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Systems for Practice Success
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Systems for Practice Success

by Michael Gaeta, DAc, MS, CDN


Business skills, clinical skills and personal skills are the three elements needed to create a fulfilling and prosperous practice.  Making personal, authentic connections with people is the often ignored key to success in business - despite the fact that people consistently state that the most important qualities they seek in a health professional are caring, patience and the feeling that they are understood and important as a person.  The non-treatment aspects of your client relationship, and of running an organized and efficient practice, are some of the most important factors in building a successful practice.

You need to remember that people stay with you not because of what you do, but because of who you are.  Your work is about caring for people well and providing useful service, and your practice's success depends on establishing healthy, creative, long-term relationships with people.  In this course, we'll talk about how to work with a client throughout the treatment process, from the first hello to long-term wellness care.  We will examine ways to build business success through personal interactions.  This course also includes vital information on procedures, policies and protocols that will enchance your appeal and success with your patients.  When you finish this course you will be able to:

          √  Understand how emotional development determines business success and the kind of service you offer your patients.

         
√  Understand and describe the role, value, and different parts that constitute an initial phone call and consultation.

         
√  Describe ways to manage patient expectations.

         
√  Define the value and process of follow-up phone calls and "walking the charts."

         
√  Describe the value of mentoring and time management.

For the new or seasoned practitioner, this course will facilitate a smoother practice.  So let's begin!
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Managing Initial Contacts

Start Up 
A critical piece of your start-up is establishing patient communication, as well as patient management procedures. 

In the initial start-up phase of your business, you set up speaking and demonstration engagements, develop a referral base, and network and connect with other practitioners as well as the public.  You need to establish your office and accounting procedures, and create marketing materials.

In patient management, one of the most important moments in your practice is the first phone call.  It's important that the initial contact be right, whether it's by phone or email.  As soon as the phone rings, you need to take out three things:  a pen, your phone script and your intake sheet.  A phone script should include your 15 second description of your practice and clear answers to common questions.

Answering the Phone
When answering the phone, give a warm greeting and be sure to mention the name of your practice, your name, and a quick offer to help.  Be sure to ask for the source of referral.  This is "tracking marketing" and it is a non-negotiable necessity.  You have to learn exactly how someone found you.  Answers may range from your website, a listing on Acufinder, a public lecture you gave, or the local health food store where your business card is posted.  You need to know where people are coming from, and what's working with your marketing.

It’s great if you have a cell phone to answer appointment calls. A live person answering the phone is one of the most critical things to growing a practice. You should get in the habit of having pen and notepad, or an electronic recording device readily at hand at all times.  You have to be your own portable desk if you are going to answer calls on the go.  A computer database option will work beautifully for some people; a simple paper-based system is better for others.  If you want to get the quote (as an expert for a reporter), or the appointment, or whatever response is important, respond to calls within a half-hour.  For this, a cell phone may be necessary.  Anything to make yourself or your clinic accessible, within reason, is a good idea.

Elevator Description
You need to have a 20 second description of your business.  This description should be smooth and clear.  You may have heard this idea sometimes called the "elevator pitch" which is a concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced description about what you do that someone should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator.  It's the most frequently used phrasing you'll ever say - and it is often how you begin to answer other questions.

Defining Needs
Ask the prospective patient for specific concerns because they may have issues that don't revolve around a problem that needs to be fixed.  This question helps you decide early on if you can help the new patient or not.  As the person responds, listen attentively and compassionately.  Sometimes, compassionate listening is a powerful treatment in itself, enabling a person to open up and be heard, acknowledged and accepted.

Repeat Back the Prospective Patients Concerns and Goals
Doing so proves that you were listening, and that you understand their concerns.  Explain if and how you can help, and descibe your track record or the benefits of acupuncture in general.  Do not make promises or guarantee outcomes - ever.  But do let the prospective patient know what they can expect if they come to your practice. 

Finally, always ask:  "Do you have any other questions?"  Continue to ask this until there are no more questions.  When you do, the person feels well cared for, and understands that the work they do with you will be thorough.  By taking your time you are taking an interest in the prospective patient as a person.
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Follow-Up Calls

Did you know that very few health practices even bother to follow up with people who call but don't make an appointment?  If someone calls and does not make an appointment, your follow up needs to include:

√  Mailing information about your practice and the work you do the day of the call, or sending them to your website.

