wellness practice, The

Kats, David B

Every chiropractor has a preferred practice style. Some doctors orient their practices around conditions, such as low-back pain or headaches. Others prefer a specific patient type, such as the infant and child care or sports injury patient. Others orient their practice according to payment type, such as personal injury, workers compensation, or the cash-paying patient. There is, however, another practice style that many doctors fail to define when designing their practice mix, and that is the amount of wellness care they will deliver.

The amount of wellness care that chiropractors deliver varies greatly. According to the Institute for Alternative Futures (July 1998), wellness care currently makes up between 14 and 35 percent of the typical practice, and wellness is an increasing interest of the American public.

The number of wellness patients in a practice (those who receive care without specific symptoms) varies for many reasons. Newer practices do not have a large enough patient base to build a large wellness practice. Communities that are less transient usually produce clinics with a higher number of wellness patients. That’s because if patients go to a clinic one or more times for specific problems, they are more likely to continue with wellness care after their problem has been corrected. The chiropractor’s philosophy and interest in wellness will also help determine the number of wellness patients in the practice. Most chiropractors believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to be checked, at least occasionally, for chiropractic problems. The number of wellness patients is determined by the emphasis the doctor places on this philosophy: The greater the emphasis on wellness, the higher the number of wellness patients in the practice. Patient education also plays a large role in building a wellness practice. Today, companies like BackTalk and Krames Communication and organizations like the ACA provide excellent patient education materials. Patient education videos and health care classes also improve the patient’s understanding of chiropractic, which leads to greater interest in wellness care. Office procedures, such as reminder calls for wellness appointments, reactivation calls, proper scheduling procedures, and educational emphasis on wellness, all lead to a larger wellness practice.

Many Pluses to a Wellness Practice

Most chiropractors enjoy the wellness portion of the practice. First, caring for wellness patients is usually less stressful. Second, a large wellness practice is less dependent on new patients. Third, a large wellness practice gives a practice stability. Practices that are totally dependent on new patients fluctuate considerably according to the current new patient flow in the practice. The clinic with a large number of wellness patients also has a large number of active patients who make referrals. A patient who is currently under care, even if it’s wellness care, is more likely to refer than someone who has not visited the clinic for a longer period of time. A practice with a large wellness program also has a certain amount of insulation from the fluctuations that can occur as doctors move on and off various managed care panels. Chiropractic patients who are part of a wellestablished wellness plan will be less likely to transfer to other doctors in the event that their current doctors are no longer part of their managed care plan.

Copyright American Chiropractic Association Feb 1999

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