CF 088: Closing Patients – Helpful or Destructive?
Today we’re going to talk about what closing patients in chiropractic
But first, here’s that oh how sweet it is bumper music
OK, we are back with some important information to make you better which makes your patients better. Welcome to the podcast today, I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.
You have collapsed into Episode #88
No research today. Only Opinion. I didn’t even include any sponsors in this episode because it might be seen as controversial to an extent and, if there’s some sort of uproar, I don’t want them in the crossfire. Now….
I believe the business of being trusted and an authority of sorts is to be objective. Regular listeners have heard me talk about the medical realm and failed surgeries, etc. I state over and over that I am a chiropractic advocate.
I am an advocate. Just listen to all 87 previous episodes and you will clearly see where I stand on the big stuff. BUT, if we do not have the ability or the honesty to police our own, then we’ll never be able to pull out of red-headed step-child status.
We will forever be ridiculed and mocked. And that’s because the bad apples spoil the whole basket.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to just do a brain dump on a certain topic. I think the last time I did that was back when I talked about religion being brought into chiropractic.
I’ve been seeing more and more terminology like this lately and it’s time to address it and meet it head on.
Let’s get something perfectly straight here: I’m about to piss some people off. Let’s also be clear on the fact that I’m already pissed off so I don’t give a damn if I do. I have been for a while. It’s been stewing and simmering and, after a while, it’s time to talk about it.
Hell that’s the whole point of having a podcast. Promote what I agree with and find value in and spotlight cockroaches when I identify them. Having a platform to sound off on has been so cathartic. You have no idea. It helps in so many ways. It’s probably why I don’t have to go to therapy.
As I have said, I am seeing the term ‘closing patients’ more and more and you know what? I’m mostly seeing it from wannabe gurus that aren’t even freaking chiropractors!!! They are trained at spouting their horns and touting their skills but never bought in enough to actually be a chiropractor. No, they just prey on chiropractors.
Does that register? Closing patients! They’re fine with the term closing and the idea because it’s not their profession, their profession is marketing, so what the hell do they care if they trash the profession and whatever reputation we have scratched out? As long as they continue to fool well-meaning chiropractors into paying them, they don’t give one single damn what it takes.
As I said, the
Here’s the thing: it’s black and white. There’s good and there’s evil. There’s right and there’s wrong. Closing patients is
I posted on our private Chiropractic Forward Facebook group the other day asking for opinions on closing patients. Good, bad, pros, cons, etc.… I value our tribe and their wisdom.
For a more general opinion, I asked in the Chiropractic Facebook group. That’s what it’s called…..just Chiropractic. You’ll find birds of all feathers in there so I figured I’d get some crazy answers and some in the middle answers.
I really didn’t though. It seems that most, if not all, were essentially against the idea of closing patients.
Here’s what I got. Some that I highly respect say that if you’re NOT giving good solid recommendations and the telling them what it costs, then you’re not doing your job.
One colleague wrote that patients want a doctor. Not a friend. Damn straight.
On this, all of us absolutely agree.
Although a report of findings and recommendations and a financial talk could be viewed as closing patients, that’s not necessarily what I mean when I refer to closing patietns. Not in my mind anyway.
Being a doctor certainly comes with the responsibility of telling patients what you think is wrong, what you think they should do to fix it, and how much that would cost. That’s just being an ethical professional regardless of what business we are working in.
I’m talking about manipulation of information and manipulation of emotions to get a desired effect that benefits the practice more than it benefits the patient. That’s what I’m talking about.
There was a reason I never really got down a good report of findings. It’s because I never felt comfortable with it. It never felt right because it wasn’t me. So I just went to what felt right. That doesn’t mean those of you that are good at a report of finding are doing something bad. I’m referring to a closing patients sort of ROF that I was once force fed. That’s what I’m talking about.
What felt right was telling patients what I think, what I recommend, asking them if they have questions, and then getting started. It’s pretty damn simple honestly and I have more patients and business than I can handle.
To tell me that my only way to succeed is to learn tactics and manipulation, we just have to disagree. Our values are not in alignment. Adjust that won’t you?
I heard one guru say that our job is to identify or uncover what the patient’s pain is keeping them from doing or accomplishing and then leveraging that information against them by focusing on that shortfall in order to make a sale. To get a desired outcome.