√  If you have mailed them information or directed them to your website, call them within a week.  Make a note in your appointment book to do so the day they call!

√  Calling them in no more than a week to follow-up.

Follow-Up Call Backs
A follow-up call is four questions:  Did you get the information I sent?  Did you read it?  Did you have any questions?  If the prospective client does have questions, answer them all clearly.  Take your time.  Then ask, "Did you have any other questions?" until you answer all their questions. 

Once you've answered all of the questions they have, ask if they'd like to make an appointment.  Do not feel awkward asking this, remember they called you in the first place.

Few Practitioners Make Full Use of a Follow Up Call
To discover prospective patient objections or barriers to entry, and learn how you are perceived, you need to ask more questions.  This is an important, if sometimes uncomfortable information, but vital for your growth as a business person in the health care field.

If a prospective patient still does not want an appointment, ask:  "Did you have any concerns about coming in?"  Address these concerns as well as you can.  For example, if this happens repeatedly and everyone tells you they cannot afford your fees, you may be priced too far above the customary fees for your area.  There are some concerns you can resolve, and some you cannot.  Just focus on the ones you can.  If the patient is only comfortable with a female practitioner and you are a male, you might recommend another acupuncturist for them.

If the patient does not want an appointment after you address any objections you discover, reply with "That's fine.  Whenever you're ready we're here for you.  And if you ever have any other questions, please don't hesitate to call.  Have a great day."

Remember, the prospective patient's interaction with you should be positive.  Your conversation should be relaxed and informative.  You should make sure that the prospective patient didn't feel any pressure during the follow-up.  The real goal is to make a connection and provide any additional information they might need to make their decision.  Even if they say no, you've set yourself up to be the go-to person for any questions they may have about acupuncture in the future.
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Making the Appointment

Always ask for the appointment when someone calls you, but make sure to answer all questions and address any concerns before making an appointment.  Try to eliminate "I'll try it once."  Let the prospective patient know that they may need four or five visits to sense whether Chinese medicine is doing the job.  This is shifting from a symptom-suppression model to a wellness model.

You might want to mention that acupuncture often seeks to address the cause of llness and not merely the symptoms.  Or, you can describe how Chinese medicine is different than anything the prospective patient may have done before.  You should have all of these descriptions on your phone script, so you are not making them up on the fly.  After a while, they will become automatic.

When your patients are well-educated about what you do, they're engaged with the process.  They're also more likely to tell other people about your practice.  An informed prospective patient could actually share information about your practice, speaking positively about you even before a visit.

When you schedule an appointment, find a suitable time, inform the new patient of your fees, and have your intake forms on your website so they can complete the necessary paperwork before they come in.  You can also email or mail the paperwork to them.  This will result in more thoughtful information on the form that in the patient tries to complete it in a rushed few minutes before the session.  Finally, before closing the phone call, repeat the time of the appointment.




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The Consultation

The consultation begins with your initial phone call.  it is useful to remember that the greatest barrier to new patients entering a practice is fear.  In this case, it is fear of the unknown.  Questions arise like:  What's it like in there?  Who does this kind of thing?  Does it hurt?  Can it help me?

Generally, people come to you not because of what you do, but because of who you are.  Your energy, presence, character, professionalism and integrity speak more than a stack of ads of informative literature.  The most important way to dispel patient fears is to let people meet you, get a sense of who you are, and hear you talk about what you do.  Ten minutes spent in a free consultation, or a few hours invested in giving a talk or writing an article, may produce far more reliable results at a lower cost than print or online advertising.

Consultations help determine fit
The purpose of a free consultation is to first determine if you can help the person.  Referring someone to another acupuncturist or health care provider that may have more experience with the particular issue is one of the highest acts of integrity you can demonstrate.  Secondly, you want to answer the question of whether or not this is someone you can successfully enter into a therapeutic relationship with.  If you notice yourself getting irritated or meshing with the prospective patient's personality type, how can a healing relationship take place?  Finally, the potential patient can learn enough to determine if you are the right practitioner for them.

