In the past patient education has always been the key to a successful practice. During the period from 1920 through the mid-1970’s those chiropractors who were the best communicators built the largest practices. Those that had no ability to educate their patients failed in practice (this group represented a considerable percentage of chiropractic college graduates). Certain chiropractic entrepreneurs like Jim Parker and later Sid Williams saw the need to teach chiropractors how to communicate chiropractic to their patients. There are literally thousands of successful chiropractors in practice today who would have failed had it not been for these two men and others like them. To my knowledge, Sherman College was the first chiropractic institution to incorporate courses in Patient Education and Communications into the curriculum. It was done because those that began the school saw that good, competent chiropractors often failed in practice, or worse, incorporated non-chiropractic procedures to survive.
But times have changed. It is not necessary anymore to educate patients in order to build a successful practice. Years ago there were not as many chiropractors and there was not a community awareness of chiropractic. Chiropractors were not allowed to advertise, so word of mouth was the only way to get new patients. Insurance plans did not pay chiropractic care, consequently fees had to be within the range of the average person’s pocketbook. The chiropractor had to see more patients in order not to starve. All that has changed. For the most part, people are no longer hesitant about going to a chiropractor. Insurance pays big fees. It is interesting that many chiropractors who built successful practices by educating patients no longer find it necessary to do so. Those building new practices do not need to educate their patients in order to become successful. It is simply not necessary any longer to educate their patients in order to build a successful practice IF your idea of a successful practice is making “megabucks.” You may need to advertise heavily because uneducated patients do not refer. If your idea of a successful practice is treating personal injury cases, bad backs, and stiff necks it is not necessary to educate.
For some reason it seems that people with these type of problems naturally gravitate to chiropractic. If you are satisfied with a symptom-treating practice that sees patients only when they feel bad then patient education is not essential. If you want to be a third-rate therapist then you do not need to concern yourself with communicating chiropractic to anybody. BUT, it is necessary to educate your patients if you want to take care of large numbers of patients. People will not go regularly to a chiropractor and refer others unless they understand what chiropractic is. If you want to see people for health rather than disease treatment then you must educate. If your desire is to adjust children and families so the young ones have an opportunity to grow up healthier than their parents, you must educate the parents. They have to understand that chiropractic is not for bad backs and stiff necks. If you want to see people understand this great principle, then you must communicate it to them and do it effectively. They do not learn it by osmosis. In fact you have to do a better job than chiropractors in the past have done because there are many more “third-rate therapists” out there advertising heavily and miseducating the public. Patient education is necessary to neutralize the effect they are having on the community.
Patient education is just as necessary today as it was 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Only it is necessary for a different reason. Then you could not build a “successful” practice without it. Today it is necessary because people need to know what chiropractic is. Are you effectively educating your patients? Furthermore, do you care enough? V1n5


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