As the second decade of the 21st century begins to wind down, many chiropractors are looking at their practices and the trends that will continue to propel their business into the next part of the century. One thing that most chiropractors can agree on is that chiropractic care, maligned for years by traditional medical doctors, is no longer considered to be “extremist” or “alternative” medicine.
In fact, more medical doctors are recommending chiropractic care to their patients to avoid invasive surgeries and the risk of opioid addiction. People who seek out chiropractic care after an injury return to work faster and regain their quality of life. This shift in attitude towards chiropractic care has led to chiropractic programs at schools across the United States swelling with applications and students eager to help patients achieve total health and well-being.
As 2019 marches into 2020, chiropractors should be making moves to integrate their practice with more accessible technologies and patient-centric access to care and information. There are also more technologically advanced ways to market your practice and analyze patient data so you can make more informed decisions about where you want to take your practice in the next decade.
1.) Patient technology trends
More patients are taking proactive approaches to understanding their health, and the data of their health, by investing in wearable medical technology. This can include fitness watches such as Fitbit, smartwatches, sleep trackers, and heart rate monitors.
Many patients are also tracking other health data through apps where they can enter in their statistics. Patients who are keeping an eye on their blood pressure, blood sugar, or nutrition may turn to apps to help them look for trends and make better choices for their lifestyle.
As a chiropractor, you should become more involved in the acquisition and interpretation of this data. You should also encourage and help interpret the use of this data to help your patients make better choices about their diet and exercise habits. Use this data as an opportunity to ask your patients how their bodies and spines feel. If they ate bad food for a few days, did they feel more aches and pains in their muscles? How did it impact their sleep patterns?
Use these opportunities to educate your patients on food-related inflammation of muscles and joints and suggest supplements that can help patients improve their vitamin and mineral intake. The results of this data can become a motivator for your patient to make important changes, and you can be their coach and cheerleader.
Do not shy away from patient health technology; instead, become invested in their enthusiasm and proactive steps toward wanting to understand their own health better. Patient data can provide valuable insight into your methods of practice and can help you better educate other patients, too.
2.) Marketing to more than just the back and neck
Recent trends show that back pain complaints still account for over two-thirds of first patient visits to a chiropractor. Neck pain complaints account for about one-third of those first visits. This suggests that many people still view chiropractic care as only focusing on areas of the spine when, in reality, chiropractic care can address and improve a variety of health issues.
You may want to draw in new patients to your practice by marketing the conditions you treat that are not necessarily related to back and neck pain. Some common conditions that patients would for include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Lowered immune systems
- Anxiety and stress response
- Pregnancy-related issues
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Crohn’s Disease
- Cerebral Palsy
- Acid reflux
- Gastrointestinal and digestive disorders
- Menstrual symptoms
- PTSD and depression
While chiropractic care approaches the overall health of a patient through first gently aligning and correcting the spine to promote blood flow and lower inflammation, these conditions are also being treated by chiropractors across the country every day. Much of the public is not aware of the benefits of chiropractic to more than just their back and neck, and chiropractors would do well to promote these services as an alternative to surgery.
3.) Marketing on social media and targeting younger audiences
While the attitude towards chiropractic has certainly improved in mainstream medicine over the last 20 years, many young people are still unaware of the benefits chiropractic care can offer them. More than half of chiropractors do not take advantage of social media marketing, which is usually low-cost or completely free, and they may be missing a crucial market in younger people.
Creating a website is not enough for the modern chiropractor; being active on social media websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, is the best way to stay connected with patients and promote important health information. It is also the best way to reach out to new audiences through targeted or sponsored posts to locals in your area for a very low fee.
Social media offers chiropractors to add personality to their practice in a very visual way, through pictures and videos of practitioners and staff, patient testimonials, and important health articles and alerts. Chiropractic offices can also run special social media promotions for new patients or create contests for current patients to keep them involved and interested.
4.) Promoting weight loss and exercise and marketing to diverse populations
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40% of adults in the United States are obese. Obesity tends to trend highest in Hispanics and non-Hispanic black populations. Obesity comes with a whole host of problems, including the increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, joint and back pain, hypertension, stroke, blood clots, and even cancer.
A 2008 study found that most chiropractic patients were white, women, and/or in a higher income bracket. Ninety-seven percent of Medicare-covered patients who visited a chiropractor were white. This leaves a huge swath of the American population underserved from the benefits of chiropractic care and nutritional guidance.
Considering that obesity trends are higher in non-white Hispanics and non-Hispanic black populations, the people in these demographics could use a chiropractor who can help them get their health back on track.
Using social media and local community marketing for underserved demographic areas may be the key to increasing diversity in your practice’s patient population. The more people who know about the benefits of chiropractic care, and who can be counseled in proper nutrition, diet, and exercise regimens, especially lower back pain exercises, will be able to promote chiropractic care to their friends and family.
