Before we go into today’s training and Tip #2, I want to review Tip #1.
Ask for the referral! So many times we do not receive because we do not ask. So many times we do not get referrals because we do not let our patients know about the many, many illnesses and ailments we treat. I still have people look at me with shock and say, really? You treat hormones? And this is my specialty!
We must remember that when they come to us, they are thinking about their issues and their problems. Our patients get very single minded and selfish! At our request! And that’s okay. But, as they start getting better, we need to start asking them about others they know that suffer with health issues. Chances are every single person that walks through your doors, knows at least 1 person who is struggling with some type of health problem. We need to take responsibility if we truly care about our patients and their family. We need to find out who these people are!
The people in our communities are suffering needlessly because no one told them there was another way. We can change this, and protect the viability of our practices at the same time. We really can.
I learned this lesson well when I first started in practice. Back in 1996 when I started, most people knew nothing about acupuncture. It wasn’t until 1997 that the National Institutes of Health gave their approval of the practice which resulted in the FDA recategorizing the needles from experimental to safe and effective. It was tough back then – most people had no idea what this medicine was, and most were too skeptical to even try. For me, it was frustrating. I saw the miracles in the clinic during the years I spent with my mentor, Dr. Hongjian He, in her clinic.
I knew what was possible. But most people didn’t believe it. I had to learn how to talk to people so they would be willing to at least find out if there was another answer for their health problems. Once I was able to get them into the office and make an offer, it started to become way easier, and way more fun.
When was the last time you had fun in your practice? I love it when new people come in and are amazed at what is possible. I learned through years of training that the only way to have fun in practice is to create a predictable and sustainable business. This doesn’t happen all by itself. It takes a willingness to learn new things, and it takes being willing to “step outside the box” and try new techniques.
It takes training, practice and perseverance. These short trainings are all about giving you a taste of what is possible if you really immersed yourself in learning how to communicate with your patients. Not only would your referrals go up, your patient compliance would also improve. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a practice where all your patients come to you to stay well? Now, I know that sounds quite unattainable – but think about it – if that was the case, our overall health as a nation would significantly shift! Instead of focusing on cancer, we’d be focusing on the next marathon or tai chi expo, or organic farmers market. We would have communities that had more co-ops, had civic involvement and well-adjusted and well-fed children.
I know, you are asking, “Really? I’m just trying to keep my doors open and get paid.” I understand your immediate issues, but YES we can make a huge difference by making small changes. Listen; if we all talked to our patients about relevant issues, educated them about their own health, asked them for referrals, and started to reach a bigger percentage of our community, yes, one person can create change. It is possible. You just have to envision it and then act on it.
I watched this happen back in 1997 when I decided to participate in the political process, even though I was raised by blue-collar workers who taught me to believe that you can’t fight “city hall”. Well, I can tell you this, they were wrong, yes you can, and ONE person can make a HUGE difference. We’ve seen this throughout history, and I personally witnessed this in the Florida legislature. What it took was perseverance, hard work, learning from the experts, and a willingness to do what was recommended by those that were experienced and skilled. The result? You, as a Florida licensed acupuncturist are currently reaping the results by having a practice act that is one of the best in the country. Not only are we licensed primary care providers under our law, but we enjoy a full scope of the practice, including injection therapy! Unfortunately, the subsequent decade has produced a downward trend in our political standing. This is why it is so important for all of us to be successful and educate our patients about the amazing benefits of our medicine, and encourage them to talk about it with their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.
If you make the decision to ask 3 patients this week for a referral, you will start to see a shift. It doesn’t always happen right away, but I can tell you this, if you NEVER ask, and are just “hoping” for a referral, you will not get as good a result. If you make the decision to get that referral you have a much greater chance of getting one.
This was not an easy process to learn, nor did it happen by accident. Sure, you’ll get some referrals just by getting decent results, having an office and a phone that gets answered. But I can tell you this, once I decided to put into place a method and put on the schedule events that created a reason to ask for a referral, it was much easier to talk to patients about this, without sounding needy or desperate.
People love events, and by incorporating an event into a referral program, you will always have something on the schedule that gives you a reason to get your patients involved and it helps them share the gift of health.
I remember the first year we decided to put into place the Holiday Gift Certificate program I had learned from one of my favorite practice building coaches, Dr. David Singer. This program was amazing, and so simple to do. All I had to do was offer a holiday card, and a gift certificate good for an evaluation and treatment, to my patients to give to their loved ones. Now here’s the thing, there are specific steps to make this work. First, what we did was get a sample holiday card, gift certificate, and a letter from me, to the prospective patient. This won’t work if it comes from the clinic – then it just looks like we are advertising to the patient. No, this works so well because it’s your patient that fills out the card, signs the card, includes the gift certificate with a nice letter from the clinic explaining what the certificate is good for, and the patient puts their own home address as the return address, and we put the stamp on it and mail it for them. Mailing it is an important step. People love to get mail, especially from a friend or loved one. Then, when they look inside and find a pretty card with a gift certificate for a health evaluation and a Holiday Stress-relieving treatment, they are thrilled.
This is such a great thing for the patient because they get credit for getting their loved one a gift certificate that’s valuable, and they don’t have to pay for it! You GIVE it to the patient as your way of helping them share the gift of health! Your patients love you for it, it builds great patient relations, and you end up with a busy schedule!
This is Tip #2 to Double Your Referrals:
Put events on your PR schedule.
