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September, 2012

Implementing New Modalities: Why Staff is Key

By Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA

Successful integration of new therapies into your practice can be hit or miss depending on your strategy. It takes more than simply using the modality to make a positive impact on your clinical and financial outcomes. Following a system of implementing new modalities you can easily put into action brings an air of excitement and enthusiasm to your office. Oftentimes, it's the office enthusiasm that ends up being the most financially beneficial rather than the modality itself. Think of how the world reacts when Apple releases a new product or upgrades one we already love. People camp out on the street in front of the Apple Store for days just to be one of the first to own a new iPhone. Now that's enthusiasm. But what are they really buying? It's really just a phone. It does what almost every other phone does on the market.

Apple is brilliant at connecting with and communicating value to their customers on "how" Apple products improve their lives. It's never been about the phone. It's always been about the "why" of choosing that particular phone. Apple product users are intimately connected to the company. It's a visceral connection that gives new meaning to the words raving fans. Apple Store employees are absolute juggernauts of information and high energy. They personally use the products and are the biggest raving fans. You can feel the infectious atmosphere of fun as soon as you walk into a store. What can we learn from Apple to help us in the world of healthcare and implementing new modalities into your care program? Everything!

The iPhone is a product. Modalities are a product. Apple Store employees are on the frontlines interacting with customers. Your staff is on the frontlines interacting with patients. There is no difference between the two worlds. Patients are really customers and customers can choose to purchase a product or service from anyone. Their decision is rarely if ever based on price, but is based on value. If you bring value to the marketplace and answer the fundamental need of how your services can make a difference in your patients life, they will stay with you.

Choosing a Modality

How do you choose a modality to integrate into your clinical treatment protocols? Why do you want to use a specific modality to help your patients? The answers to these questions are fundamental in how you will communicate value to patients. It is all too common for practices to become initially excited for a new therapy or modality only to see it sitting in the corner unused a short time later. Don't simply choose a modality because everyone else is using it in their practice. Have a reason for introducing the therapy. People are very perceptive in observing if you are truly passionate about what you do and if you truly believe in your ability to help them. Choose a modality that you have personally experienced. A modality that resonates on a personal level with you or has made an improvement in the life of someone you know. You communicate more from the heart when you have personally experienced something and it transcends words. You now have an emotional connection to the product which makes it easier to talk with patients about its benefits.

Staff is the secret weapon to integrating new modalities into your office. They will be the raving fan messengers to your patients. Your staff is on the frontlines every day interacting with patients on a personal level that you don't often get to see. Patients will tell staff things they may not necessarily tell the doctor. Every staff member should be introduced to the new modality so they understand the how, what, where, when and who before you introduce it to patients. If your staff does not whole-heartedly support and believe in your new modality the long term chances of success become slim. Schedule a staff meeting to unveil the new modality and have them experience an actual treatment.

An Example

Here is an example using laser therapy as a modality.

  • Tell them why you decided to add laser therapy to the office. "We are introducing laser therapy into our practice to bring added value to our patients using the best in technological advances."
  • Tell them what laser therapy does and how it helps alleviate pain. They must be able to communicate this to patients when they ask what the laser therapy does. Patients will often ask the staff what they think about the new modality and what others are saying about it.
  • Ask their opinion. "Our most difficult cases will be the first to experience the laser therapy. Do you have recommendations on who should get the therapy?" The idea is to get your staff involved with the implementation.
  • Every staff member should get a laser therapy treatment so they can experience it personally. Now they are equipped to communicate on a much different level.
  • Role play on discussing the laser therapy with patients as they are escorted to the treatment rooms and give them informational pamphlets/brochures.

Schedule a special orientation and educational workshop about your modality for targeted patients and the community. If your modality is targeted towards a specific condition, this is a unique way to establish a connection with a demographic. Perhaps it is a modality for the treatment of lower back discogenic pain. Your target market is now focused on this one condition. This niche marketing helps connect with people who are searching for answers to their problem and you now have an opportunity to educate them on why your office is the place for them to go. Offer special workshop treatments to attendees with an incentive to begin a therapy program.

The Introduction

Introduce your new modality via social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, blogs, newsletters and websites. Take the opportunity to connect with your followers about the new addition to your clinic. They will be ambassadors for helping your message go viral about the new modality. Encourage your patients that receive treatment to post comments on their social media outlets of their positive response. Their followers will now be exposed to the new technology in your office. This strategy automatically elevates your credibility factor because of the personal relationship you have with the patients. Take video of the new modality in action and post it on your social media sites. Film testimonial videos of your patients and loop in your waiting room. The attention span of people today is very short so keep the videos to no more than two minutes.

How you talk about the modality to patients forms the perceived value of the treatment. People make decisions emotionally and then justify it later with logic. When introducing a new modality you must connect on an emotional level with your patients about the benefits. Why should they care? It's the Apple story in full swing. Tell your patients how the modality will get them back to doing what they love without pain. For example, if we go back to the laser therapy modality example you may say something like this: "This laser speeds up the healing process so you can get back to running faster, and it also regenerates tissue so you are less likely to get hurt again." What person would not want to experience those positive results? Establish a personal connection and value factor with each client that goes beyond simply reducing pain. How can their lives be made better or simpler with your modality?

Inherently people do not like change. They resist something that is new and different. Because people are hesitant to embrace change, it is recommended to slowly integrate your modality into the practice instead of doing a shock and awe approach. Initially use the modality on very select patients. Use it on your "sneezers." What is a sneezer? A sneezer is a patient who tells everyone about your practice and refers by word of mouth. They have an outgoing energetic personality and they take your message viral, just like a sneeze. The message spreads everywhere. You will discover patients start asking you if they can get a treatment with the modality. It's the crowd mentality. People want what other people have and want to belong to a group.

New modalities can be transformational for the health of your patient's and your practice. Don't think of a new modality as just another piece of equipment you can use during a treatment. Perceived relevance is always the underlying factor in getting someone to embrace your services, otherwise known as the "what's in it for me" question. The takeaway lesson is really very simple. Practice success comes when you realize it's never been about the "how" of getting someone well (modality, technique, treatments, etc), it's always about the "why." Discover why someone needs the new modality or any of your other services and you have the secret weapon changing their lives.

Click here for more information about Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA.

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