Ideally, consults happen in your office.  In this environment, you can alleviate much of their fear and get the prospective client accustomed to coming to the office.  The client will also get a feel for your office environment, staff and their interaction with you,  all of which speaks to the kind of care they can expect.  If a live consultation is not possible, phone consults are fine.  Some patients will choose you over another acupuncturist simply because of the care, patience, confidence and clarity you demonstrated in your phone conversation with them.
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The Consultation Breakdown

A consultation is not an evaluation, but is instead 10-15 minutes spent with a person to assess needs and explain how you can help.  It's designed for those who are unsure if your approach is the right one for them.  The potential patient is at no risk, and invests nothing but time.  A few basic steps to a good consult are:

1.  Start by asking an open-ended question like, "What brings you in here?" or "How can I help?" This is also a good opening for an evaluation.

2.  Listen attentively and patiently, but limit the telling of life stories.  Use clarifying or redirecting questions as needed.

3.  Explain your aproach to acupuncture - how it works, and how it will benefit the patient and their specific condition.  Explain your fees, and be sure to speak with confidence and clarity.

4.  Ask if the prospective patient has any questions about your approach.  Ask if they would like to make an appointment.  Whether or not an appointment is made, be sure to provide educational literaure about acupuncture and your practice.  Thank the person for their time. If the person is not ready to make an appointment, tell them that you will be glad to help when needed.

Demonstrating qualities of caring, patience and understanding in a live or phone consultation is how you become a practitioner who does not need a net to lure people in.  It helps you become a practitioner who is a magnet who attracts people instead.  Remember, these consultations often happen on the phone, which is why mastering phone skills is so important.

The free consultation is a great thing to advertise, especially on your website.  Professionals in a variety of fields use free consultations so potential clients can contact them without risk, cost or obligation. It invites people to make an initial contact.  Block off no more than 15 minutes in the schedule for your free consultations. Inform the prospective client of your time frame. If you exhibit the qualities of caring, patience and understanding during your consultation, your conversion rate can be as high as 99 percent.  During free consultations, don’t take notes or give any kind of physical exam. Don’t do a history or assessment.  Ask how you can help and respond to their concerns with the following information: How you feel you can help them, the frequency of treatment you estimate and the cost of each session.

Then ask if the prospective patient wants to make an appointment.
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Talking About Expected Results

If the prospective patient has a particular concern, tell them your success with other patients. If you don’t have any experience or history of success to refer to, refer to the therapy or modality you practice. For example:  “Well, acupuncture has proven to be very effective over thousands of years helping people with concerns just like yours.”  However, you can say you have helped patients with similar conditions where that holds true. Never lie, exaggerate or promise anything.

Always be honest, but don’t be afraid to express confidence. Honesty coupled with confidence is what potential patients want. It’s important that people hear your confidence and that you may be able to help them. And you can express confidence that they will benefit from what you do without making promises for any particular outcome.

Treatment Estimate Example
A woman came into my clinic with constipation. I told her, “I’ve helped many people with constipation.”  Usually clients with this condition improve within six to eight visits, so I suggested she try three months of treatment—about twelve visits—and then reevaluate.  Her bowels improved within a few visits. By the sixth visit, she was significantly improved, and by the eighth visit her problem was completely gone. She was thrilled.  Sometimes, it’s helpful to pad the schedule some (but not too much) as part of managing expectations and building credibility.  I also tell patients that I never place limits on what’s possible.

Never Make Promises
Instead, give them an estimate of how long treatment should take and how often they should plan on seeing you. This estimate gives patients a plan they can see and consider.  Otherwise, they may think it’s going to take too long, or that a visit or two is enough to gauge effectiveness.

How to Answer:  "How long will it take?"
Obviously "How long will it take?" is not a question you can answer.  However, you should outline the whole process of treatment so the prospective patient can understand the flow or pattern for treatment.  Make sure the prospective patient understands treatment is not just "fixing the problem," but is focused on wellness, preventative care and maintenance.

Most people go to a health professional of some kind, usually a physician, when there's something wrong.  They tend not to go when there's nothing wrong.  Holistic medicine is the opposite.  There is a reframing that needs to happen early on so prospective patients know that acupuncture and Chinese medicine is also preventative, as well as therapeutic.

