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May, 2010

The Art of Patient Motivation

By Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA

You spend countless hours in school learning the art of chiropractic. You take classes in technique, diagnosis, application and philosophy. Every aspect of chiropractic skill is taught so when you have a patient under your care, they have the greatest chance of getting well. But, what happens if you cannot motivate patients to keep coming back? How can you keep them excited to continue their care plan? How do you ensure they understand the value of chiropractic beyond pain relief?

Good questions; and here is the answer. You must master the art of building quality relationships. There is a skill to understanding human behavior, motivation, compliance and the emotional triggers for taking action. Forget trying to memorize scripts or following some cookie-cutter practice-management program. The secret lies in understanding the essential communication skills of building rapport with others. Rapport creates trust, allowing you to build a psychological bridge to someone. This bridge will be the reason your patients become loyal chiropractic advocates and raving fans.

Business Success Lesson 101: motivation is selling. You must sell someone on why they should do business with you. More importantly, you must also motivate them to continue doing business with you. Many doctors have an aversion to using the word selling. It sounds so negative, like a used car salesman. Sorry to burst your bubble, but everything in life is about selling. No purchase is ever made without some type of selling. Make no mistake about it; every time a patient comes in to see you they are making a purchasing decision. They are paying for services rendered. Never, ever forget that fact. You are just like any other business. If you do not value and appreciate your customer, they will take their business elsewhere. Fancy gimmicks and marketing tactics may bring people to your business initially, but the relationship you establish motivates them to stay.

People do business with people they like. When they like you, they trust you, and trust builds loyalty. The number one rule to get people to do what you want is to get them to like you. You can educate a patient 24/7 about the benefits of chiropractic, but if they do not like you, there is no chance of motivating them. You can spend all day trying to get someone to like you and think well of you, but it is how you make them feel when they are around you that makes all the difference. Remember, that someone likes you not on how they feel about you, but on how you make them feel about themselves. Read that again. It is a powerful and subtle difference.

The process of motivation starts from the very first interaction you have with a potential patient. What type of first experience are you giving the patient (customer)? There are key moments of patient interaction that will make or break your ability to motivate. Let's take a closer look at these moments and review strategies you can implement today to help improve your art.

First Visit

What does the patient see when they enter your office? Is it clean, up to date, uncluttered, warm and welcoming? Is your staff professional and courteous? Do they smile? A smile is the best way to make a favorable first impression. It accomplishes four powerful things: it conveys confidence, happiness, enthusiasm and most important, it shows acceptance. The first impression is so crucial because everything we see and hear afterwards gets filtered through our initial opinion. So if the first impression of you is favorable, people will have a kinder evaluation of you in future.

Your first meeting with someone is the best opportunity to establish rapport. This is where you must interact with people on an individual basis. You cannot follow a script here. Learn to recognize personality types and match communication style accordingly. For example, you cannot talk with a quiet, reserved, introverted person the same way you do an extroverted social butterfly. They respond differently to body posture, language, tone of voice, rate of speech and your level of energy during conversation.

Conversations are more likely to be positive and comfortable when two people are in sync with each other. Just as we tend to like someone who shares our interests, we are also subconsciously driven to like a person when they appear as we do. When someone makes gestures the way we do, or uses words or phrases as we do, we tend to find them more likeable. During conversation, make observations on body language and speech. Attempt to mimic a few gestures and see how people respond.

Report of Findings

Excitement and motivation for your entire care plan begins here. You must appeal to a person's emotions in your attempt to educate and motivate. No matter how rational and logical your recommendation, you will have great difficulty influencing others if you do not arouse emotions. People make purchasing decisions on an emotional level and then use logic to justify that decision. You need to translate the facts into emotion-based statements and give clear and specific benefits that appeal to a person's emotions.

When reviewing a potential patient's care plan, offer a specific game plan with a clear-cut course of action for proceeding. When people are passionately motivated to take action and continue moving forward, it is essential they understand the direction and the method for proceeding. Patients will feel comfortable and secure knowing that the path is clearly lit and laid out. When you want to motivate someone to listen to your advice, provide more than just the desired destination; also give them a detailed map for getting there. Break down your care plan visit by visit and give them a personalized copy with their name on it to take home.

Most importantly, follow the plan. Keep your word to avoid breaking the established trust factor. Follow your road map of care to perfection. If you tell a patient they will get a re-evaluation on visit four, then you had better make sure you do that on visit four. If you promise to call them, do so. If they lose trust in you, they lose motivation. People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Honoring your word shows them you care.

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