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January, 2011

How to Win in 2011

By Ramon G. McLeod, Editor-in-Chief

The chairman of the Federal Reserve says that unemployment is likely to stay high for years. New housing and construction are weak. There is fear of a "double-dip" recession and uncertainty about the real impact of Obamacare.

Yet while all signs point to the coming year as being no better economically than 2010, that doesn't mean your practice will suffer the same fate. That is, of course, unless you do nothing.

Dynamic Chiropractic PracticeINSIGHTS asked the leaders of well-known practice management firms to describe the advice they are giving doctors to help them thrive in these still-troubled times. To a person, they all agreed on one basic principle: Successful practices cannot be built on marketing tricks, instant solutions or the hope that things will turn out fine.

So, if you want to win in 2011, be prepared to work hard and accept the concept that you may have to change the way you think about yourself and your practice.

First Steps: See Your Reality

"One of the most common things I hear is, 'I wanted to get sick people well, but there is so much more business to running this practice than I thought,'" said Tom Owen, president of Affordable Management & Consulting (AMC), Chattanooga, Tenn.

"They want to be healers, not entrepreneurs ... but chiropractors have to run their business properly. They are not like medical doctors, who have a built-in referral loop. No one is just going to send you referrals."

"The truth is that you have to be both an educated entrepreneur and a passionate healer," he added. "Genuinely understanding that, like it or not, you are running a business, is an early step on the path to winning in this, or any year."

From there, the next step is to assess your personal strengths and weaknesses. Dennis Perman, co-founder, The Masters Circle, Jerico, N.Y., suggested that doctors need to get out of their comfort zones and realistically focus on improving weak spots instead of devoting energy - and money - on their strengths.

For example, he said, "If a chiropractor has excellent patient education tools, but is not as skillful at adjusting, it would be more productive to focus on technique than to invest in further patient education technology. If a doctor has excellent office procedures, but modest marketing experience, it makes sense to investigate and implement modern approaches for new patient attraction."

Stay on Task

"There are no magic wands or knights in white armor," AMC's Owen said. "And, yet, as times get tough, more and more move away from fundamentals and will reach for the next marketing scheme or the next piece of amazing equipment ... it won't work because those kind of things come and go."

Staying "on task" should come first for any practitioner who has any intent of thriving in 2011, stated Keith Maule, president, Integrity Management, Lincoln, Neb.

He decries the recent emphasis on what he considers "tangents" to a chiropractic practice, particularly product sales. Maule isn't opposed to the sale of nutritional supplements, orthotics, and so on, as part of a practice, but he believes that practitioners must retain emphasis on "the one thing that makes us unique ... spinal adjustment."

"To think you can grow a practice by (for example) offering weight-loss programs and products is to think there isn't already a ton of weight-loss options for your patients outside your office," he said.

The Integrated Practice

Another school of thought, one championed by Dr. Daniel Dahan, founder of Practice Perfect, Long Beach, Calif., suggests that offering an expanded suite of health care services is the way to create a thriving practice.

"My belief is that the broader the spectrum (of services and care options), the greater the patient base," said Dahan, who also stated that an integrated practice which includes an MD or DO and other specialists is the way to have a large practice and addresses the realities of modern health care.

"Your patient comes to you to treat their acute pain, but they also go to their family doctor, that is just how things are," he said. "It isn't because they don't believe in chiropractic, rather that they are in great pain and looking for help."

Because this is so, Dahan contends that the benefits to practitioners and patients of an integrated clinic are manifold. "In a multidisciplinary clinic you can have true pain management (services), appropriate to the patients' needs," he said. For example, "If you want nutrition to be part of the practice (service), now you have the capacity for the MD to monitor their medications as well. This gives you tremendous power because you have joined forces with a much larger profession."

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