” I bent over yesterday to brush my teeth, my back went out and I couldn’t straighten up.”
The nurse who was leading our meeting let us all know why she was moving so gingerly. Mind you, there were two PTs and a PTA sitting in the room. When I emphatically offered to help she said…
“I’m going to see my chiropractor. I love my chiropractor.”
I found her choice of words intriguing. So when I had an opportunity, I asked her later how her back was doing and then as non-judgementally as possible I asked her…
“So, why do you love your chiropractor?”
Her answer was fascinating, but before we delve into it let me provide a context.
People Don’t Have A Clue What Therapists Do
September 8th is World PT Day. It’s a day for PTs all over the world to raise awareness about the tremendous benefits of physical therapy to people’s lives. The dilemma lies in the fact that most people don’t have a clue what therapists know and do for a living.
Heidi Jannenga urges us all that its time to tackle the PT awareness problem in the US. Heidi suggests leveraging direct access and focused marketing to consumers as two strategies to break down the barriers to therapy access.
This means therapists especially those in private practice will need to pivot from the security of physician referrals and insurance reimbursement. The focus shifts to creating and selling services that consumers value and are willing to spend their own money on.
Our potential clients are the judge, jury, and executioner of our value propositions. They will be merciless if we don’t offer what they want.
Unfortunately, most therapists can’t explain what they do in a language the average consumer understands. We often confuse our message with insider lingo and talk down to people.
We must realize that people will never know as much as we do. It’s up to us to bridge the communication gap between us and consumers. If we don’t they have plenty of alternatives to get the information and help they need.
“Most therapists can’t explain what they do in a language that the average consumer understands. They don’t even know the alphabet.”
Crystalizing your vocation into a single sentence is one of the best tools to grow your practice one conversation at a time.
I wrote a blog post on How Do You Talk About What You Do and a how-to guide on How to Talk About What You Do To Gain Respect and Referrals. These resources will help you craft a clear statement of whom you serve, who you are and what you do. Download the free guide, write your conversation starter so you’ll be ready for the next opportunity to explain to someone what it is you do for a living.
Therapists Don’t Have A Clue What Consumers Value
Recently I was coaching a therapist who wanted to grow her cash practice so she could quit her day job. We talked about how many people in her personal network were aware of her side gig. Not very many.
It’s hard to make a living from PT if people don’t know who you are and what you do. I asked her how many conversations she had with potential clients to learn what they wanted. She said, “Not very many, I already know what they need.” It’s a common mistake to focus on the physiological problem and forget the emotional and social aspects that people care about. Frequently consumers make their healthcare decisions based on their gut feelings or recommendations by friends.
We must relentlessly take the consumers perspective and be better at listening to consumers than selling to them. Only after many conversations will you be able to describe how your services will alleviate consumers pains, help them achieve their goals, and enable them to live the life they desire.
Eric Almquist and researchers at Bain & Company have identified ’30 Elements of Value‘. They categorize these elements into four groups resembling Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You might find them useful as you think about the nature of the value you offer.
Your value proposition describes the benefits your clients can expect from your services and products. It is the set of benefits that you’ve observed in consumers that will captivate the attention of potential patients. It’s an art to unearth what really matters to the people you want to serve.
“Understanding what it’s like to be in the consumers’ shoes is crucial to creating a service that your clients value.”
For a limited time you can get Ask, the #1 National Bestseller by Ryan Levesque for free, (just the cost of shipping). Ask is a useful method to find out what people really want to buy not want you think they want.
Is It A Good Fit?
Consumers expect and demand a lot from the healthcare they receive. We know that we can’t deliver everything our patients want from us. We know we can’t help everyone who walks through the door.
Our services create value only in relation to a specific patient population. We must realize that great value is determined by making choices about who we are going to serve and those we are not.
It’s about having a good fit.
You will achieve a good fit when your patients get excited about the value you offer. A good fit is hard to find and keep. Are you alleviating your patient’s #1 pain? Are you addressing your patients highest priorities? Are you helping people make their lives better?
Consumers have a lot of pains and many goals. No one can reasonably address all of them. Focus on the issues that are a good fit for your expertise.
Pursuing a good fit is the essence of creating value for your patients and yourself.
“So, why do you love your chiropractor?”
A good fit was why the nurse loved her chiropractor.
She respected what her chiropractor did and didn’t do. She valued an alternative approach to going to the doctor to get some drugs. She said the chiropractor was personable and didn’t talk down to her like she didn’t know anything. She felt respected.
