The first years in practice are often filled with challenge, always
filled with learning, and usually quite exhilarating. It is a time of
tremendous growth as you build your practice from patient zero toward a
steady stream of dedicated patients.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy
The first years in practice are often filled with challenge, always filled with learning, and usually quite exhilarating. It is a time of tremendous growth as you build your practice from patient zero toward a steady stream of dedicated patients. It may be likened to a new marriage – all new and exciting with a strong commitment to making it work. Now flash forward five or 10 years in time. You have an established clinic, a good reputation, and a consistent routine. Are you still satisfied or are you missing that old spark of excitement you experienced in the early days?
|Laser treatment on a patient in clinic.
Of course there is comfort in the consistency of an established practice, but there is challenge and energy in effecting change. If you are ready to make a change, there are many choices available. You can learn a new technique, renovate, relocate, add a new service or a new practitioner. The challenge is in selecting a good fit for you and your practice. Take your time and choose wisely if you are looking for a new direction for your practice. Ask yourself: will this change give me a renewed enthusiasm for practice? Will it be of interest to my patients? Will it help grow my practice? Does it have long-lasting appeal to both myself and my patients?
In this article, I would like to talk about making transitions in practice by sharing with you the changes that I have made in my own practice, why I chose these innovations and how they have worked for me and my patients.
CHOOSING CHANGE – FROM WELLNESS CLINIC TO LASER CLINIC
The path I chose took me through a significant shift in philosophy and patient care model.
After 10 years as a wellness practitioner treating mostly spinal conditions and using
hands-on techniques, I was ready for my change. I decided to advance in the area of technology by bringing cold laser therapy into my practice. Incorporating laser as a primary modality in practice helped me grow as a practitioner, and has moved my practice in new directions. I’ve studied the technology and learned the art of treating with laser. I’ve increased my knowledge in extremity and sports injury treatments, including orthopedic tests and presenting symptoms, as having the laser has attracted this demographic of patients into my clinic. I have increased my base of seniors, a booming population, since I have a new tool that works so effectively for those suffering from painful, chronic arthritis. I have attracted patients seeking “needle-less acupuncture” since my laser is equipped with a laser acupuncture probe.
Making this change has not only attracted new laser patients to my clinic, it has also increased the number of chiropractic patients whom I have been able to treat. Once comfortable in the clinic, and with me as their health practitioner, these new patients often shift from laser treatments alone to a combined program of chiropractic care and laser therapy. Educating these patients about chiropractic is much easier from the inside. The change from a wellness practice to a laser centre also has served as a perfect opportunity to recall inactive chiropractic patients by sending out a newsletter or e-mail announcing this exciting clinic news.
Rebranding my practice as a technologically advanced centre has also opened doors to new medical referral sources. Most medical doctors are more comfortable with technology than they are with a healing profession that has been around for a 150 years! This has provided me with a renewed opportunity to meet with doctors and specialists, many of whom would not have referred for chiropractic care alone.
Change requires decision making, planning and execution. In shifting from a wellness clinic to a laser centre there were a few key areas that had to be addressed.
Redesigning the patient care model. In our centre, laser became the primary modality. For acute or chronic injuries, the laser was used for the first two weeks of care to address the key issues in healing musculoskeletal injuries: decreasing pain, decreasing inflammation and repairing tissues. At that point, the patient was re-examined. Chiropractic would then be integrated into care for any conditions that were not responding to laser or that had not reached maximal recovery. Of course, there are exceptions, namely, cases where spinal dysfunction clearly had to be addressed from the start of treatment with chiropractic.
Training for clinic staff. Staff should be knowledgeable and comfortable with any new changes to a clinic. Hopefully, they will be as enthusiastic about your changes as you are. In our clinic, all staff received complete training on our new technology, including applications and full operation, regardless of their role in the clinic. The reception staff required this knowledge, as well, to confidently transfer information to callers and patients. Chiropractic Health Assistants (CHAs) required the training so they could assist with treatments when required. Learning new skills is refreshing, to most employees, and fundamental to personal and professional growth.
Laser centre marketing. The direction you choose to take your practice in can take many forms but the key to getting the word out about these new directions is marketing. If you have a significant patient base, you may choose to keep costs low by sending an e-mail notice to all your active and inactive patients. Marketing externally costs more, but brings in new patients.
To spread the word about our new laser, we sent unaddressed ad-mailouts to local postal codes, flyers to local businesses, placed ads and an article in a neighbourhood paper, and also sent a notice to all our existing patients and contacts. We redesigned our website and filled it with information on our new service. In future, we plan to look at larger newspapers and radio as marketing tools, since they have been proven to reach wider and larger audiences.
ADVANCING TIMES, ADVANCING OPTIONS
“If the rate of change outside your organization is greater than the rate of change inside your organization, the end is in sight.” – Jack Welch, CEO of GE 1981-2001.
There are certain elements in every practice that must change with the times: billing procedures, insurance, new governing laws, fees, etc. Then, there are changes that are truly the choice of individual practitioners. Practitioners may choose to change the practice because they are feeling stagnant or bored; however, they may choose to redirect in order to keep pace with neighbouring clinics that are setting new standards for patient expectations. A few sparse treatment rooms furnished with old chiropractic benches and a dusty modality may be the picture of clinics of yore. Clinics are now offering everything from in-house pools with swimming lessons, to yoga classes or a full range of esthetic services.
In my case, the simple addition of a cold laser unit helped transform my practice by opening doors to new patients, new referral sources and a new stream of advertising. It provided the perfect marriage of effective modern technology with the tried and true healing of chiropractic. It was the answer to my recent ponderings: Am I satisfied with the status quo in my practice? Am I ready to embrace change? Considering these questions can be a turning point in the career of any practitioner. Finding the answers and the right direction for your change is a process well worth the effort for the professional rewards that will be garnered. •
Dr. Rhonda Mostyn, a chiropractor and certified laser technician, is the clinic director at Theralase, a leading Canadian manufacturer and distributor of cold lasers. As director, she oversees all aspects of patient laser treatment programs, clinical trials, training, and practitioner education. She has lectured extensively and published numerous articles on the topic of laser therapy. Prior to joining Theralase, Dr. Mostyn was the director of a multidisciplinary wellness clinic in Toronto from 1996-2006.
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