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The First Session

The first session is the most important session.  How you start something sets the tone and the cycle for your entire relationship. You always want to start things well. And that goes especially for the first session.  If you don’t establish rapport on the first visit, you’re probably not going to keep the patient.

Your most important job is to connect with patients as human beings, not as physical problems. Make clients feel accepted, understood and respected. This is the single most important aspect of a first session. It is more important than the clinical data, the assessment and even the treatment. Doing a good treatment, connecting with them in a good way physically is great, but rapport is everything. 

Just beginning treatment without connecting with patients first and asking good questions is a missed opportunity.  Be aware some patients just come in for hands-on work.  Don’t annoy them with a one-hour intake.  They’ll let you know who they are by their short answers and general unwillingness to talk much.  In effect you establish a rapport with these patients by honoring their desired form of connection. 

Open questions allow the patient to respond as they need. They leave space for any variety of unexpected responses. Frequently you will find the answer does not correspond to the chief complaint on your intake form.  Examples of open questions include: What brings you here? How can I help? What would you like to see happen or change? 

A closed question limits the possible answers. Examples include:  How often do you have a bowel movement? Do you fall asleep okay, or does it take you a while?”

A part of establishing rapport is building trust. To build trust, it’s important to know how to handle your own mistakes. Admit a mistake immediately, apologize, make it right and don’t do it again. This is very important.

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Report of Findings

It’s important to have a treatment plan that contains a clear goal and a plan to get there. You record this in your Report of Findings (ROF). The ROF is started on the first or second visit.  If a committed patient is a successful patient, a good ROF is a way of engendering that.  Listen attentively to what patients have to say in order to gather useful information. Then you do a thorough physical assessment. Combine these findings for your clinical evaluation.  Finally, you clearly explain your assessment and what you plan to do to help the patient.  Be specific about the treatment plan, making sure you give them specifics about the plan so they have an idea of what to expect. Let them know about the frequency of the sessions, how long until you reevaluate, cost of the sessions, as well as what you expect from them in terms of self-care.

Specifically, your ROF should include:

√  Patient Concerns:  Reiterate all patient concerns, and all the other symptoms you found in your intake interview.  Commonly, patints may have two or three issues, and you’ll find another five to 10 by doing a good intake.

√  A written-assessment:  For example, “Shortened pectoralis and weak rhomboids.”

√  Treatment plan:  Specifically what you are going to do to help them.  For example: acupuncture, active resistive stretching, and moist heat treatments. Postural improvements, as well as specific stretching and breathing exercises to do at home five times each week. Begin with 10 weekly visits, then reevaluate.  Gradually taper off to a maintenance or wellness schedule of one to two visits per month.

Communicate your assessment with what’s right, not with what’s wrong.  Encourage your patients to look at what is working with them, and then mention the things that need some help. Honor the issue or concern brought to you in the first place. You might tell them: “We’re going to be using acupuncture to help your condition.  This is what it’s about, how it works and how it helps.”

Patients are immensely reassured by the ROF, and this goes a long way in building rapport. They hear from you what is underlying their concerns, and a specific and structured solution with a specific time frame.  In almost every case, patients are committed to their care with you when you have this level of clarity with them.  Your ROF form could end with a simple agreement, to reflect and strengthen the patient’s “buy-in” or commitment to the work that you’ve outlined. Optimally, you have your logo and office information on your ROF form.

An ROF explained by the patient is a commercial for you and generates lots of referrals. Very few practitioners are this thorough or even do a ROF. Many acupuncturists don’t even explain their assessment or plan.  When you give a strong ROF, you’ve earned a long-term patient who is going to refer you to others because you’ve been that clear, caring and compassionate.

To sum up, these are the three goals of the first session: a good physical assessment, a complete history and establishing rapport.  Accomplishing these three goals in the first session is vital in building a healthy connection with your patient.
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Fees

You can make your first session longer and charge more for it. If your usual visit is an hour, make first sessions an hour and-a-half and charge extra. Another option is to keep the session the same length and don’t change your fee. Be sure to explain ahead of time that the first treatment may be a little shorter because you have to ask them some questions before beginning.