Really? That’s what my job is? Are you sure? Because I thought it was to give my patients the very best recommendations that I can based on education and experience and then be there to help and guide them regardless. All these years and I was getting it wrong. All I needed was this 20 something person to help me get it right. Insert eye roll.
When closing patients in chiropractic, he says we NEED to be focused on it. For example, if a patient comes to us with back pain, that’s not what we need to focus and work them over about. No….we should be working them over about what the back pain keeps them from doing…..THAT’s what they really care about so THAT’S what we pounce on like a grizzly on a salmon.
So, uncovering the ‘pain point’ of a patient just isn’t something I think smart, capable, educated doctors should be concerning themselves with. It’s called morals and ethics.
They act like being unethical builds the fat wallets so that the fat wallets can further chiropractic. So…..I don’t want that kind of chiropractic being furthered. At all. Not a millimeter. Ever. I want it to die and go away never to be heard from again.
A previous guest on our podcast, Dr. David Graber up in New Jersey is literally one of the smartest people I know and he had this to say about it,
“When the Chiropractic profession started relying on business and sales techniques for practice building they did use approaches to ” close the sale” of care to patients.
It’s a transaction- based approach with a winner and a loser. It’s positioned the doctor-patient relationship as a competition or Confrontation. This became especially prominent with long-term care and prepayments plans.
The alternative is open the relationship rather than close the sale, because there’s nothing to sell. A report of findings now is exactly that, a report of findings and options given. Respect for the patient’s autonomy in decision-making and service over sales. It’s becoming a partner not a competitor with our patients.”
He’s so damned smart. I wish I could have the eloquence to put things the way he does. He makes it look easy.
What he’s talking about is being patient-centered, not doctor-centered. That’s really the whole point of the whole damn episode I think. Being a partner with our patients is being patient-centered. Not dominating them through whatever means necessary.
If you think some chiropractors’ shenanigans aren’t making it online? You’re crazy. People are posting it everywhere. Names, dates, events, quoting the doctors word for word. Things don’t happen in a vaccuum anymore in the year 2019.
Here are a couple of stories I found on the interwebs while researching this episode about closing patients.
This first one is an experience a woman had when she visited the chiropractor. Luckily, she didn’t swear off chiropractors completely after the experience but who could have blamed her if she did?
She preframed this sucker as a cautionary tale to all those who are easily persuaded by emotional sales pitches. She went to a fair and got on one of those spine check doohickeys that checks balance from one side to the other and high shoulders and all that crap.
The lady told he she was carrying 9 more pounds of weight on one side of the body than the other and her head is 2 inches too far forward and one shoulder is higher causing her head to tilt the other way to compensate.
All of the sudden, a care-free girl out shopping at the town fair who stopped to have her spine checked for a little fun change-up in her daily routines is thinking, “Oh damn…this sounds awful.”
No worries though, the chiro office offered her a $20 preliminary screening at the center to include 2 x-rays, a spinal exam, a foot screening….the whole shubang, for $20. Awesome. Way to value your services random chiropractor screening at a town fair that has nothing to do with health.
Luckily for this lady, her husband smelled a skunk.
She went to the appointment, paper work, intial intake with the staff, and then the chiropractor arrives. She asked if she could do a few more exams of the spine. Following this exam, she said in a grave voice that she has some serious concerns about the neck and spine.
IN FACT, she would like to take two more x-rays than scheduled in order to check out a few other things. She reassured me that I wouldn’t need to pay for these x-rays — they would just send the bill to my insurance, and if insurance wouldn’t cover it, they would eat the cost.
The patient thought WOW, they must really care about the well-being of their patients to take this financial risk!
Then, sent home with a follow-up appointment scheduled. Not before the chiro reminder her how urgent it is for her to come back and get treatment started as soon as possible. Makes me want to pull what is left of my hair out of my head.
She left that first appointment sincerely afraid that there was something seriously wrong that only chiropractic was able to fix. She was leaving that first appointment basically in tears. She didn’t sleep at all that night. She was thinking, “What if I lay with my hnead at the wrong angle….would that make her neck even more crooked?”
Follow up appointment, seated in an education room when whe underwent a lesson in the philosophy of chiropractic. They told her that by the time we feel pain, our bodies are down to 40% health which means that if we feel healthy, we really aren’t. Holy guacamole. Crap fire and just save the damn matches won’t you?
