In this era of ever-increasing health care costs, more and more employers are incorporating proactive, preventive services provided by doctors of chiropractic. Through the use of a one-on-one interview format, this forum has been created as a means of sharing the success stories and outcomes achieved by DCs engaged in this specialty area of service.This issue's interview features Dr. Chad Henriksen of Waconia, Minn.
Dr. Sweere: Dr. Henricksen, briefly tell us about yourself and how you decided to become a doctor of chiropractic.
Dr. Henriksen: I am a 1995 graduate of Northwestern College of Chiropractic in Bloomington, Minn. (now Northwestern Health Sciences University). I earned my diplomate in occupational health and applied ergonomics in 2003. Upon entering my undergraduate training, I knew I wanted to work in the health care field. After being introduced to chiropractic through a close friend, I immediately knew it was the right fit for me.
Dr. Sweere: Describe how you became interested in occupational health and applied ergonomics.
Dr. Henriksen: After graduating from chiropractic college, I started working as an associate in a local chiropractic office. The owner, Dr. Dan Neubauer, had made a successful connection with a local hearing-aid manufacturing company, which involved the provision of on-site chiropractic care for their employees as a component of their corporate wellness program. Workers at this firm were suffering significant neuromusculoskeletal disorders associated with prolonged static postures peering through microscopes assembling the tiny components of hearing aids. Lower back and upper spinal distress, neck and shoulder problems, and hand and wrist disorders were very common, as well as tension headaches and eyestrain. It was decided within the business agreement that I would be providing the on-site care, which was my introduction to occupational health.
Dr. Sweere: How many years have you been serving in this specialty area of professional service?
Dr. Henriksen: For the past 11 years. I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of companies, providing an assorted menu of chiropractic and occupational health-related services. For the past seven years, my entire practice has been exclusively occupational health-related.
Dr. Sweere: Have you found it difficult to market your skills and services to companies?
Dr. Henriksen: I believe there are challenges in all that we do as chiropractors. Occupational health has represented a highly rewarding challenge throughout my career. When we started this work 11 years ago, corporate decision-makers were not very interested in listening to how we could impact their company in a positive way. Now, because of the tremendous increase in health care costs and the burden it places on corporate America, more and more companies are eager to learn what kind of results can be achieved.
Dr. Sweere: Describe the various services you provide for the companies you currently are engaged with.
Dr. Henriksen: The primary services I provide are: on-site chiropractic care, health and wellness consulting, health care educational workshops, ergonomic assessments, and interventions and loss-source analyses.
Dr. Sweere: What have you found to be the primary obstacles you had to overcome in working with industry?
Dr. Henriksen: The first challenge is simply getting through the door and obtaining the full attention of the decision-maker(s). You may have the greatest program and services menu in the world, but if the individual making the decisions is not interested, your effort will go nowhere. Knowledge regarding the factors that motivate the decision-makers is imperative. Possessing the skill of how to communicate with them, keeping their needs and corporate interests foremost in your discussion is important. In large measure, it's all about developing positive relationships. Most of all, it just takes action. Very few opportunities come along that do not require a "take-action" mentality.
Dr. Sweere: What kinds of outcomes have you observed as the result of your involvement with the business clients you have served?
Dr. Henriksen: We have seen some very exciting outcomes for virtually all of our corporate clients. A few examples are:
- In a traditionally insured non-union company of about 600 employees, we were able to achieve a 73 percent reduction in recordable workplace injuries and a 94 percent reduction in sprain/strain disorders.
- In a traditionally insured non-union firm of 140 employees, there were 283 fewer hours of absenteeism per 100 employees.
- In a self-insured union firm with 800 employees, we were able to demonstrate an overall cost savings in excess of $500,000 within a two year time frame.
Dr. Sweere: Considering these remarkable statistics, do you feel other doctors of chiropractic could expect to replicate these outcomes?
Dr. Henriksen: I believe the results we have accomplished are the tip of the iceberg, as they only represent the direct-cost savings. It is well-known that the indirect costs of workplace injuries are at least four times greater than the direct costs. Assuming the DC is well-grounded and appropriately trained in this specialty, they should be able to achieve similar outcomes. I feel that I am simply an average chiropractor applying what I have learned. The secret seems to lie in earning the employees' trust and respect, motivating them to take responsibility for their own health and helping them make wise decisions regarding the care they choose to receive. Early detection and prevention-oriented care is the key to limiting costs and personal suffering.
Dr. Sweere: Describe the training you have undertaken to work successfully with your corporate clients.
Dr. Henriksen: As reflected above, I earned my Diplomate in Occupational Health and Applied Ergonomics (DACBOH) from Northwestern Health Sciences University, which provided me with the academic background and skills I utilize in my work. I also have taken training available from the Minnesota Safety Council and continue to incorporate outside reading and the Internet to refine my knowledge base and skills.
Dr. Sweere: What advice can you share for doctors desiring to successfully work within the field of occupational health and applied ergonomics?
Dr. Henriksen: It is important to be able to accurately and comprehensively assess the safety, health and wellness needs of potential corporate clients and develop a meaningful proposal that is prioritized and tailored to address the company's needs based on specific information learned. This is not a casual process and requires a systematic approach to which corporate owners can relate and about which they can become excited. If the doctor's focus remains on how they can best serve to reduce unnecessary suffering rather than only bottom-line economic issues, they will gain the respect and cooperation of all concerned. Remaining humble and patient with the process while maintaining a "can-do" attitude is huge.
Dr. Sweere: Do you feel that providing occupational health services and assisting businesses with their health and wellness objectives has a bright future for the chiropractic profession?
Dr. Henriksen: I feel there is currently no better business opportunity for our profession. There are hundreds of thousands of businesses and millions of employees who can benefit from the unique services only we can offer. The exciting thing for me to realize is that the opportunity is becoming even more attractive as more and more employers are seeking ways to more effectively control costs and improve productivity while reducing human suffering and elevating worker morale. I feel occupational health should be seriously considered by all those doctors interested in an exciting and rewarding alternative to the elusive world of managed care.
Dr. Sweere: Do you have any other comments to add?
Dr. Henriksen: I would just like to say thank you for the opportunity to share information about what I do. This work has provided me and my family with an excellent income, fascinating challenges and a wonderfully rewarding way of life. I love chiropractic and cherish the gift it has been in my life. I encourage our colleagues to contact me if they feel I can be of further assistance.
Click here for previous articles by Joseph J. Sweere, DC, DABCO, DACBOH, FICC.