As an acupuncturist, you come across a variety of patients with a multitude of health conditions and experiences. Depending on the severity of symptoms and signs of their condition, some patients are quicker to treat and heal than others.
Bringing confidence to patients about how you can help their condition is key to a patient’s success in overcoming their illness. And, setting expectations around their treatment is most important to the success of your patient’s well-being.
- How do you as an acupuncturist bring back confidence and hope to patients who may have otherwise lost all hope as they’ve exhausted Western medicine options?
- How do you easily explain and set expectations around their care that will disrupt their feeling of hopelessness and guide them down the path to prosperity in health?
- How do you keep patients from falling out of care after three, four or five treatments?
- And how do you explain the bigger picture of what they can expect under your care?
Does this patient's account sound familiar to you as a practitioner?
Turning patients who have lost hope for their health into loyal, lifelong patients can be challenging, but there is a powerful way for acupuncturists to consistently achieve that goal. The tool, called a Report of Findings, offers patients personalized information about their diagnosis and an overview of the plan for their care right off the bat. The Report of Findings should be in every acupuncturist’s arsenal and should be used every day.
The process of developing a Report of Findings and presenting it to your patients is often overlooked in acupuncture education programs, but it is vital to growing a vibrant practice. No matter what type of care you offer and what you believe are the most important pieces of information to explain to your patients, each patient Report of Findings has the same overall goals and elements.
The Report of Findings patient education tool visually explains what you, the acupuncturist, found to be out of balance in your patient, and sets expectations around what you can do to bring them back to health and how many treatments it may take to get them there. It gives you the opportunity to define your goals, your patient’s treatment plan, your financial policy and just about everything else your patient needs or wants to know.
Explore the Report of Findings in detail
(click each number for more information)
Identify the main health concerns your patient expressed during his/her first visit.
Explain to the patient what you found and list what you used for your diagnosis, ie. pulse, tongue, abdomen, etc. Make sure to keep the conversation simple – use layman's terms in place of traditional Chinese medicine jargon.
Circle or mark where your patient is experiencing pain or discomfort, so he/she can see how his/her ailment maps on to the meridian system.
Use this chart to show how the five elements are related to your patient’s imbalances. If a patient has a particular imbalance in a meridian system, you can use this chart to show them the relationships between the different organ systems as well as the generating, controlling and insulting sequences between the elements.
Show your patient how his/her imbalances are manifesting on their tongue by adding tooth marks on the edges of the diagram, cracks in the center, etc., depending on what you observed.
Mark or highlight the imbalances in your patient’s body to illustrate how those imbalances may be causing or affecting symptoms elsewhere.
List all the symptoms and signs your patient presented with during his/her first visit.
A comprehensive Report of Findings includes:
- Your initial discoveries
- A diagnosis based on meridian/organ imbalances
- A treatment plan including length of treatment
- A suggested re-evaluation date
- Self-care recommendations
- Any other do’s and don’ts you want to suggest
- A financial discussion, including providing personalized information about what their insurance will/won’t cover
The Report of Findings removes any confusion from a patient’s treatment plan by putting all the elements of their diagnosis and healthcare goals together in a simple and organized way.
While acupuncture visits in the United States have been rising over the past decade, it is still considered an alternative medicine in the Western world. When engaging with new patients, you must communicate to them clearly how you will be able to help them and establish trust in your professionalism from the first time you meet them. The Report of Findings gives you the power to do this easily and efficiently.
Every patient you treat should be presented with a personalized Report of Findings during their second visit. In a typical first visit, you will gather information on why they have chosen to seek care as well as a comprehensive health history, including checking their pulses, tongue and any other physical measurements of their health you may need.
While not necessary, some acupuncturists choose to perform an abbreviated treatment during the first visit.
Doing a mini treatment the first time you see someone can accomplish two things:
- It introduces your patient to the type of acupuncture you offer, and
- It provides you with more information on whether or not their body will respond to continued treatment.
If you do provide a treatment during the first visit, be sure to communicate with your patient that you do not expect a single treatment will cure them immediately. Be clear and explain to them the first treatment isis another method through which you are gathering information about their receptivity to the treatment. It also introduces them to your treatment style and what to expect under your care.
At the end of the first visit, tell your patient you will present them with a report during their next visit that will explain what you found to be wrong and how you plan to address it.
At their second visit, when you present your patients with their Report of Findings, it is important to include supplemental educational materials related to their diagnosis. It can be overwhelming to try to explain how Traditional Chinese Medicine can help each part of their diagnosis. However, offering a few additional pieces of information to explain what your diagnosis means will go a long way in facilitating your patients’ understanding of their treatment plan.
Educated patients consistently stay in care longer. The more your patients understand about their care, the more likely they are to follow through with the whole treatment plan and any elements required of them outside of your treatments. This is where the Report of Findings becomes a very powerful patient education tool. It essentially changes the mindset of patients seeking relief under your care and sets them to be proactive in their care in between treatments and visits.
Further, educated patients tend to tell more people about their health success from receiving treatment, which equates to more referrals for you and your services. When your patients understand what you’re doing for them and feel a noticeable difference in their health, they will be inclined to communicate their results to their friends and family, sharing how acupuncture has helped them achieve their health goals.
Facilitating this understanding can also mean connecting the dots for your patients between your treatment and the changes they’re witnessing in their lives. For example, many people might not connect their improved better sleep patterns with their acupuncture treatments.
Communication throughout the treatment process is very important. Be realistic with your patients about how long you think treatment might take. You can break it up into sections, talking about relief care, corrective care and maintenance, so they understand the philosophy behind acupuncture treatments.
It is also always helpful to communicate with your patients what they can expect during their next visit. If you continue to walk them through their treatment plan even after you present it to them in the Report of Findings, they will be more likely to do their part in self-care practices between visits and commit to coming back for the entire length of their treatment plan.
Ultimately, patients appreciate knowing what to expect from their healthcare providers and seeing their treatment plan laid out in a clear way. Through a Report of Findings, you give them comfort and prove your professionalism while under your care.
At the end of the day, conducting a Report of Findings is the single most effective way to build trust and long-lasting relationships with your patients, helping you to grow a thriving practice.
We'll talk soon,
Jeffrey Grossman, EAMP