Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Nutrabites: Your In-office Dispensary

By Victoria Coleman   

Features Nutrition Wellness

The focus of this instalment of Nutrabites is not going to be on nutrients to enhance your patients’ health but on the benefits of incorporating a small dispensary into your practice setting.

The focus of this instalment of Nutrabites is not going to be on nutrients to enhance your patients’ health but on the benefits of incorporating a small dispensary into your practice setting.

In my early days of practice, I simply referred to the local health-food store when I wanted one of my patients to purchase a supplement I felt would improve their health. Over time, I became frustrated with the confusion my patients expressed when I left them to their own devices to obtain what I recommended. Too often, they did not experience the clinical effects I was expecting from using what I recommended, because they had purchased the wrong product, had chosen the incorrect strength, or had bought a poor-quality product. I realized that without much effort I could easily provide to them a one-stop-shop service right there in my office. By offering a top-of-the-line health professional calibre product that had the concentrations I knew reflected the research, had been tested for purity and potency, and was the strength and dosing I wanted them to receive, I basically removed all the guesswork they were struggling with when I left them to do this on their own. I quickly realized how convenient my patients found this, how much more compliant they were with my recommendations, and hence how much better the clinical outcome was for their health experience. I also inadvertently realized the revenue benefit I had created for my business.


I think it is important to note that, as chiropractors, we are the ones who should understand the physiology of our health, especially in the area of bone/joint health, inflammation, cartilage and connective tissue repair – at the very least. It is not about holding a degree in clinical nutrition or understanding the nature of every health condition that may benefit from a supplement; we have strong allied health-care colleagues such as naturopathic doctors to refer to for that. However, we should understand a good-quality multivitamin may eliminate the many nutrient deficiencies commonly seen; or how important a good supplement of calcium/ magnesium and vitamin D is to bone health; or that our requirements for nutrients for cartilage repair become increased with age and how glucosamine/cartilage product may assist in this repair.

Setting up a dispensary may seem like a daunting task with inventory and software nightmares, but this is not the case. Offering the most commonly discussed products in the chiropractic office, such as a joint repair, essential fatty acid fish oil, calcium/magnesium and multivitamins can be very simple. Most patient management software programs offer inventory modules that will easily track a dispensary. The dispensary need not be a mini health-food store but can be streamlined and practice-appropriate. Most of all, it will be convenient and accessible to your patient’s needs.

From a revenue potential standpoint, it simply makes sense. Your patients have busy lifestyles – they trust you as their doctor to do the homework for their health-care needs and make it as easy as possible for them to follow your recommendations. For your part, you should be compensated appropriately for doing so. With patient visits-per-week decreasing in previous years, and the ongoing reduction in third-party reimbursement, it has become more challenging for chiropractors to maintain their earnings. Providing sound advice and offering quality, doctor-endorsed products to enhance your patients’ outcomes is a very beneficial way to enhance the business health of your clinic.

To better demonstrate the revenue potential that can be generated from offering a few of the most commonly recommended supplements, I surveyed a few chiropractic clinics that are not nutrition or supplement focused, by any means, but do offer the “basics” to their patients.

One clinic in Ontario that averages 300 patient visits per week grosses $405,000 per year; of this, $20,000 is from supplements sales. This represents five per cent of the gross revenue. Another clinic in Alberta, one that is not a full-time practice, grosses $150,000 per year, with an annual revenue from supplement sales of $14,000, representing nine per cent of the gross revenue. Another clinic that had a strong focus on offering supplement care, but still only concentrates on the basic products previously listed, had a gross revenue of $168,000 year, with a dispensary income of $30,000, representing 17 per cent of the gross revenue. I offer these examples simply to show the potential for residual passive revenue that is generated, without much effort or time management.

I should also note these examples are from clinics that do not market their product offerings or mark products up to the suggested retail pricing! It has already been shown that supplements improve patients’ health, and that patients are more likely to implement your recommendations immediately and be compliant with these recommendations when they are offered right in the office setting.

The other obvious advantage of carrying your own supplements is the control over quality that you have regarding what your patients are taking. Monitoring their use of these products you have recommended provides you with assurance that your patients are indeed following your health-care advice.

This, again, need not be complicated. Work with a company that offers you the top products that a chiropractor should recommend and that have a history of producing the best clinical results. Start with a small order of 12 bottles of the product and, when ordering these, have in mind at least six patients you would recommend the product to. Have an additional note in their file on supplement recommendations to record what you have suggested and when they purchase.

A simple stand-alone shelf is all that is needed to store the product. Very little room is necessary to dedicate to this offering unless you decide to grow your dispensary offerings over time. Most companies understand the variety of needs that clinics will have, and therefore do not demand minimum orders to open accounts. Ordering one bottle or 12 bottles should ensure the flexibility you require to meet your individual clinic’s needs.

This is often the piece of the puzzle doctors forget, and, again, it can be done very simply. Supplements sell themselves, but if you want to increase your sales, take it to the next level – good marketing can really help.

Ask the company to provide a few empty bottles of the products you offer and simply place them in the adjusting areas, allowing for patients to touch and feel the product and indeed know you have them conveniently available. It is also a very good idea to place the product data sheets (provided by most companies) describing the products in a small binder in your reception area for your patients to read while waiting. Many companies also will provide product DVDs for in-office educational systems. Consider a supplement questionnaire in your intake form to better understand how many more than of your patients are already using supplements. Potentially 65 per cent are already using supplements, and often they are not using the best-quality products. An intake will assist you in learning these details.

There is no need to review that supplements can assist your patients’ health and improve their clinical outcomes. That has been researched and the evidence supports several recommendations of nutraceutical use. As a health-care provider, it is prudent to understand what makes most sense for your patients with regard to the care you provide, and offering this service should provide an increased business benefit to your clinic.

The most dedicated doctors know the value they bring to their patients with their health-care services. They also understand health care is a business that needs to be properly monetized and that passive revenue from a small dispensary is an appropriate way to enhance not only the health of the patient but also the business health of the clinic.

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