San Diego, CA – December 6, 2010 – In the effort to help chiropractors remain competitive, ChiroTouch™, the nation's leader in chiropractic software, recently published "Staying Competitive in Tough Economic Times."It's all very well to talk about keeping your chiropractic practice up to date, but that can be hard, especially when the economy is not great. However, by knowing where to cut spending and where a little investment can yield big results can really help you to keep your office competitive without blowing your budget. Above all, you cannot allow your practice to remain static. The advertising, service, and even documentation methods that worked in the last five years will not work in the future. Change is necessary, but doesn't have to be expensive. The whole point of remaining competitive is knowing how to keep old business coming in while still attracting new business, and knowing where to invest and where to cut.
The Most Important Thing:
First and most importantly, remember what your source of income is: your patients. You need to be re-engaging with old patients and making a conscious, every day effort to reach out to new ones. A good way to achieve this is through effective advertising. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to put money towards advertising if you're already financially strapped, consider what master salesman P.T. Barnum said: "If you say you can't afford to advertise, you can't afford not to advertise." Even if you have an extremely well-established practice with reliable, long-term clients who are active and engaged in their relationship with you, advertising should be one of your top priorities. When done carefully, it doesn't have to be expensive. Look for unorthodox opportunities, beginning designers, and think about where you are most likely to reach the majority of your clients.
Now that you've got your advertising in place to reach out to new clients, focus on keeping your old clients excited about their work with you. Unfortunately, chiropractic work tends to be one of the first things people cut out of their budgets when economic times get tough, since some consider it a luxury rather than a needed medical treatment. Take time to engage with your clients, and make sure they know just how important chiropractic work is to their well-being and health. Make it clear to them that their health is one of your top priorities, and they're much more likely to return the favor by making their chiropractic appointments a higher priority in their budget, even when things get tight.
Knowing Where to Cut:
Cutting costs is never easy, but sometimes there's just nothing else you can do. Sit down one day and take a good, hard look at your practice. You need to consider several areas. First, is there any way that you can save money that has to do with the building itself? Are there outdated power-sucking machines that run up your electricity bill, or is your chiropractic documentation system so outdated that you've got stacks of old charts taking up valuable space? If so, there are ways to work around that, and the simplest way is to just get rid of it. If there is something in your office that is not of genuine, evident value, then it doesn't belong there.
Harsh as it may sound, the same rule goes for staff. You need staff that are well-trained, engaged and excited to come to work, not automatons sitting there to drink coffee and collect a paycheck. It is never popular, and always difficult, but consider laying off any staff member that is not truly contributing to the office. You may find that removing one bad apple can help your entire office function more efficiently.
Again, look for unorthodox opportunities. If you need some filing done, or would like to have a new receptionist, consider taking on an intern or someone looking for work experience. These people are often willing to work for reduced pay in order for benefits like treatment discounts or even just for the experience, and it can be a good opportunity for them and for you.
Knowing Where to Invest:
Once you've gone through your office and determined what elements need to go, it's time to consider where you want to invest. Saving money is a proactive, long-term process, not just a survival method to use until the market settles down.
One of the single most important areas in which to invest is technology. The big problem inherent in medical offices is the need to keep charts and files on hand. If you have chiropractic SOAP notes overflowing in file cabinets, you are not only wasting space, but you are making it impossible for you or your staff to work efficiently. By investing in some of the new chiropractic EHR systems, you can organize your soap notes and other chiropractic documentation electronically, and save a ton of space and time. If you invest in nothing else, you must invest in a good chiropractic documentation software and a decently fast computer system.
Another area in which a little investment goes a long way is energy efficient lighting and machinery. If you can't cut out those machines that are running up your electricity bill, at the very least try to get updated versions that use less energy. Even if you have to keep one or two old clunkers around, you can at least cut down on electricity costs by changing out light bulbs, printers, and even your staff kitchen equipment.
Finally, you must continue to invest in your clients. While you should of course not invest in every new treatment and equipment that comes along, if there's a solid new trend in the industry, you should consider if it could bring you new business, or help you to better treat and connect with your patients. An example of this is the new trend of using netbooks to take down chiropractic SOAP notes and demonstrate treatments via chiropractic imaging software. A netbook may cost a little to begin with, but you will ultimately get that back in customer "word-of-mouth" advertising and through the money and time you save on not plowing through mountains of paper documentation.
The chiropractic industry may be facing one of it's toughest challenges as customers become reluctant to invest in health treatments and any kind of success requires keeping your practice on the cutting edge. However, by knowing where to cut, where to invest, and remembering above all the importance of your clients, you and your practice can not only weather this economic storm, but come out even better on the other side.