A reduction in obesity-related health issues will also help patients save on health care costs and unnecessary invasive surgical procedures. It will increase their quality and quantity of life, which is one of the key aspects of the mission of chiropractic care.
5.) Healthcare payment methods
More retailers are following Walmart and Amazon’s lead by creating and purchasing their healthcare coverage. This trend is due to the rising cost of healthcare procedures, diagnostic tests, and medical equipment, much of which the insurance companies are putting back onto the employers.
Be prepared to see more of these alternative methods of payment coming into your office with your patients. Also, be prepared to offer payment methods of your own to patients who may have had their insurance plan costs shaken up by the Affordable Care Act.
6.) Online review sites
Many prospective patients will look online first before choosing to visit a chiropractor for the first time. Ask your patients to leave a positive review for you on sites such as Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Healthgrades if they are happy with your work. Encourage your patients to leave a short comment about their personal experience with you, your methods, and your staff so that potential patients can see the personal touch you add to every patient interaction.
7.) Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
EHRs are becoming easier to use and communicate with other programs thanks to advanced Cloud software and interoperability. Tracking patient data and trends is becoming easier to do with these advanced EHR systems.
New EHR systems that rely on Cloud technology are also more secure than older online systems, which reduces the concern of security and patient data breaches.
Comprehensive EHR systems with algorithms that focus on patient data also allow chiropractors to see where patients are first hearing about them, demographic trends, primary pain complaints, and medical billing statistics. These can help chiropractors adjust their marketing, know where to invest in new therapeutic technologies, and develop new short- and long-term business goals for the future.
8.) Therapeutic technologies
Many chiropractors have already integrated therapeutic technologies and pain management services into their practice, but some have yet to take advantage of these methods, which can speed up patient healing.
Technologies such as cold laser therapy, electric muscle stimulation, ultrasound therapy, and light therapy are having huge benefits in the reduction of inflammation to injured areas. They are also promoting increased blood flow and regeneration of damaged tissue in the nerves and muscles around an injury.
Other chiropractors have therapeutic exercise methods right in their office, from wobble chairs to neck traction pulleys, to exercise bikes. This ensures that patients can get the maximum benefit from their adjustment by encouraging them to do exercises that prepare the spine for adjustment and hold the adjustment longer.
Chiropractors are also teaming up with massage therapists and acupuncturists to promote healing and pain reduction in their patients’ muscles and nerves. A combination of all of these therapies has been shown to markedly speed up and improve the quality of pain relief patients experience from their chiropractic visits.
Chiropractors who hold seminars in the evenings or on weekends for the public and their patients usually see an increase in the interest in chiropractic care. The public, especially in light of pharmaceutical lawsuits, prescription side effects, and lawsuits against companies using carcinogenic chemicals have become less trustful in traditional methods of medicine and products. They are looking for information about how to reduce their dependence on chemicals, avoid toxins, and improve their overall health and well-being naturally.
Seminars and informational sessions are a way for chiropractors to give short, educational lectures on chiropractic care, nutrition, exercise, and healthy living. This increases the practice’s visibility in the local community and encourages rapport with patients.
Some chiropractors are also taking to social media and other technology to publish these lectures using video, audio, and files of handouts and slide show displays. It’s a great way to increase general knowledge about chiropractic while also empowering people to take their healthcare into their own hands.
10.) Understand the prevalence of back pain
Back pain is still the number one reason why people visit a chiropractor for the first time, and with good reason: 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives, and lower back pain is the leading cause of disability.
Not only that, but Brandon Gaille reports that between $50 and $150 billion are spent in healthcare costs associated with back pain each year. That is a staggering amount of money and a staggering amount of people suffering from debilitating pain.
It’s important to continue to promote your practice as a safe, non-invasive alternative to back surgery which can lead to serious complications or no improvement at all. Along with surgery, the risk of opioid addiction rises. Back pain is the leading cause of patients seeking out opioids in the first place, and insurance companies would rather approve this method of pain management because it’s cheaper.
In 2017, over 70,000 people died from drug overdoses. Of that number, 47,000 were related to the overdose involving any opioids. This is a result of a steady rise in drug overdose deaths that have multiplied twofold over the last decade. Opioids are a huge factor in this increase, as patients who were prescribed or overprescribed powerful pain medications find themselves unable to function without it. When prescription opioids become too difficult or expensive to acquire, many people turn to the cheaper alternative of heroin.
Any chance chiropractors and other healthcare practitioners have to keep patients off of opioids through lower back pain treatment will help curb this terrible trend of overdose deaths in the United States. Educating patients on the dangers of opioid addiction is another way chiropractors can help reduce opioid dependence for back pain.
Chiropractic care has a lot to look forward to in the coming decade. Increased technology, new marketing trends, and education for patients can help promote chiropractic care and bring in new, enthusiastic patients. The more patients who believe in and share chiropractic with their friends and family, the more people can reap the benefits of total health and wellness that chiropractic care can offer.