Back in the day, long before insurance carriers reimbursed for chiropractic care, patient education was the cornerstone of the busiest, most successful practices. Patient lectures, health tracts and other strategies were routinely part of providing effective orientation for new patients.
These and other patient education overtures seem to have fallen out of favor, especially as the distinction between medical treatment and chiropractic care has become blurred. The result? Many patients think chiropractors are merely spinal specialists, hamstrung by their inability to prescribe medications.
Granted, patients today don’t show up in your practice begging for an educational experience! And while this makes your patient education overtures more challenging, it means you need to be more creative if you want the benefit of educated patients.
Is Patient Education Sales?
Truth be told, few chiropractors want to educate patients. Instead, they desire the effect or result of educated patients.
Take an inventory of the curriculum at virtually any chiropractic college, and you won’t find a single course devoted to teaching the basics of patient communication and methods of persuading patients to embrace the vitalistic principles on which chiropractic is based.
That’s too bad, because most chiropractors resort to modeling the strategies used by their neurology professor or radiographic interpretation instructor, and they imagine that their monologue at the X-ray view box constitutes a patient education experience.
Patients can easily feign interest, nodding their heads, but rarely does this performance create a new meaning for their symptoms, change their beliefs or cause them to modify their behaviors. Even chiropractors who have turned the reporting of their findings into a sales session find the effect of their so-called “patient education” limited.
That’s because what passes for patient education is actually patient teaching.
If You’re Talking, You’re Teaching
If you want the benefits of an educated patient base, acknowledge that you’re actually in the belief-changing business and meaning-making business. This rarely occurs within the limitations of traditional patient “education,” which is
a series of claims, declarations or assertions;
easily ignored or considered irrelevant by patients;
rarely an explanation of how chiropractic differs from medicine;
passive, one-sided and not interactive; and
sometimes confrontational, making them wrong.
This approach has little hope of changing the patient’s worldview and allopathic orientation of the typical belief. That’s because this strategy relies almost entirely on the spoken word. In fact, it’s largely a form of self-expression for the chiropractor!
In the same way that you can’t heal someone else or lose weight for someone else, you can’t educate someone else. But you can provoke critical thinking and self-reflection. You can help patients become present to their beliefs. True education is an inside-out process.