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June, 2010

Taking the Time to Calm Your Patients' Fears

By DCPI Staff

To help you enhance your practice and increase your bottom line, Dynamic Chiropractic PracticeINSIGHTS asks practicing DCs like you for ideas and solutions that have been tested in real-world environments. In this issue we asked: "When faced with an apprehensive patient, what steps do you take to educate them, calm their fears and help them to appreciate the importance of chiropractic for their overall health?" The following is important insight and varied methods we found most useful in answering this question.

Address Your Patient's Concerns

Jim McDaniel of Vermont warns doctors not to trivialize a patient's concerns. He writes, "When faced with an apprehensive patient, it is important to first, in a caring and compassionate way, try to fully understand their concerns or apprehensions. I may assume they are apprehensive about the adjustment but they may be concerned that they have cancer or they might need surgery.

"I feel it is important to then acknowledge the concern and let them know that such a concern is not uncommon (if it is indeed not uncommon) and calmly and directly give them the facts. People appreciate and trust statistics, so if you can quote a study or paper with a statistic, all the better. In my opinion, the worst thing one can do as a doctor is to trivialize a patient's concern or area of apprehension. A patient does not want to feel like the doctor has just patted them on the head and said, 'now you just don't worry yourself about that.'"

James Bortolotto of Alberta, Canada writes, "Never educate the apprehensive patient until you truly ask enough questions to fully understand their reasons (real or imagined ) for their fears. Always remember there are three basic fears in humans: fear of death; fear of losing control; and fear of humiliation or rejection. Discover which of these fears most applies with your patient, then collaboratively explain the risks and benefits of your chiropractic approach and possible treatments. Don't over-explain, but be clear and evidence-based. Finally, discuss all forms of available treatment options for their concerns and describe the chiropractic approach. Don't hard sell; just explain truthfully, sincerely and concisely. Usually, this will begin to reduce their fears."

Take the Time to Develop Trust

Wayne Whalen of California believes that taking the time to develop the patient's trust is key to calming certain fears. He writes, "There are no 'quick fixes' for dealing with apprehensive new patients. Everything about their experience, from the reassurance they get on their first phone call, to the office decor, to how they are introduced to staff and the doctor affect their perceptions and their comfort level. When I sense some apprehension, I let my new patients know that 70 percent of my new patients have never seen a DC before, and they are all nervous. This not only validates their feeling, but reassures them that they are not alone, and that I recognize their issue.

"I tell them I won't surprise them or sneak up on them, and that I'll tell them everything I am going to do, and why, before I do it. Then I do just that, in conjunction with a very thorough physical examination. I discuss what I think is wrong and why, and how I would approach treating it, but I also always give them options.

"I help them understand the relative risks and benefits, and in terms of manipulation give them options: some want more hands-on diversified treatment. Others need a visit or two to get more confident or trusting, and I can offer them soft tissue, Activator, drop-table or other approaches," Whalen said. "Once they see that I say what I mean and mean what I say, they are much more receptive to the bigger picture about chiropractic, and much more likely to follow through with my other recommendations. Bottom line: treat your patients the way you would want to be treated."

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