Dynamic Chiropractic – September 23, 2010, Vol. 28, Issue 20

The Commoditization of Chiropractic

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

banner - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark This "menu of services" appears on a banner displayed in front of a building I pass most days on my way to work. Every time I read it, I can't help but wonder what it says about chiropractic's image.

About the same time this sign appeared, the medical doctor I see (every five years for a "check-up") sent me a letter letting me know that he has converted to a "concierge-style practice" and that it will cost me $5,000 a year to continue as a patient (cash only, thank you). This does not include specific tests, procedures, etc. Talk about dichotomies.

The first question I have to ask about this sign is: What does this doctor of chiropractic think about how chiropractic care should be provided to patients? This immediately leads me to a few other questions:

  • What happened to diagnosis/analysis? Is that an optional up-charge?
  • How does this approach serve the ultimate health and wellness of the patient?
  • Do patients rate this doctor based on a single adjustment?
  • Have their patients become the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to deciding when they need chiropractic care?
  • Does this doctor really believe a half-hour massage is worth more than a chiropractic adjustment?

While I can't answer these questions for the doctor, I have to assume they are just trying to compete in a down economy and feel forced to take this approach in order to keep their practice going. Sadly, this sends a message to the public about chiropractic that is not helping our image.

My next question is: "Has chiropractic become a commodity?" In layman's terms, the definition of a commodity is a product characterized by little variation between brands. Notebook paper and facial tissue are commodities. The brand doesn't particularly matter. For most people (unless you practice organic), milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables are also commodities.

For chiropractic to be a commodity would mean that overall care by one DC is about the same as care provided by another DC, and it really doesn't matter much which one you go to. Take it from a person who has been a chiropractic patient for 55 years; it does matter. Chiropractic has many different techniques as well as specialties.

So, the follow-up question is: "Do some patients/consumers view chiropractic as a commodity?" If the answer is yes, even for a small percentage of the public, then we have an image challenge we need to be thinking about. We need to be looking at ways to educate consumers about the qualifications a doctor of chiropractic brings to the health care world. This is probably an issue that should be addressed in our chiropractic marketing campaigns.

Generally speaking, people only understand what they are told. Perhaps it is also time to look at how we communicate with our patients when we see them. Face-to-face is the best format for communication. This is a great time to explain the science, art and philosophy of chiropractic. If we don't, we allow our patients to think about chiropractic based on what they see (and share their opinion with others). We allow patients to assume that "cracking my back is just like cracking my knuckles, only bigger" (something I've actually heard people say!).

Please, if you aren't doing it already, take some time with your patients to share the importance of chiropractic care and how you, as their doctor, are working to keep them at the peak of health and wellness. Let's not let our patients (and their friends, family and neighbors) make assumptions about chiropractic based on what they see us do.

Chiropractic is not a commodity.

Read more findings on my blog: http://blog.toyourhealth.com/wrblog/. You can also visit me on Facebook.

Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.


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