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January, 2010

How to Choose the Right Practice Management Consultant

By DCPI Staff

Maybe you are just starting out in practice. Perhaps you are grappling with a downturn in patients due to the economy. Or you might just be wanting to step your practice up to the next level. Regardless of the reason, you have decided it is time to use the services of a practice-management consultant.

There is a bewildering array of companies offering these services. So, how do you pick the one that will provide you with the best possible results?

We asked a number of vendor experts in the field to tell us what they consider to be the most important qualities a DC should look for when looking to hire the services of a practice-management consultant.

Several major themes emerged from talking with our experts, who were in general agreement that the best practice-management companies operate from sound, easy-to-understand principles, offer personalized coaching and advice, have a philosophy that emphasizes ethics over "gaming" the system or patients, and have a deep knowledge of the chiropractic profession.

What to Look For: Principles and Ethics

It's a basic question when shopping for any vendor or supplier, especially one that can determine the future of your practice: How long have they been in business?

While the answer to that question is no guarantee that a prospective practice-management company or consultant is a good one, it tends to be true that companies and consultants that have withstood the test of time are also very likely to have solid operating principles.

Which leads to the next basic question: What principles underpin their strategy and tactics?

Find out exactly what those principles are, because knowing and understanding the basis of the vendor's approach should come well before the signing of any contracts, according to Rick Barrows, DC, and Robert Bearden, DC, both of AMC (www.amcfamily.com), a consulting company in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Be very comfortable with the company's approach, because understanding what they want to do with your business leads to a question that should never be overlooked, according to Barrows and Bearden: Does the management company provide ethical, moral and legal guidance that is both beneficial and supportive of the chiropractic profession?

Systems that have shown long-term success strongly emphasize ethical practices over exotic schemes, according to all our experts. This seems obvious, but the profession has examples of consultants who preach approaches that, for example, are clearly intended to talk patients into treatments they don't need.

"The right practice-management consultant functions with ethics and integrity, and has a commitment to your success and the success of the chiropractic profession," according to Mark Sanna, DC, of Breakthrough Coaching (www.mybreakthrough.com), a coaching company in Vernon, N.J.

What to Look For: Deep Knowledge

"Working with a personal coach who has the real-world experience of successfully managing chiropractic practices in today's health care marketplace will accelerate your progress and hold you accountable to your goals and vision," Sanna says. "There is nothing more inspiring than to learn from someone who has been there and done what you wish to accomplish."

Peter G. Fernandez, DC, who runs a consulting company (www.drfernandez.com) based in Seminole, Fla., also puts knowl-edge at the top of his checklist.

"Look for a competent consultant who has written widely (i.e., books, articles, classes, manuals, etc.) on the full range of practice-management subjects (i.e., CA Training, Associate Doctor, Insurance and Office Procedures, Practice Finance, Personal Injury, New Patient Acquisition, Patient Retention, Exam Procedures, Advertising and Marketing)," Fernandez says. "You can tell how knowledgeable a consultant is by how much he/she is published."

Another tip, according to Fernandez: "Find a veteran consultant whose experience spans 10 or more years. The more doctors he/she has consulted with, over the longest period of time, the better off you'll be.

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