It’s a really interesting phenomenon; if you have a schedule set up, and you fill it with events, and do this on a regular basis, and give it time and consistency, you will start to experience stability. Internal office events will give you more patient referrals. More patient referrals gives you more stability.
There are also outside office events that should be on your calendar, and this will give you exposure in your community. I suggest a mixture of both internal and outside events. So, having events scheduled will give you a constant method for increasing traffic in your office. With the end of the year upon us, trying the Holiday Card program is perfect. I’ve been doing the Holiday Cards program for years, and it’s always such a big hit with everyone.
Another example of an internal event is having a Family Health Month where you invite your patients’ family and friends for a free health evaluation. You let your patients know by putting up a big sign in your waiting area. When they ask about it, you tell them you are offering family members the opportunity to come in for an evaluation and Chinese medicine pulse screening. Tell them you do this 2x a year to help your patients share the gift of health with their family. It’s a great way to start the conversation about their family’s health.
For an outside event, I recommend a free Pain Relief Demonstration. This is always really popular. I use distal points, with a mirroring method and can typically get pain down by using acupressure on the points. A typical set of points is along the ankle at Liv 4 – I’ll use this to treat shoulder pain in the GB 21 area. If there’s pain closer to the spine, I’ll use Kid 3 and rub up the channel to treat pain around UB10. When you get their pain reduced in the moment, you get their attention. People love an experience and this is an awesome method to give them an experience.
Now listen, getting people in your door is just the first step. You can amaze them with your diagnostic and treatment skills, but lose them just as quickly by talking about esoteric ideas that are too outside their realm of reality. Using words like qi or technical terminology like liver fire or telling them their problem is too much dampness, without properly indoctrinating them, will cause them to think you are nuts. In their mind, their doctors “checked” them out and their labs said their liver was fine. Contradicting their beliefs will cause them to not trust you. It must be properly prefaced. I will say something like this:
“It’s fantastic that your labs are normal – that means you are not in a diseased state yet and don’t need to use harsh methods like drug therapy or surgery, which is the primary method of treatment used by Western Medicine. Here’s the thing, normal labs do not mean optimal health; it means there’s no disease in that area that was evaluated. Keep in mind; you have to be below 30% of optimal function to show disease in the lab work – that’s because the body works really hard to keep the blood clean. You can lose 50% of your function, and have clean labs, but feel like crap, and the doctors make you feel like you’re nuts because their methods don’t find anything. This happened to my mom. She had an undiagnosed thyroid problem for years before it showed in the labs, and when it finally did, she was relieved and grateful! Can you imagine, being grateful for a disease diagnosis? But think about it – she felt like she was going crazy for years, because all the doctors said she was fine, but she knew she wasn’t. It took years for the malfunction to develop into a disease that could finally be diagnosed.”
“Chinese medicine fills the gap between disease and optimal. By using its own set of diagnostic techniques to evaluate, functional issues can be diagnosed and corrected before disease manifests. As an independent system of medicine, that is regulated and licensed as a form of primary healthcare, it uses its own independent method of evaluating and determining functional imbalances in the body Chinese medicine has techniques to evaluate mal-function long before anything shows in the labs. That’s why people live longer and healthier in many Asian cultures. They are taught from a very young age to pay attention to subtle signs and symptoms, not ignore them or cover them up with over the counter medications the way we are.”
Do you remember the first time you were exposed to acupuncture? For me, back in 1992, it was this exotic foreign gem – think about it – a whole system of medicine that is thousands of years old AND no negative side-effects! No risk of getting cancer, blood clots, heart disease, etc – it seemed too good to be true.
In order to make all your efforts to get them to walk in the door, and stay, takes skill in educating them about what is possible using Oriental Medicine. I spend about an hour with every new patient, but what that appointment is about is a whole other training – but here’s what I’ve learned; they need to do all the talking, you need to ask very specific questions. This dialog brings up their awareness of own body’s issues, and gives you a better idea of what is the true condition of their physiology. This is how I will convert someone who might come in with an acute golf elbow injury, into a life time patient who comes to me for everything short of needing an antibiotic or surgery.
They don’t know because we don’t ask and don’t’ teach.
Some have said to me, “you are good at business and talking to people, I can’t do that.”
Granted, maybe I do have some business background; but here’s the thing. Traditional business training doesn’t prepare us for the business of running a successful acupuncture practice. Traditional advertising doesn’t work because people have a fixed idea that the MDs are the end-all answer for their problems. That’s why they keep going back to different ones looking for different answers that they never receive. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? It goes back to their conditioning.
I had to learn from scratch, how to communicate what we do, establish our authority and expertise in this profession, and then make them an offer. Did you know that most people don’t even realize you are licensed? And most are shocked to find out we are considered primary care providers! This is why many of our colleagues struggle so much with getting people in the door; the people in your community have no idea that you are the answer they’ve been praying for and seeking.
So, here’s a quick review:
Tip #1 Ask for the referral and get specific about what kind of patient. Do you know someone who suffers with headaches? Or Allergies? Or has sleep issues? Etc.. You get the idea.
Tip #2 Create events so you have a reason to ask. People love events – create a PR calendar and start putting events on it!
Here’s your homework:
Get a calendar and make the decision how many events you want to do on a regular basis, and start writing them in the calendar. I suggest both internal and outside events. This way you always have an inflow of new patients in your clinic.