Defining a Sliding Scale
There might be times when you want to build a relationship with someone who can't afford your fees.  I believe strongly in two ethical principles that I follow in my own business:
1.  Don't turn people away because of money.
2.  Provide the same high-quality acupuncture, regardless of how much you are paid.

That said, however, you need a system for your sliding scale.  Otherwise a patient given a reduced rate may continue to pay at that reduced rate for years.  If a client can pay $45 per session when coming in twice a week, the patient can afford the regular rate of $75 when they begin coming in only once every two or three months.

The sliding scale process is very specific, and begins when a patient says, "I cannot afford your treatment."  You explain that you do not turn people away who are committed to their own well-being because of money.  Let them know that finances aren't a reason to not seek treatment, and that you can help them find a way to make their budget work.

Then, give them a fee range that works for you, given your expenses and what you need to receive in order to avoid resenting a patient.  For example, if your fee is $90, you might tell the client your sliding scale is between $60 and $90.  The patient can usually afford a reduction somewhere in this range.  You should explain that the reduced fee is linked to frequency of treatment sessions.  So the fee would be $75, for instance, while the person is coming in for weekly sessions.  When they come in less often, the fee returns to the usual $90.

Have the patient sign a sliding scale agreement.  But if you aren't comfortable treating a patient for less than the bottom range of your scale, refer them to a community clinic or a school clinic if you have an acupuncture school in your area.  You don't want to agree to work for a sum that is going to cause you to resent them.  When you do, you might find yourself cutting corners in your care to make up for what you feel you're losing.  In the end, your relationship with the patient may be damaged beyond repair.

A word of caution about offering a sliding fee scale is to not openly advertise this fact.  When you do, you might appear desperate for work, or consumers may get the idea that your practice and services are not high-quality.  Openly advertising a sliding fee scale may also mean you start attracting clients who come only because of price and not because of what you can do for them.  Instead, discuss the need for a sliding fee scale with individual patients as the topic of paying for sessions arises.  And, don't be the first to offer.  Let the patient indicate the need for reduced fees.

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Managing Session Frequency

For patients coming in for therapeutic work, the frequency of sessions should be evaluated over time. Once they are out of the acute care phase and have experienced corrective care or deeper rebalancing, you may find you can reduce the frequency of sessions. They might find they can “hold” the treatment, feeling its benefits and sustaining themselves.  This may occur after perhaps 10 to 20 visits.

To suggest this to the client you might say: “From a clinical perspective, you’re ready to come in less often, perhaps every two weeks, if that seems right for you.” They may agree, disagree or like to continue treatments as they have been receiving them.

Building Patient Awareness
Patients should not be dependent on us. They should know how to care for themselves and become more self-aware. They should learn to make adjustments in the early stages of imbalance, rather than waiting for things to build to a crisis state requiring strong intervention.  If things go well after a few months on the reduced schedule, the frequency of visits can be reduced again. This continues as long as the patient’s growing resilience keeps them in balance, or until they notice disfunction appearing when they go too long without a treatment.  For example, a patient in this phase of care said recently, “You know what? I went three weeks and that third week just didn’t feel right.  Some of the old stuff came back. I think I need to stay every two weeks for now.”  Don’t try to convince your patients of a need to reduce the number of sessions. Just connect them with their experience. Your goal is to get your patients to the point where monthly tune-ups, which everyone needs, are sufficient.  Encourage patients to discern for themselves as they become more self-aware what treatment frequency is right for them.
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Maintaining Contact - Retaining your Patients

In a health care environment, repayment for care comes from caring for people well, to your highest vision of what that means. It means making care at least as important as cure, and compassion at least as important as correction. Stay more concerned with the depth and quality of the care you provide than with just “getting more of them in the door.” When you do, you will see your practice grow steadily, if not quickly.

One practical expression of this principle is a process called "walking the charts." This process is a way to care for people well.  It is the most effective way to minimize attrition—or patients who fade onto the inactive list.  Losing patients through attrition can easily nullify new patient gains. And constantly working with mostly new patients can be tiring.  It’s important to block off at least 30–60 minutes for any session of walking the charts. You need to take your time.  In this process, as much as in any other area of your life, quality, not quantity, is everything.

