274 "On a Scale of 1-19, 19 Being Worst -- I'd Give Chiropractic a ..."
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Dynamic Chiropractic – February 1, 1991, Vol. 09, Issue 03

"On a Scale of 1-19, 19 Being Worst -- I'd Give Chiropractic a ..."

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher
Suppose you wanted to discover just how the average person thought about members of the chiropractic profession. You might want to know just how the public felt about various attributes that a chiropractor should have, such as honesty, effectiveness, reliability, competency, etc. You might also want to know if the public thought your fees were reasonable or if you were considered easy to talk to.

To find this information out, you might commission a survey to be conducted either by telephone or in person in shopping malls or other areas where people can be found. As long as you are asking these questions, you might also want the people surveyed to rate chiropractors against other professionals.

This is exactly what the McLean County (Illinois) Chamber of Commerce's Professional Committee did. In March 1990, the Chamber commissioned a survey of county residents' perceptions of nineteen professionals, including chiropractors. The survey was conducted in person at four different shopping malls and included 12.5% chiropractic patients.

Those surveyed were asked to rate the nineteen professionals (including dentists, family practitioners, orthopedic surgeons, physicians, attorneys, realtors and stock brokers) on attributes such as honesty, trustworthiness, effectiveness, etc. The professions were then ranked in order of score. Out of a total of nineteen, the table below shows how chiropractors ranked.

As you read through the the ranking for chiropractors, consider this:

Only stockbrokers were rated lower overall than chiropractors.

Over 45% of those surveyed thought that the ethics of chiropractors were below average.

The results of this survey were published in the local newspaper. WHO IS TO BLAME??

Why is the public's perception of chiropractors so low? Who should we blame for our apparent image? We could round up the usual "suspects": the AMA, research recruitment "bait n' switch" schemes, unethical practice management "secrets," insurance companies acting in conspiracy -- have we left anyone out?

Looking at what has happened is always important, but perhaps this is a time when looking forward is much more critical. Anyone who has ever been in high school knows how easy a bad reputation is to get, and how hard it is to get rid of. The only solution to a bad reputation is to work hard to develop a good reputation.

Rather than castigate the "usual suspects," perhaps a more productive and more positive exercise might be to ask the question:


There is no easy solution. Every aspect of our problem must be addressed specifically. We have a public image that is lacking in a number of areas. We have forces that would like our "bad reputation" to continue.

Reputations are changed many times on a one-on-one basis. Each patient you have can be an advocate for the improvement of our reputation. The research information such as the Meade et al study in the British Medical Journal (please see "British Researchers Show Chiropractic More Effective" in the July 4, 1990 issue) and the Cherkin and MacCornak study in the Western Journal of Medicine (please see "The Best Defense," page 3, August 29, 1990 issue) are wonderful ways to help change public opinion. We should stop spending inordinate sums of money on Yellow Page ads where the effort would be misdirected at those consumers who have already decided on chiropractic care. The purchase of ad space in local newspapers would be far more effective for the purpose of community education and bringing in people new to chiropractic care.

Recently Dr. Mark L. McFarland a chiropractor in Belton, Missouri demonstrated an excellent form of PR by taking out a 1/4 page ad in the Belton Star Herald in which he ran a reprint from the December 19, 1990 "DC" article, "Chiropractors Strike American Medical Association Out in Supreme Court." The entire ad was comprised of the reprinted article, publicizing chiropractic's Supreme Court victory. In all liklihood, had Dr. McFarland not bothered to run this "ad" in his community's newspaper, the story would never have appeared at all.*

One way or another, on a local, regional, and national basis, the public's opinion of chiropractors and chiropractic care must change. And we can rest assured that no one is going to change it for the better but us.

As you begin this second month of the new year, make this your goal: to change and enhance the opinion about chiropractic that is held by the people in your community. If every DC and student works hard to improve our reputation over the next year, perhaps we will see a new survey conducted that places chiropractors in the top ten.

(Public Opinion of Chiropractors Amongst 19 Other Professionals As Rated in the McClean County Survey)
Professional Attributes
Chiropractic Ranked
19th (last)
Easy To Talk To
Appropriate Fees
Of Great Value
Overall Perception of
(overall ranking)

DMP Jr. H.C.D. (hc)

*Anyone who is interested in utilizing an article they read in "DC" for this kind of PR, as a reprint for patients, or other community education program, only need contact the "DC" editorial offices in writing asking for permission to reprint. We would be happy to cooperate.

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

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