Most chiropractic practices shut down for the holidays for at least for a few days so they can take some time off and enjoy life like “normal” folks – i.e. non-business owners, aka employees.
Other chiropractors are getting so busy that they can’t focus on anything other than running their business and making it to the end of the year.
But there’s another person in this relationship and THEY are the reason you need to really watch your holiday plans so that you don’t create a new year cash flow crunch.
That person is your patient.
Your Patient’s Holiday Danger
The danger is that your patient is also busy with holiday happenings – shopping, office parties, friend parties, getting ready for relatives visiting from out of town and yes, enjoying some time off.
And in the midst of all that, your patients may not see the value in keeping their appointments over the Christmas season. While some may miss a visit and set themselves back a step or two, others will use this as an opportunity to drop out of care altogether.
And with it, goes your income.
Appointment Atrocities are Not Automatic!
The threat of losing patients often leaves your appointment book like like someone dropped an atom bomb on it and it leaves you the chiropractor feeling a bit helpless. But isn’t it inevitable? After all, you can’t stop Christmas from coming.
The short answer is: NO. Atrocities to your appointment book are not automatic – if you take some preventative measures to make sure that the schedule is not destroyed by the holiday season.
The truth is, you don’t have to feel helpless and you don’t have to scramble around trying last minute promotions that may fall on deaf ears amidst all the other holiday noise.
The first step to keep your patients on track is to simply change some mindsets: yours and theirs.
Why the Custody Mindset Doesn’t Work
There are two mindsets a chiropractor can have about patient case management.
The first is what I call the “Custody Mindset” because it focuses strictly on retention or keeping patients in the practice. In this, the chiropractors goal is not to lose patients.
But a problem arises quickly here. Your definition of “keeping” a patient and theirs is likely to differ. In their eyes, even if they miss an appointment or two or ten, they are still in your practice.
Hopefully there are very few patients who conscientiously leave your practice. But the downside is that, from their perspective, even if they disappear for a short time or for years, they are still patients in your practice. In other words you have retained them, kept them in your “custody” or in your practice.
But obviously, that doesn’t truly meet your goals. And frankly, it doesn’t help them meet theirs either.
Which is why we need to approach things from a different mindset and vantage point than simply “holding on.”
The Coach Mindset
Fortunately, there’s another way. Instead of focusing on keeping custody of your patients, we need to focus on coaching and committing them towards their goals.
This is a much bigger and better strategy.
First, it’s proactive, not reactive. Therefore, it can be done routinely, ahead of time, while you are approaching the holiday season.
Secondly, in this mindset, you are after more than just keeping your patients on the status quo. You are coaching your patients to think about their future and their health in a positive way. This gets them excited about continuing to work with you through the busy holiday season and beyond, pursuing their goals and keeping up the momentum they’ve made while under your care.
The Secret Sauce Behind Coaching to Commitment
There’s another “secret” benefit towards shifting your mindset from custody and retention towards coaching and committing your patients to their care.
If you aim for commitment and come up short, what happens? The patients either stays the same or even if they operate on their own schedule, they still are “in” your practice and they know that you care about their progress. So, you haven’t lost any ground by refocusing them on their goals and offering to coach them to success.
But the majority of the time, you will actually elevate your patient’s own mindset and perceptions of themselves and their care. By helping them focus on their progress and their future, they will get more excited, recommit, and become more engaged with their treatment plan.
In the end, this translates to better results for them and for you!
Coaching Patients Through Christmas
Making this happen is simple:
- Optimize Your Opportunities: as you approach the end of the year, don’t default to defeat. Take your patient’s remaining visits as an opportunity to remind them of their progress, focus them on their future (where they want to be) and give them the next steps in the plan to close the gap between where they are and where they want to be.
- Remind Them of Their Reasons – when you put things into perspective about where they are and where they want to go with their care, be sure to remind them of the reasons they started care with you in the first place. Give them their “why” as their goal.
- Don’t Let Them Down Easy – you do your patients an injustice if you “let them down easy” by simply accepting their holiday excuses. If someone says, we’ll be out of town at the end of next week, your response should not be “Have a good time” but to refocus them on their care and how they will avoid a relapse by keeping their schedule. Remind them of the time, money and effort spent to get them to this point and let them know you don’t want to jeopardize that.
- Use a Painful Analogy – often patients default to allowing the holidays to get in their way of care because they don’t really think about the negative ramifications of doing so. They just look at the positive side of having fun. But a quick, painful analogy can snap them back to reality. One of my favorites is relating their care to a weight loss plan with a simple question: “If you just spent a great amount of time, money and effort trying to lose weight and then decided to take the month of December off and eat like a pig, how do you think you will look and feel in January?” Most patients can easily identify with this analogy and most would admit some variation of “not good.” My response is simple: your care in this office is no different.
- Give a Plan B: Once you’ve gone through steps 1-4, many patients will commit and stay on track with their care. But for some, their holiday schedules are a major stumbling block. For these patients, AFTER (and only after) you have walked them through the first four steps and they STILL don’t commit to keeping their schedule, THEN (and only then) do you bring out “Plan B.” Essentially, this is a modified version of what your ideal recommendations would be that acknowledges the challenges of the holidays. So, if they are supposed to be seen 3x a week and they will be out of town, then you need to get them to commit to 2x a week for the next two weeks and then, in January, you can re-evaluate to see how their progress has been maintained and revise the schedule, if needed. In this way, you avoid the default of letting the patients pick their own schedule or missing all the appointments. And you remain in control of their care by stating that you will re-assess them in January and (if necessary) you will reset the schedule. For the minority of patients who need this, the Plan B strategy will work wonderfully and again, help your patient and your practice avoid a major disaster.
What are You Waiting For?
That’s it – now it’s time for you to make it happen. Start talking to your patients today and coaching them towards commitments beyond Christmas!
Article by our good friend Dr Tom Necela – Strategic Chiropractor