The receptionist understood her financial situation as a single mom and worked out a payment plan with her. They seemed like real people who really cared.
So my responsibility is to continue the conversation, with more listening than persuading, to raise awareness about the tremendous benefits of physical therapy. Perhaps someday she’ll find that PT might be a good fit for her back pain problem.
I googled fast food Physical Therapy and your McDonaldization of Therapy popped up and I had to read it. I’m in Southern California surely the most McDonaldized place in our nation. I’ve been going to a Chiropracter for years. Im 62 and go to gym for excersize classes. Between kayaking, weight lifting and pretending I’m a soccer player this summer I acquired an intolerable pain that seemed like sciatica but symptoms have been diagnosed as SI pain. X rays came back normal. So I ask Dr for PT referral. They sent me to a famous PT with many locations super busy and the people that talked with me the most were the receptionist. I was given exercises that ended up causing me more pain. I realized the Therapist did not hear me when I described my pain. He continued to give me the one size fits all exercises. I tried doing them at home and the pain increased so I stopped. I’d return and he’d give me another excersize that involved the same difficult moves and I knew I wouldn’t have good results but I thought I’ll try. He was always in a hurry and told me he was double booked. Every visit he had to hurry off to next customer. After researching on the internet for treatment of SI pain I realized I was not getting the specific treatment I needed. The therapist wasn’t listening to me and he was so busy I barely got 5 minutes with him. They had helpers that would tell me to do my exercises but they never corrected my form. I was given an excersize that was like a pretzel. I said I could not do it but he pulled me to help me off the floor. I had pulsating pain for 2 days and was flat in bed. Finally called office to tell them that I was in terrible pain after each session. Once after he put me in traction and twice due to painful excersize. I told them I needed hands on therapy with mobilization because that’s what I found by researching on the internet. When I showed up today for my scheduled time I expected that I would be given a new regimen. I was met by helper who was going to have me do the exercises that hurt me. I said I would do the exercises that don’t hurt me. When I finished the therapist came over and said that the exercises he gave me should not have caused any pain. He can’t do anymore for me and he suggested I see my Doctor. The entire experience was a waste of time, money, and caused my healing to regress. I looked around the room lined with table after table like a factory. There was standing room only at the front door makeshift waiting room. I felt like a number, a slot of time to be billed. I’ve witnessed different scenario with Physical Therapists. I’ve seen therapists in rehabs and hospitals and other businesses that did not look like MC Donald’s. I’m so disappointed that I ended up wasting recovery time and money. It had to be the most mechanical treatment I have received anywhere. I am encouraged to see that your philosophy includes effective communication, listening skills, and personalization of Physical therapy treatments. Honestly I’m not very hopeful about finding a better PT
in the McDonalds fast food culture here in Southern California
I enjoy your letters and perspective, Paul. I think you’re a bright spot in a profession that I’ve become disenchanted with, so I look forward to your thoughts. Regarding the “loving your chiropractor” concept, I also think that PTs don’t have a leg to stand on when competing with chiros because PT has become synonymous with “manual therapy.” Do PTs anymore know how to assess and treat a pt non-manually anymore? What are all of the schools teaching? But chiros have been doing manual therapy for much more than a century, so they know the business much better than PTs. PTs have tried to give themselves credibility by attaining the title, “Doctor,” but there again, chiros have been there at least a 1/2 century longer, so have much more experience presenting themselves as doctors. (And how many kinds of doctors are there now, anyway? Why is that such a special title? Everybody’s a doctor these days!) I don’t even make a distinction between chiros and PTs anymore–there all just manual therapists, in the same category with massage therapists and Rolfers. And the reason people love their manual therapists is because our culture has a “fix me” attitude when it comes to health care–they can go to a manual therapist, lay on a mat, receive clinician-produced forces/movements (that may or may not have a beneficial mechanical effect–if it’s the right effect, pain is reduced, temporarily), get up and re-schedule their next appt, then go out and disalign themselves all over again (with patient-generated forces/movements). Some questions that I learned to ask those who love their manual therapists are, “Does your manual therapist love you–does he/she get you in as soon as you call, night or day, weekends, golf days?” “Does your manual therapist help you?” (The answer is usually, “yes.”) “Then why are you still suffering with the same/recurrent problem?” “Would your manual therapist like it if you were to learn how to treat yourself?” So, I propose that the question you should have asked your nurse friend is, “Does your chiropractor love you?”