All of our illnesses come down to subluxation which only chiropractic has the answer for, blah blah blah.
Then the x-rays. These are her exact words, “First we looked at the before and after x-rays of people whose lives and health were transformed at the Wellness Center.
Next we compared *healthy* spines (people who have regular readjustments) with *unhealthy* spines (people who just don’t care about their health and don’t want to live past 65).
Finally, we looked at the x-rays of a few tragic people who did not get the treatment they needed and whose spines were COMPLETELY COMPACTED. Dr. Amy then asked if I was ready to go look at my films — and I responded by bursting into tears.
She goes on, “When I saw my x-rays, my first thought was, “Wow, it’s not as bad as I thought! My spine doesn’t look like a 70-year-old!” But still lurking was the shadow of what might be — the ghost of future spines, if you will — if I didn’t pursue a full chiropractic treatment plan.
Dr. Amy and I talked through my x-rays, and I learned that my spine is only at stage one degeneration (something they NEVER see in a 28-year-old!) — in other words, still terrible, but treatable.
By this time she was fully convinced that
- I needed chiropractic care,
- it should start right away,
- this Wellness Center should be the one to offer this care, and
- it would save my life.
Guess what she got….you just guess! That’s right, she got a 12-week treatment plan, 3 visits a week for the low low basement bargain price of $2,800.
The office, because they’re so giving and kind and genuinely caring offered her an 18-month payment plan at $140/month. For treatment she didn’t even need in the first damn place!!
Remember, even if you don’t hurt, you’re still sick? Good Lord jumpin’ jehovah. The lady told the doc that she needed to run it by her hubs before signing a contract. Like a contract belongs in healthcare in the first place but whatever. It’s outlawed now. At least in Texas.
Anyway, the doc told her to come back the next day with her husband so that he could get a free screening with x-rays as well. Lol. These people. The hubs wasn’t buying it. She couldn’t believer her husband wasn’t more concerned that she was 28 years old and already had stage I degeneration of her spine!
He talked her down, she went and finally did some of her own research, and realized she had took a big swig of the snake oil.
Yes, of course chiropractic could have helped her with her neck that had been a bit sore recently. Yes, a chiropractor’s office was exactly where she belonged. But no, not in an office like that where she was manipulated emotionally and almost financially.
Here’s a lovely ditty about one of those beloved ‘free dinners with the doc.” Ugh. That’s a whole different episode, isn’t it?
Anyway, here’s what happened. the first thing is that the flyer advertising all but hid the fact that a chiropractor was the presenter.
Quoted in this article was Robert Puleo of the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners. He said, ““It reeks of snake oil. There are some chiropractors out there who want to make a buck any way they can.” And: “The chiropractor holding such seminars tries to sign people up for months of office visits that can cost thousands of dollars.”
Ummm….yes. Exactly. You think chiropractors keep buying dinner because they’re nice people? Hell no. They’re trying to scare people into a close and a sale.
The attendee to the dinner mentioned in the article said it consisted of four parts:
- Trust building – that’s where the presenter talks about their education and why they’re super double awesome and should be trusted. Can I just say that I immediately do not trust someone giving a free meal to prospective targets? I just don’t. Regardless of education.
- Medicine bashing – This is where they talk about the inefficiency and poor quality of the US healthcare system. You all know the dance. I know that waltz myself. I can tell you all kinds of numbers and frame out the inefficiencies in a bunch of different ways. When it’s there, it’s there and I don’t mind that dance because they don’t mind bashing on chiropractors all of the time.
- The product being sold – he was selling some laser therapy for neuropathy. The same stuff I believe that I just saw where an LA doc was on TV being accused of selling stuff that doesn’t work. Guess what? That dude was selling at a free dinner as well. I just never wanted to be a salesman. I just wanted to be a doctor and help people. Maybe I’m crazy.
- Recommending consultations – Basically come see me at the office for $29 so I can sell you on thousands. Whne the attendee asked how much the laser service costs, he was told, “Oh, the doctor sets that amount.” So…..you can’t just tell me the cost? And…is there a dual fee schedule? Like, the doctor sets different costs? Because it it’s not a dual fee schedule, then the price is already set and, in that case, you should be able to simply tell me the price. Right?
I guess being upfront, transparent, and honest doesn’t quite fit into the dessert menu does it?
