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Dynamic Chiropractic – April 12, 1991, Vol. 09, Issue 08

Pure Coincidence or an Attempt at a Clean Getaway?

Who Says You Can't Fool Chiropractors?

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher
In the October 2, 1989 issue of The Mesa Tribune, chiropractors were labeled as "accident chasers" because of the involvement of a few DCs who used a letter offering victims of recent accidents (names retrieved at the local police station) $50 to be a part of a "research project" entitled the Vertebral Subluxation Research Institute (VSRI). The opinions of over 70,000 members of the general public (Mesa Tribune subscribers) were jaded against the entire profession because of the actions of a few.

One month later, in the November 12, 1989 issue of the Kansas City Star, over 280,000 subscribers were influenced about chiropractic when they learned how "Chiropractors pay for clues to larger practices." The article included the same "research" program as was featured in The Mesa Tribune article.

After an outcry by DCs, patients, accident victims, federal agencies, state boards, and attorneys general, the profession began to respond. The International Chiropractors Association (ICA), the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), the National Association of Chiropractic Attorneys (NACA), and now the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB) have all developed resolutions and statements against this type of activity. They are joined by three of the largest malpractice insurance companies in chiropractic: NCMIC, OUM, and the National Chiropractic Council (NCC).

But the media exposure of our profession was not limited to newspapers. In the February, 1991 issue of the Consumer Reports Health Letter, in an article titled, "Tales From the Bazaar," VSRI was again featured as a program that "teaches such chiropractors how to convert 'research volunteers' into 'lifetime chiropractic patients.'" The article causes one to ask the question, "If chiropractic care is so good, why do chiropractors have to trick members of the public in order to get them to become patients?" Fortunately, this article included the ACA and ICA denouncements of this type of activity.

VSRI even made the evening television news in the Boston area. An estimated 400,000 viewers where exposed to the VSRI marketing scheme used by a local chiropractor to get new patients. The DC involved used the VSRI letter offering accident victims $50 to become "research participants." The TV newscaster stated that Dr. Paul Jondle or his assistant had been retrieving the names of accident victims from the local police department for the last year. The reporter went on to state: "But critics say the Institute (VSRI) is really a marketing program operated out of a shopping plaza near Phoenix. Through the accident survey and telemarketing, it promises lots of patients."

At this point in the broadcast, excerpts of the VSRI marketing video were shown with a number of chiropractors bragging about how profitable the VSRI program was. It was interesting to see the reporter tell the public that "several chiropractic societies have denounced this type of marketing program."

But something strange and wonderful has happened as a result of all of this. The national organizations have united against what they saw as a common enemy from within; the state boards have and are in the process of enacting statutes and regulations that will make this type of activity illegal and many of the individual members are discontinuing to use VSRI (including a number of highly touted state board members). Some VSRI purchasers have even suggested suing the company because they couldn't get refunds, even though they never used the program, due to personal, ethical reasons.

This backlash has not gone unnoticed by the VSRI's promoters. What may have gone unnoticed, is the fact that VSRI has ceased its usual two full-color pages of advertising. It appears that VSRI's promoters hope to just disappear without having to be accountable for the damage sustained by the reputations of the chiropractic profession in general and chiropractic research specifically.

Actually, sneaking away quietly doesn't exactly appear to be the plan. The leopard has merely changed its spots. We now have "Pro-Mark" which touts telemarketing with "No bait and switch." The same people who brought the profession VSRI for $2,500 now want you to get involved in telemarketing (which, because it is a form of patient solicitation, is probably not legal in your state) for only $1,250. Such a deal!

So the reoccurring nightmare now begins; but this time, chiropractic research will be spared. Only the reputation of the chiropractic profession will be sacrificed in the name of profit. Yes, the national organizations will probably unite again against this. Yes, the state boards will take a year or so to pass the regulations. But in the meantime, the promoters will see fantastic short-term profits.

VSRI took in almost $1.2 million dollars in its short-lived existence. Pro-Mark should easily net $500,000 before it too, is abandoned.

There are many DCs who work very hard to help create the best profession possible. Their slogan seems to be: "Let's tell the world how good chiropractic is and mean it." But a few, who appear to see the profession as a way to make big money seem to have a different slogan: "There are more chiropractic suckers born every graduating class."

DMP, Jr., BS, HCD(hc)

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