(Today’s post is by my colleague Dr. Jonathan Walker, creator of PI Marketing Elite.)
With the current healthcare climate, it is vital for chiropractors to have diversified streams of practice income. One easy way to diversify your practice is by increasing the number of personal injury (PI) patients you see.
But even with a successful PI practice you’ve got to have multiple referral streams. Putting all of your eggs in one basket, such as relying on one attorney or one advertisement, is a recipe for disaster.
Family doctors can be one of your top sources of good quality PI patients. The key is earning their trust which in turn turns them into a valued referral source.
The average family doctor will not even examine a recently injured PI patient, even if they are already established in the practice. If they are not willing to evaluate accident patients, you want to be the place they refer these patients too.
Even if they do perform an initial evaluation on these PI patients, you still want to be the number one choice for their long term rehabilitation and follow up care.
To co-manage patients with general practitioners, it’s important that you address any potential obstacles they might have with referring to chiropractors. Knowing these pitfalls allow you to deal with them beforehand.
Here are the 3 biggest concerns MDs have when referring to you:
Concern #1: The Cannibalize My Patient Concern
The first concern they often have is that you will tell the patient that they don’t need to go back to their family doctor. This is very easy to overcome, since very few chiropractors would tell their patients this in the first place! I simply let the family doctors know that “We find that patients do the best when their chiropractor and family doctor are working together and are on the same page.”
This does not mean that you cannot talk with your patients about natural health and wellness, or even alternatives to some of the prescription drugs they take. However you should make sure that any decisions regarding changes to these medications are made by the primary care provider. This is important to ensure that you are working within the scope of your license, as well as a professional courtesy to their family doctor.
I also send an initial report to the doctor indicating the initial diagnoses, treatment plan, and a remark letting them know that if the patient is not showing progress as expected they will be referred to additional specialists or for further diagnostic testing.
All of the physicians I’ve talked to have said they genuinely appreciate the updates, but they like these reports to be very brief. These reports let them know that you are comfortable working with other physicians, and lets them know you’ll refer when appropriate. It also puts your name in front of them. To really capitalize on these patient reports you can personally deliver them and introduce yourself to the doctor’s staff.
Concern #2: Lack of Chiropractic Knowledge
The second concern that keeps MDs from referring auto accident cases is simply a general lack of familiarity with what chiropractors do and how we can help trauma patients. I am constantly amazed with how little many family doctors know about musculoskeletal conditions, and even less about chiropractic.
Our profession has made a lot of strides in recent years when it comes to educating other healthcare professionals on the benefits of chiropractic care, but we have a long way to go. I have found that many MDs are very interested and willing to learn about chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, and dietary supplements. An effective way to provide this information is with a research newsletter mailed or emailed out monthly. Summarizing the findings of a new research paper is a good way to expose them to the science that validates what we do. You can write these newsletters yourself or use one of the many services that provide them for you.
Concern #3: Chiropractors Use High-Pressure, Sales Techniques
Finally, I have found that there is often a perception that chiropractors will use high-pressure techniques to sign their patients onto long-term treatment plans.
The literature clearly demonstrates the need for lengthy periods of treatment and rehabilitation for whiplash cases. So I am not opposed to extensive treatment when it is necessary and validated with good documentation.
But the way you present this care can go a long way in how it is perceived, both by the patient and the referring physician. When I meet a new physician who is a potential referral source, I say something like this…
“When a patient comes in for an evaluation, if they are a good candidate for treatment, we start with a trial course of care. This is usually several weeks, and at the end we re-assess them to see what type of progress has been made. If they are showing improvement, we begin spacing out the time between visits and incorporate a stability rehab program that they can do at home.”
This is exactly what most chiropractors are already doing, but how it’s communicated can make a big difference!