Last thing I’ll touch on is the RELIGIOUS ROF – For a more extensive exploration of this, listen to episode #61 of this podcast. It covers it at length but, in short, I’m a Christian so let’s not think I’m an atheist bashing on Christians. That would be a biased discussion wouldn’t it?
This is a non-biased discussion about it so settle down fellow Christians.
Here is a script from a management company that uses or used a person’s faith against them to close a sale, ““Mary, I’m concerned. I’m really concerned about you. When you don’t continue your plan to remove the subluxations that are interfering with God’s life force allowing it to innately flow from above down through your body in order to heal you, you’re not allowing God to do his part and heal your body. I understand that it’s hard getting here…but I have an opening at 5:30 tonight so we’ll see you then and let’s get you that life-saving adjustment tonight ok?”
You can’t make it up and, as a Christian, I find it dissappointing to say the very least that a fellow Christian would think this sort of manipulation and sales tactics is permissable in any way, shape, form, or fashion.
It’s just awful. All for the sake of closing a sale. Are we really that desperate? Obviously some at least think they are and maybe there’s no other way to make money.
You want to know how to build a company? How to build trust in a brand? I’ll share it right here. Instead of the religious manipulation script I just read, say this:
“Mary, I’d never try to tell someone how to spend their money or how to take care of themselves because that’s none of my business. My job is to tell you what I think would be the best for you based on the idea that you live right next door and have no travel concerns, and you have all of the time and money in the world. What would I think would be best for you? Then there’s reality and my job is to be here for you however you want to use me. We don’t hassle our patients about their recommendations. Just do me a favor if you can’t do what I recommend, don’t tell people that chiropractic didn’t work. OK? Tell them you weren’t able to do what the chiropractor recommended. Is that fair?”
See how simple it is?
Look, we all want to get rich while we help change the lives of our patients. But where does the switch happen where it’s OK to work patients to the point of emotional breakdown just so that they’ll sign up for countless visits over the course of a year or more? How does that switch go from being a new doc excited to work with the population into a manipulative street corner huckster schooled in the art of emotional manipulation?
How does that moral compass get swapped approximately 180 degrees to the point that money is more important than superior patient care? And….reputation. I would argue that your reputation absolutely precedes you. Especially the smaller the town or area that you practice.
One of my very respected colleagues, Dr. Gregg Friedman, who also happens to be a nationally known speaker, shared this thought with me when I asked about closing, “Closing a patient” looks like a sales technique and makes me want to puke. It does not create a positive image of chiropractic in the minds of the public we strive to serve. Just my opinion.” Spot on, nailed it.
There are about 45 chiropractors in my area give or take. I know how about 80% of them practice because patients tell me. I’ll bet about 80% of those chiropractors know how I practice. For better or worse. I say worse because they only see my failures and I only see theirs. BUT….we still have a general idea of who the chiros in our area are, how they practice, and if they’re reputable.
Basically, would you send you brother, sister, or mom to them? How about your child? If you’d send your family member to yourself, maybe you’re in a good spot. I can’t answer that. If you have systems set in place that manipulate information, manipulate a patient’s emotions, and manipulate words to make the practice a lot of money……and you’d still send you kid to that…..we need to talk.
Let’s dive in a little bit more. Now, those of you that use this, and firmly believe in it, are going to be pissed right now.
“Who the hell is this guy, what make him think he can question this or that, blah blah blah?”. I’ll tell you who I am. Nobody particularly special is who I am. In many ways I’m no smarter than the people that use some of this stuff. In some ways I am.
I’m a bit of a research nerd – a dude with what I like to hope is an EDUCATED opinion and I’m a dude with an opinion that just happens to have figured out how to record and air podcasts, build a crowd, and talk about his opinions. That’s all. If you don’t like my opinion, go get your own podcast and crowd, go figure that out and talk about what’s important to you.
There are already lots of them out there. Go call your company something like Chiro Closers, hustling chiros, chiro shrimp, or cervical correction academy specialist association or whatever the hell you can come up with that gets attention, or sounds important. Hell, I have half a mind to buy the domain www.chiroclosersareus.com and just have a landing page that says,
“Hey, welcome…I’m not selling you anything. I just want you to know that closing people in healthcare is not patient-centered, it’s not quality care, it’s not being the doctor that you are, and you can be just as successful if you be the doctor, diagnose well, make good responsible recommendations for care, be a partner with your patient in their recovery, be sincere, really really care about them, and then be there however they decide they want to use you.”
