The Consultation, Part I

A number of you are thinking, “I don´t need to receive a newsletter about how to do a consultation with my patients. I need tips on how to get more patients!’  However, there are many doctors who don´t fully understand the significance of great consultations in their practice, so let´s review some basics.

Consult:  “To ask for advice; to talk things over in order to decide or plan something; to seek an opinion from someone; to ask the advice of another; to turn to someone for information; or, to confer about something.’
Consultant: “An expert who is called on for professional or technical advice or opinions. A person who consults with another or others.’
Consultation: “The act of consulting; a meeting to discuss, decide, or plan something.’

With these definitions in mind we can say that a person comes to the doctor´s office to “consult’ with the doctor (the consultant) in the setting of a “consultation’.  

The bottom line is that patients come to you for your expert advice and counsel, and with hopes that you will be able to resolve their concerns.  Understand that you already have their confidence to some degree by the mere fact that they have come to your office.  It is up to you to show your patients that you are the expert they thought you were (or better).  There are several ways to accomplish this and failing in any of those ways could cost you credibility with your patients, resulting in patients who will not accept all of the recommendations you give them, or patients who decide to try the expert (another D.C.) down the street.

Learning how to impress your patients with your consultations is vital to preserving and increasing the expert image they have of you.  However, it is just one element to be considered when striving to give patients what they expect and demand.  The following is a list of some of the other things you should immediately take care of:    

• Poor exterior office appearance (peeling paint, weeds, poorly kept parking area, etc.)
• Poor interior office appearance (replace or repair worn carpet, torn wall paper, dust/dirt, damaged upholstery, etc.)
• Poor personal appearance (sloppy dress, unprofessional hair, dirty shoes, poor personal hygiene, etc.)
• Poor front desk service (chewing gum, unorganized, no smiles or eye contact, etc.)
• Poor communication (poor grammar, unresponsive to questions, not listening, etc.)
• Poor handling of billing (agreements not made up front, no follow-ups, rude/abrupt, etc.)
• Poor office procedures (doctor behind schedule, paperwork lost, lack of recording SOAP notes, etc.)
• Poor treatment procedures (always in hurry, same old routine, no re-exams, etc.)
• Poor demonstration of confidence (hesitant to answer questions, worrisome face when patient complains, not quick to make decisions, etc.)
• Poor lack of decorum (crude jokes, use of swear words, lack of respect, etc.)
• Poor emotional intelligence (lack of perceiving patient´s concerns, negativity, lack of positive influence on patients, etc.)

Many of the new patients who come to your office have never been to a chiropractic doctor before. These patients are coming to you from many different sources.  They may have been referred to you by their family, friends or neighbors.  Maybe they didn´t receive any positive results from other forms of treatment and then happened to see your ad for a “free consultation,’ and figured it was a good time to check out some alternative care without having to invest any money.  Whatever brings the first-time chiropractic patients to your office, they all come in a little skeptical, very curious, and somewhat anxious about not knowing what´s about to take place.  

In addition to understanding the emotions and thought processes that patients have upon coming to your office for the first time, you must also remember exactly why they are coming to you. They have PAIN! They want your HELP! They want RELIEF! They want ANSWERS! This is what they expect from you. Your patient´s first visit or consultation is where you begin to fulfill their expectations of you and your service.  Conduct a poor consultation and at best you will have a new patient who does not follow all of your recommendations, and at worst you will not see this patient for a second visit!

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