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May, 2012

Bringing In New Business: How Your Peers Do It

By Kathryn Feather, Senior Associate Editor

To help you enhance your practice and increase your bottom line, we ask practicing doctors of chiropractic, like you, for ideas and solutions that have been tested in real-world environments. In this issue, we asked: "What was the most effective thing you did in 2011 to get new patients?" Based on your responses, three main strategies seemed to rise to the top.

Offer New Products and Services

Attracting new patients is an ongoing component of most practices, but understanding the trends in technology as well as the demographics of your area are important pieces of the puzzle to consider. What several of you discovered was that adding new services and products to what you offer was one way to get new people to walk through your door.

Dr. Jim Walsh from Topeka, Kan., found his solution in hiring a licensed physical therapist. "Integrating a physical therapist into a chiropractic practice has proven to be a highly effective model for opening our practice to a huge and growing market of potential patients. Perhaps more enticing for our growing business was the realization that the revenue increase for treating these patients was much greater than we had ever anticipated. Doctor referrals, insurance reimbursements and general credibility all increased dramatically and remain consistent over the years, even with shifts in market dynamics."

"As we've refined our practice over more than a decade, we've been able to refine our management structures and strategies to enable a virtually seamless integration process. While other aspects play a significant role in the growth of our business, marking, analysis, management and clinical operations have become lean processes. Ultimately, these all work together to consistently tap into new patient sources and maintain healthy revenue and profitability," Dr. Walsh said.

Dr. Joseph Mitchell of Claremore, Ok., has also found that new and creative solutions have brought new patients through his door. "The most effective things I have done to attract new patients were the patient newsletter, personal letters to patients and [placing] newspaper ads about specific conditions rather than generic ads about chiropractic. I've also found that it helps to study various methods of treatment and incorporate new methods and techniques," said Dr. Mitchell.

Many of you suggested finding your niche was the ticket to growing your business. "Treat all those seeking your care, but find your passion and focus on it. In today's world, we all need to specialize to some degree or another," said Dr. Daniel Wills from Columbua, Ohio. "Word travels fast, specialize to succeed. You will have more fun in practice because you are seeing more of the type of patients you enjoy seeing. Your passion will be contagious and you will grow."

Keep the Patients You Have

Of course, one of the best ways to make sure your practice is a success, is to keep the patients you have. "Simple, the most comments I hear from patients is that I provide the care they need, no more, no less. They come back and they refer often," said Dr. Dale Giessman of Brentwood, Calif.

Dr. Steve Engen from Kearney, Neb., agrees. "The most effective thing I did in 2011 to 'get' new patients was to take good care of my current patient base. Or course, number one is effectively addressing their immediate health care concerns. Knowing how to properly fix a functional hiatal hernia or reset a slipped bicipital tendon is very important for patients who have them," said Dr. Engen. "Improving their stress resistance with your clinical nutrition knowledge is also always advisable; as is addressing soft tissue stability in all joint instability patient problems. When your patients know that your concerns are for improving their quality of life, they will almost 'demand' that their friends and relatives come to see you with their problems."

Just Ask

Many of you also said the best strategy was simple to ask your existing patients for referrals. "When you release a patient to maintenance care, you simple ask for them to refer someone to fill the vacancy in your schedule. Also, on each subsequent visit, ask about their family and friends and how they can benefit from care," said Dr. Vernon Englund from Oroville, Calif. "Another methodology is to contact Pastors and Priests and give them complimentary care as they contact hurting people each and every day. If you don't make a practice of asking for patients, your current patients may think you're too busy for new patients. This also works if you train your staff to try and fill any slow times in your schedule."

Dr. John Brennan from Oakdale, Calif., believes, "the best way to get new patients is through word of mouth referral. Treat your patients honestly and to the best of your ability. Avoid practice building scams like over x-raying, over treating and over charging, and you will build a successful family-oriented, ethical practice."

Know Your Community

"I have been a member of a networking group that meets for breakfast every week and is affiliated with a chamber of commerce," said Dr. Benjamin Griffes of Tarzana, Calif. "The other members of the group are my 'sales force,' and in 2011 I got an eight-fold return on my investment of monthly fees and chamber dues, with all the new patients I received in referrals, plus the regular care I give to the established patients. Every week, I educate my sales team on what I do, what and how chiropractic works and the type of patients I'm looking for. It's fun, easy and convenient."

Dr. Louis Sportelli from Pennsylvania believes that the most effective tool is community service and understanding what is important to the community you are serving. Each community you serve has a different attitude and different priorities. While one community might thrive on a local sports team (high school or professional), another community might provide a more urban vibe and thrive on the local business community and meeting whatever needs they have. "Nothing gets your name around more than participating (notice I did not say joining) a civic group and becoming active, energizing the group with your involvement," said Dr. Sportelli.

"Hospital groups, sports activities and those groups involved with health care are particularly good groups to participate in because they provide an introduction for you in an arena where you are not seeking or soliciting patients but rather are delivering and participating in service to others. Many will recognize your service and word will soon get around town that you are a willing participant in the community. There are simple a thousand ways to give back something to your community, from groups that want to preserve historic sites to civic groups and little league sports. Giving back is just something you do because it is the right thing to do. It's funny how things just seem to come back tenfold. People will long remember your involvement and it will give them an opportunity to meet you in a non-office environment which helps remove fear," continued Dr. Sportelli.

Whether you offer new or unique products and services from massage therapy to physical therapy or nutrition counseling, or you ask every person that comes through your door for five referrals, professional and compassionate care are the common denominators. Becoming an active member of your community and reaching out to many different groups within that community also proved to be an important factor in bringing new patients into your office. But, perhaps the best advice and what really came through in many of these responses, comes from Dr. Gary Sherman of New Jersey. "The best way to attract new patients is to give outstanding care to your existing patients. It really is that simple."

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