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The Importance of First Two Patient Visits

Building trust with patients  is as important as the effectiveness of the treatment you offer.  A successful practice incorporates both of these elements.

Many patients are skeptical about acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They may receive conflicting or erroneous information about our medicine through the media or ill-informed and skeptical individuals. Patients may not know what to believe about acupuncture. They may have questions in their minds such as:

  • Does it work?
  • Is it a placebo?
  • Do the needles hurt?
  • Are the needles hitting nerves? etc…

No wonder why it can be difficult at times to attract new patients into our clinics! I myself found difficulty in my first year of acupuncture school trying to comprehend the theories and principles of TCM. The first year of classes were all about Yin, Yang, excess, false heat…you know what I mean. You just had to trust in what was being taught.

So, imagine what it’s like for a patient to try and comprehend what we can do for them, or even the concepts we work with. Qi, Yin, Yang, Jing etc. The language of Chinese medicine is probably foreign to them, and it is our job to ensure they understand how this ancient medicine can help to transform their health.

Building trust is paramount to building life-long patient relationships. Consider these things when starting those new patient relationships:

Telephone communication:
When you, or your office staff answer the phone you should have a consistent script and a list of anticipated questions. When people call to schedule a first-time visit or consultation, what you say should always be consistent. Having a canned mini-speech that explains what you do, and why you do it is important.

First impressions matter:
When your new patient arrives at your clinic what do they see, smell and hear? Is their paperwork ready for them and organized into a nice folder or clipboard? What’s on your walls? Are they bombarded with positive, healthy messages and images? Or is your paint peeling? Is your carpet stained? Does it smell like moxa? And if so, do you have a sign letting them know what that scent is?

First Visit – This is an important time for you to communicate to your new patients what it is you do, how acupuncture can help them and what they can expect in terms of healing with acupuncture care. Our "Your First Visit" brochure can help lay the ground work for new patients prior to their first visit.

One of the finals steps in the process of building trust is explaining what it is you are doing and why you are doing it in simple terms during treatment.

I DO treat during the first visit, some practitioners choose not to. What I tell my patients is this:

“This first visit serves two purposes. One, it introduces you to the type of care that I do, and two, it allows me to see how your body does or does not respond to acupuncture. What I will do is give you a treatment and have you come back in a few days and we can talk about it and go over your report of findings.”

The reason I go about it this way is because I want to take the time to create a thorough care plan and diagnosis. I’m basically buying myself some extra time. I let them know this treatment is not a magic bullet and they may or may not see any significant changes from that one session.

Second Visit – The Report of Findings. I can’t stress it enough – I feel that this is one of the most important procedures you can do as a practitioner. And unfortunately, it is more than likely overlooked by almost every school out there. Let me ask you this, have you heard the term report of findings before? Or do you even know how to give one? If you do, congratulations.  You are one of the very few practitioners who know about it and hopefully understand what the Report of Findings is and how it can make or break a practice.

Here is what you need to explain in detail during the Report of Findings:

  1. What was found to be wrong.
  2. What you can do.
  3. How long it may take.
  4. Will insurance cover it and what it will cost.

Even if your patients don’t ask those five questions, you need to answer them. Patients take notice when you place all the pieces of their health puzzle together in a simple, organized way. When you do this, you will clearly illustrate to your patients what to expect while they are under your care.

During their Report of Findings, I tell my patients we will be completing a re-evaluation after a series of visits. This sets the stage for them to realize after a specific number of treatments we will reevaluate and see what has and has not changed.

This gives the patient a timeline and sets goals for their health. Setting a specific date for reevaluation also helps you, as the practitioner gauge patient progress, and it lets the patient know you won’t ask to see them every day for the rest of their lives. Kidding here, but seriously, patients do come in with tainted thoughts that you want to see them three to four times per week for months. Unfortunately, they have this fear due to unethical treatment practices they were exposed to or have heard about. Granted, you may need to see them that often if the condition warrants it, but you need to clearly explain to them why and the specifics.

In summary
Building trust with patients and educating them about the far-reaching benefits of acupuncture sets the stage for long-term patients.

We'll talk soon,

Jeffrey Grossman, EAMP
“Set the stage during the first two visits and your patient will trust your care”
Jeffrey Grossman, EAMP

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