What you'll need:
For this exercise, you’ll need your desk, your patient charts, your clinical reference and appointment books, and a phone. If you have other staff members, this is not a task you should delegate. This needs to be done by you.

1.  The first step is to quiet yourself.  Take a moment to breathe deeply, relax your body, quiet your heart and bring your attention mindfully to the moment. Begin with stillness, gratitude and ease.

2.  Next, pull out the first patient’s chart from the “A” section (for example, Sharon Anderson). Bring her to mind. Look at the notes from her last visit. See if she is in your appointment book. If appropriate, call her. Examples of when it would be fitting to call include:
- if you treated her for an acute condition in the last few days
- if she just had her first treatment with you
- if she has not been in for several weeks or does not have her next appointment scheduled.

When speaking with her (or leaving a message), let her know that you are just checking in to see how she's doing. Do not mention scheduling the next appointment, or at least not until the end of the conversation, if at all. It’s important that the person understands that you are not calling just so they will come in again. You should be genuinely interested in how they are doing and feeling, and answering any questions they may have. These calls are a tangible expression of caring, and your clients will remember and value them.
Consider skipping those whom are already scheduled for follow-up appointments.

3.  Detail in the chart what date, left a message or spoke with the patient, as well as any pertinent details. If a patient has not had an appointment for a while, leave a message. A good rule of thumb is to try to make contact three times before deactivating that person's chart.

4.  The next step in walking the charts is to prepare fully for that patient's next visit.  Be completely prepared for them by reviewing their chart before they come in again. Check for any relevant research, consult with a mentor or colleague, reevaluate the original assessment when necessary, and create or modify the treatment plan.  These steps will increase your confidence, something the patient will feel when they arrive. Results will be optimal, since you will be working from a plan rather than “winging it.”  This step adds a rational/analytical aspect, complementing the intuitive sensing that happens spontaneously in the treatment room.


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Policies for a Successful Practice

No practice works well without established policies. Policies give the staff and yourself standards by which you operate. Policies help ensure you treat patients equally, and take the question out of your response to requests from your patients.  For example, everyone, at one time or another, has a late arriving patient ask for an extension of the session to cover the time missed. By establishing a policy for late arrivals, your patients know what to expect.  You can always make exceptions as needed, but a policy ensures that you will treat most clients the same way. This sense of fairness is important in building trust with patients.

Build a Referral List
You cannot help everybody. While some people are willing to receive your help, some simply aren’t. Sometimes your treatment or your personality are just not a good fit for a person.  There isn’t good resonance there, and that’s fine. It can be difficult to come across people you know you can help but who won’t let you help them. Remember, it is their choices that determine their life experience.  You need to be aware that they need some help from somewhere else. Therefore, appropriate referrals are essential.  Remember how important it is to know your limitations and refer patients to the appropriate practitioner.  To this end, take the time to know practitioners in your area to ensure the referrals you
make are appropriate for the client.

The Cancellation Policy
A cancellation policy causes some people to take their appointments a little more seriously. Cancellation policies and their implementation should be made clear to patients and staff.  It’s an important tool to communicate to your patients that you value your own time.

Sample Cancellation Policy
"Appointments must be cancelled at least 24 hours in advance.  If an appointmentis cancelled with less than 24 hours notice, and we are able to fill that appointment time, there will be no charge. If not, there will be no charge the first time. After that, the normal fee will be charged.  If an appointment is forgotten (a patient does not come or call) there will be no charge the first time.  After that, the normal fee will be charged."

In your practice there will be days when people want to come in but you don’t have time in the schedule for them. Put them on the waiting list and use them to fill in for cancellations.

No Shows
If a scheduled appointment doesn’t come, you need to make a phone call to the person. For example, if the appointment is at 3:00, wait until 3:15 and then call the client.  In your call you can say, “Mary, this is Michael calling from Gaeta Wellness. You have an appointmentat three o’clock.  It’s 3:15, and I’m just calling to make sure everything’s okay. Please give us a call when you can.”

