attitude when taking these steps.
Step 1: Following the introductions ask the patient about their primary reason for seeking your help and let them talk (hold your tongue . . . literally bite it if you must)
E.g. “I understand that your most pressing concern right now is these headaches. Tell me about them.”
Step 2: Listen. Shut up and do not interrupt them until they signal you that they are through. Studies suggest that if we don’t distract them with our body language or words, on average they will only talk for 90 seconds. Try it. It works.
Step 3: Thank them for their disclosure and ask any clarifying questions you may have. Then, let them know how you intend to discover the chiropractic solution to those headaches and that if you think you can help you will let them know once you have done your examinations.
Meet them more than half way. You practice will thank you, your patients will thank you and you will no longer feel the pressure to perform or the stress associated with non-compliance. Remember, attitude leads behavior.
Dr. Frank Sovinsky, “The E-Myth Chiropractor”, written June 2011