410 Clean Up Your Reception Area Before It's Too Late
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Dynamic Chiropractic – May 21, 2007, Vol. 25, Issue 11

Clean Up Your Reception Area Before It's Too Late

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

One of the most important things you can do for your practice is "shop" your office. While this may sound like an odd term, it merely means that every so often, you should walk into your office and pretend you are a new patient.

To do this more effectively, ask a fellow doctor of chiropractic - one your staff doesn't know - to assist you.

Ask your colleague to make a first appointment and act as if they don't know anything about chiropractic. Then ask them to give you a report about what they were told and what impressions they gained from what they saw, heard and read at their "first" visit.

I've walked into many chiropractic offices. Some are very welcoming and professional; some are not. Some reinforce the ideals of chiropractic and wellness - but regrettably, too many fall short.

One of the most important elements in the patient experience is the educational/informational component. It starts the very moment the patient walks into your reception area. What do you want to tell your patients throughout the course of their visit? Your message should be consistent. If you want them to understand the values of chiropractic and wellness, then your office, forms, reading material, conversation and process should all confirm those values in the mind of the patient. Any contradiction will undermine the impression you are trying to make.

Take a good look at your reception area. What do you see? In addition to being comfortable and inviting, is this a place where patients (particularly new patients) will learn more about chiropractic and wellness? How long will your patients be in your reception area? What will they do while they're waiting? How will you use this time to educate them? While you may not realize it, the few minutes your patients spend in your reception area may be the most peaceful, stress-free moments in their day. Unless they are on their cell phone, these moments are free from work, kids and all of their other responsibilities. Until you take patients back for their appointments, these moments belong to them.

A recent study revealed the following regarding patients in reception areas:1

  • Ninety-two percent of people in a doctor's or dentist's office "Read/Look at magazines."
  • Readers experience fewer interruptions, engage in less multitasking and feel less guilty about devoting time to read.
  • Contextual relevance is a factor in determining which magazines are read.
  • Sixty-two percent of readers "Trust the articles in magazines found here."
  • These readers "Asked Doctor/Professional about something I read or saw."

OK, so let's look at what your patients are reading. Look around your reception area. What magazines/reading material do you have for them to read? Pick up a copy of each title. What are the articles/ads telling your patients? Those magazines may seem harmless, but many are obviously pro-drug, and some may be blatantly anti-chiropractic.

Look again at the ads. Are they selling your patients on pain relievers to address the same symptoms they are talking to you about? If so, you unknowingly may be educating your patients away from chiropractic and wellness care.

What is that publication's position on chiropractic? Many "health" magazines are actually editorially anti-chiropractic. Consider the May 2007 issue of Self magazine. An article titled "A Deadly Twist" probably will make your blood boil. The lead-in makes the magazine's opinion on chiropractic rather obvious:

"Chiropractors are causing strokes in young, healthy women. Read this before your next appointment."2

Is this the kind of thing you want in your reception area? Take the offending magazines out of your reception area and instruct your receptionist to discontinue those subscriptions. Of course, your reception area may seem rather light on reading material after you do so. If it does, spend some time thinking about what you do want your patients to read/hear.

These are golden moments to educate and inform. Spend the next few weeks looking for posters, pamphlets, magazines and even video programs that will reinforce your message about chiropractic and wellness, rather than contradict it. Your patients are listening. What is your reception area saying?


  1. "The Value of Public Place Reading - Insights From a New Study Sponsored by Time Inc. & Mediaedge." www.magazine.org/content/Files/PPMPA- timeinc.ppt. Accessed April 23, 2007.
  2. "A Deadly Twist." Self, May 2007. Available online. Accessed April 20, 2007.


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