This gives the patient the benefit of the doubt and shows that you are concerned for them. The person may walk in as you hang up the phone. If you don’t hear back from the patient, call them again later that day or the next day to reschedule that appointment.  You will lose up to 80 percent of patients who miss an appointment if you don’t contact them. This is not because they don’t like you or Chinese medicine, but because they’re busy, they forget, they don’t think about it, other things are pressing, or they’re embarrassed.

When you reschedule, reiterate the policy that there’s no charge this time, but next time you’ll charge the normal fee if the appointment is missed. Explain that the policy exists because you reserve this time for the patient, and you need to respect your own time (or your employee’s time), as well as other patient's time slots.

When you have clear policies regarding no-shows and cancellations, patients tend to take the treatment and the appointments more seriously.  They’re more likely to show up and participate in their care.  Remember, make it as impossible as you can for someone to be unaware of your cancel/no-show policy.  Post it on the wall, on the website and put it in your information packet and on the consent form. Patients take a copy home, signing off that they read and understand it.
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Personal Growth

It is important for every practitioner
in every stage of practice to have someone they are connected with who's a step ahead, or a few steps ahead, of them.  For example, find a business mentor or coach to connect with every two weeks on the phone for a set amount of time.  You should consider having at least one mentor at each phase of your life and career.  This is something that some senior practitioners are called to do, helping colleagues and the next generation succeed.  Mentors can be people you pay for their help or they may volunteer their time.

The key to success in finding a mentor is relationships.  Start with who you know and then go to who they know.  If you need a doctor, an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, a mechanic or an accountant, you ask people you know - and the same holds true for finding a mentor.  Chances are there's somebody you know who can recommend somebody.  You might use an online networking service like LinkedIn.  You can also try your school, and be sure to maintain contact with any teachers you found particularly engaging.


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Time Management

Successful time management means managing your time in several arenas. First set up your office schedule. Create a weekly schedule that has some available treatment times in the morning, afternoon and evening (and possibly Saturday morning) so that you can accommodate client scheduling needs. Be sure your office schedule is balanced with the other relationships and areas in your life—spouse, children, friends, self-care, play, exercise and rest, to name a few.

During office hours, you need to be in your office either treating patients or working on your business—nothing else. Don’t take time off for the beach when you don’t have appointments.  Be in the office during your working hours, even if you don’t have any clients. Be highly protective of your designated office hours.  Draw a boundary around that time and defend it.  At the same time, maintain integrity with the people in your life.  Leave when it’s time to leave, and don’t bring the office home with you.

Using your time at the office. I like to think of my time at the office as three concentric rings of time management:

1.  Ring one is the smallest ring and the thing of highest importance:  treating clients.  Care well for your existing clients. Make sure you are on top of each case. Walk all your charts alphabetically each month.  Make sure no one “falls through the cracks” and you are prepared for each upcoming visit.  For most of us, caring for people is why we entered this profession, so put that first.

2.  Ring two is the area of activity that you turn to after you’ve cared well for current patients. This is connecting with potential patients who called or emailed you but have not yet come in.  Follow the simple new person process applicable to live or phone connections:

• Discover the concern or goal.
Affirm that it's important enough to address and not ignore.
Clarify how acupuncture can help.
Ask for any questions until all questions are answered, and then ask for the appointment.

3.  Ring three is the outermost ring of time management and includes getting out in your community to meet new people, as well as thinking about your business.  Have a clear picture of where you are headed, and ask yourself if you are on track.  How can you make your business grow and thrive? How do you celebrate successes and learn from failures?
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In Summary

The tools and procedures included in this course can help you to maintain a personal connection with your clients.  It is this personal connection that is the largest factor in determining your success.  The way you talk to current and prospective clients, the care you use in developing treatment plans, how you accept your responsibility for follow-up calls and establishing and publishing office policies—all are informed by how you care for yourself.  And this, your ability to attract clients through who you are, is the most critical and pervasive element ofyour business success.

Congratulations!  You have completed the course.  For California course credit (NCCAOM pending) please click the green "Go To Quiz" button on the top right corner of this page.
Acupuncture CEU Online I Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture CEU Online

  • For NCCAOM, California, or Florida acupuncture CEUs, pay for and take the course's quiz
  • $19.95/unit - a fair price in an inflated market!


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