Bam….secret to success nugget.
Right there. If you didn’t listen or zoned off, rewind that about 15 seconds. You don’t have to buy it packaged up a million different ways from wannabe gurus. It’s really so so simple folks.
Back to the point: One of the most common reasons for big money, long-term plans I hear from patients when we’re talking about their previous chiropractor was that they saw an x-ray of their neck and it was straight. And to get that curve back, it was going to take 65 visits over 14 months at a cost of $4,500 (I’m making those numbers up but you get the point). All to get that curve back.
Now, can we be honest a sec? You can go tell me to jump in the river. You can tell me I’m only about treating pain..and you’d have a fair point… You can call me a medipractor. You can call me whatever names you like but be serious, thoughtful, and maybe even non-philosophical for a minute.
I believe, and my experience suggests, that a straighter curve is a consequence of simply being alive for a whole bunch of years. I believe that not having a curve when a patient is 50 years old is NOT going to impact their lives so much that they need to pay me as much as a surgical co-pay would be for surgery? What if I improve the curve a few degrees? Is it really that big of a deal that made that big of a difference?
The ONLY research I’ve seen on straight necks that made much sense was more recent. We covered it here on the podcast. It said it may lead to some degeneration of I believe it was C6/7 but, overall, impact of it was minimal.
Other research you may have seen on this may come from other gurus that have conducted their own research.
How nice is it to be able to say you conduct your own research, not have it peer reviewed or published in any respected journals, and then say it backs up your method so that people buy your products? That’s nice. Funny how that stuff works right? And so convenient.
THAT’S what I mean by manipulating information.
Let’s re-visit the title of this episode. Just repeat it a time or two. Closing patients. Let’s add a couple of words. Closing patients on care.
For me, that’s an oxymoron. If you care, are you going to manipulate patients with words and emotions? The correct answer is hell no you’re not.
Put yourself in the patient’s place real quick.
Do you, in a healthcare setting, EVER wish to be closed? Other than an incision of course…. as my good friend Dr. Tyce Hergert in Southlake, TX says. Lol.
The answer is no. At least I sure as hell don’t want to be closed. Not under the fear of losing my ability to function 30 years in the future. Not under a fear like that that no research I’ve ever seen can back up.
As mentioned above, you want to be told what is wrong, you want to know how to fix it, and you want to know how much that costs. You might be interested in any other treatment options as well. You might want to know if you could just undergo a trial period of treatment first to see how you respond to care before deciding on anything else.
ALL OF THOSE should be on the table and your patient should know that, at the end of the day, your job is to be the doctor and give them your best recommendations while also understanding that you are there to help them to the best of your ability regardless of what they decide.
Again, we should be our patients’ partners, not their boss, not dominating them, not running the show regardless.
In the end, remember the three pillars of a patient-centered, evidence-informed practice. They are of course, 1) the best external evidence, 2) individual clinical expertise, and 3) get this…..pay attention….patient values and expectations.
Not the doctors values and expectations.
Key Takeaways: be a partner with your patients. Do not be a domineering, street corner snake oil salesman. Please. Those that do this give all of us a bad reputation. I have gone through the DACO diplomate program. Countless chiropractors around the globe highly educate themselves and take great pride in the results they can get for their patients.
When you go about business like we’ve been discussing here, you discredit all of us almost immediately in the minds of those patients. Who then turn around and tell their family and friends and then go and post it on their blogs or tell a TV reporter about it who then tells everyone in the world in one way or another.
Cut your crap. Enough is enough.
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I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment instead of chemical treatments like pills and shots.
When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show that many patients get good or excellent results through chiropractic for headaches, neck pain, back pain, joint pain, to name just a few.
Chiropractic care is safe and cost-effective. It can decrease instances of surgery & disability. Chiropractors normally do this through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal time requirements or hassle to the patient.
And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward from initial recovery, chiropractors can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health of the patient!
Patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment offering the least harm.
Send us an email at dr dot williams at chiropracticforward.com and let us know what you think of our show or tell us your suggestions for future episodes. Feedback and constructive criticism is a blessing and so are subscribes and excellent reviews on iTunes and other podcast services. Y’all know how this works by now so help if you don’t mind taking a few seconds to do so.
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We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.
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About the Author & Host
Dr. Jeff Williams – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger