What If Your Patients Did All of Your PR?

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

Imagine a world without Yellow Page ads. A place where crooked pens and free chicken dinners were never heard of. Think about what could happen if your only means of telling the world about your services as a chiropractor was through your patients.

One of the more interesting statements that was made by a member of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) during their annual conference in September concerned how the image of the chiropractic profession has been created in the minds of MDs. Stephen Barrett, M.D., who is one of the key figures in the NCAHF, made this comment: "The AMA is not the one responsible for the poor image that chiropractors have with medical doctors. What the MDs hear from their patients who are also patients of chiropractors creates the poor image."

Assuming, for a moment, that Dr. Barrett is correct, how would your patients compare?

If the future of your practice depended on your patients' ability to explain their need for chiropractic care to their MDs, how well (or poorly) would you fare?

If your practice rights were determined according to how well your patients could demonstrate the efficacy of chiropractic care, would this profession grow or diminish?

There is nothing wrong with advertising your services to your community. There is nothing unethical about trying to market your practice in order to serve as many people as possible (providing you truly serve them to the best of your ability). The question is, do you have "subluxation free" patients who are ignorant of what you do, why you do it, and why it is important to maintain their health?

As everyone knows, a well informed patient is the best advertising, and the cheapest. The reverse is, unfortunately, also true: A misinformed patient is the worst form of advertising and probably the most expensive.

Think about how many people in your community just one patient sees in between appointments:

  • the butcher, the baker, etc.

  • people at church, friends at the bridge club,

  • other active individuals at the gym, discussing the needs of active people,

  • the list goes on to their family and all of the people they see each day.
Everyday your patients affect the lives of many people around them. Sooner or later your name, and what you do for them, will be discussed.

What will they say?

Will their testimony be sufficient for those interested in chiropractic care, but wanting a thorough understanding before they come to see you?

What if they happen to speak about you to a new MD, just out of med school, who hasn't yet formed an opinion about chiropractic care? Will you be portrayed as a responsible health care physician? Or will that young MD's first impression of you be something far less?


Ask several of your current patients who are at various stages of care to explain to you: what you are, what your educational background is, what you do, the rational behind what you do, and what they expect out of their treatment.

The safest way to do this would be to ask them to answer these questions in your waiting room BEFORE their next appointment. If you are really daring, and have an MD that you refer patients to, take him to lunch and ask him for honest answers to the same questions.

Look at the results. If you don't like what you see, you know what you need to do.

Spend the next few weeks concentrating on better patient communication. Encourage your patients to ask those awkward questions that they never ask for fear that they might insult you. Teach your staff how to create well informed patients.

Conduct your informal survey again.

You should not only see a marked difference in the answers you receive, but you should also gain some additional referrals as well.

Advertising and marketing are wonderful privileges. But they will never replace the effect you can have on your community (and your practice) by creating well-informed patients.

Sometimes the basics make all the difference.

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