Thursday, July 24, 2014

How & Why to Create Business Rituals For Your Patients (and Yourself!)

This morning I was listening to an online marketing presentation about ways to become irresistible to your customers. One of the things they discussed that struck me as really relevant and important for people in the business of healing was to create a series of “business rituals” for how your business communicates with patients...from the very first "touch" (phone call, visit to website, meet at a health fair, whatever) until the final day they leave your practice. Most of us have some of these processes in place intuitively without having labeled them; but what do we mean by this and why should you bother?
First I will discuss why it is valuable for you and your patients. Then I will give some possible examples.

What can business rituals do for you?
1. You only need to invent the wheel once. The process of designing rituals for your patients as a planning tool for managing all patient and prospective patient interaction. This is valuable to you first because it means you have a created a system that can be repeated in the same way, in the same order, and with relatively predictable results with every patient. Of course your system can be tweaked whenever, as needed, but how you communicate and manage patients becomes built in.
2. Most parts of this process can be delegated. You want and need to focus on treating your patients; it is what you were trained for. So, creating a series of tasks that are all repeated in the same way and same order and then taught to your front desk staff or other subordinate (if you don't ahve such a person, make it a short term goal to hire one!!) frees you up to be the healer that you want to be.
3. Some of your rituals can be designed to increase your patients trust and belief in you, increase their perception of value for your services, or help you tell your unique "story." Let's face it, with only 5% of all Americans using Chinese medicine and acupuncture, what we do is downright weird in some people's minds. We have some work to do to gain the trust of more potential patients. Some of the information we may send/give out or post on our website for the benefit of potential patients (things that all potential patients should receive) should be designed to increase their trust and belief. More on that below.
4. One ritual you can use would be to "pre-qualify" your patients to see if they are a good fit for our services. This can be done with a questionnaire or with a pre-intake free consultation. You may say that you want to simply take every patient who might walk through the door, but it really is not true if you think about it, and it's not even good for your practice or the industry. For example, if a prospective patient shows up with a condition that you have no experience with and you know that someone across town is an expert at this condition, it's probably best for our profession in the long run if you refer that person to the expert. If you make sure they know that you were the source of the referral, perhaps they will return the favor. I've had the question in classes, "What do you say when someone says 'I've tried acupuncture and it did not work.'?" Such remarks are very discouraging, but one response might be, "Perhaps you were not with the right practitioner for the condition you have." Also, most of us have had the experience of trying to work with a patient that, for whatever reason, just wasn't right for us and in whose presence we feel uncomfortable. Such pre-qualification rituals can help us know immediately whether a patient is a good fit for us, and probably whether or not we can really help them. I believe it’s a bad idea to take a patient that we don’t think we can help…just for the short-term income. If we are not able to help them, we don’t get any good word of mouth from that interaction and it leaves a bad taste in both our mouth and theirs.
Secondly, the pre-qualification ritual add to a mystique of exclusivity...perhaps making a potential patient really want to become our patient simply because we are not immediately herding them into our treatment room.
5. Follow-up and follow-through rituals are often what make the sale. Let’s say you give a free lecture at the library called “Insomnia? What Can Acupuncture Do For You?”. Fifteen people show up and one actually makes an appointment with you on the spot. Ten others leave you their contact information. What are you going to send them after the lecture to convince them to trust you and come in for care? Whatever the piece is, it should be ready to go before you ever gave the talk. This could be a coupon for a free private 15-minute consult attached to an article you wrote quoting some research and with a current patient testimonial at the bottom of the letter. It could be a phone call thanking them for coming to the talk and asking if they have any other questions they may want to ask in private. Whatever that follow-up looks like, it should be a built-in, standard part of giving public talks…a business ritual. If two more bite, you still have relationship building to do with the other eight that gave you their information. So then what? Perhaps a monthly email with a link to your website articles section? Perhaps a phone call to see if they are still interested in hearing from you?

What could be a list of standard business rituals?

  1. Giving one free talk per month, with appropriate handout literature and follow-up procedures (see above) until your practice is as full as you want it for three months in a row.
  2. Your website includes a free report, a video, an ebook, or some other downloadable educational tool that requires people to leave an email address. Anyone who signs up for this free download gets a thank you note and an offer for a free consult or to have you answer one question for them free of charge. This item is refreshed with new copy at least once per month.
  3. Potential clients are always scheduled for a free consult to see if he or she is a good candidate for your services, or not. If not the right patient for you, have a list of referrals available as a hand-out.
  4. If they are a good potential patient, a simple treatment plan form to give them at the end of the consult so they know what to expect when they come in. This gives patients confidence that they know what is going to happen…no secrets. Also, don’t try to sell 12 treatments if you really think you only need five! If you don’t know, suggest 4-5 treatments and then a review of progress.
  5. When patients first come to your clinic, what info, gift, educational materials, or free samples do they get?
  6. A free tea and cookies service in your waiting area?
  7. A play area for young children?
  8. Send out “haven’t seen you in a while” letters to patients who have not been in for six months. Send out birthday cards for this month’s birthdays with “Get a free Tx on your birthday!” coupons.
  9. Bonding calls to follow up with first-time appointments (‘How are you feeling? Any further question we can answer? Looking forward to seeing you at your next appointment. Please call if you have any questions at all.”…etc.)
  10. You have both morning and evening check-lists for your front desk staff to perform daily, weekly, monthly. (e.g., pull charts at 9 AM, back up the computer at 5 PM, do reminder calls after 3 PM, check needle inventory in all treatment rooms each morning, order needles and herbs on Friday afternoon, etc.).
  11. A monthly promotion for the community…”Come in this Saturday, get an acupuncture treatment for $35; All Proceeds Donated to the Local Homeless Shelter (a different non-profit each month?) When people come in, have handouts, “sign-up for our newsletter” forms, brochures, business cards. A different non-profit every month will draw a different crowd. Get the non-profit to help to promote this.
  12. Asking for a testimonial note whenever a patient says “I feel so much better. Thank you.”
  13. Standard “release from therapy” letter…for patients who are better and have gotten a great result.
So there’s my list. Yours could be completely different…but it’s good to have one. You know what “happens next” with each patient or potential patient. Check out the new edition of Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists at

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Great Patient Communication is Your Basis of Success

Here are 20 tips for improving your patient communication, placebo effect, and keeping your appointment book closer to full!

1. Focus on each existing patients, communication with them, and educating them, rather than just working on attracting new patients. The new patients will happen organically at some point,
but effective patient communication and management of that communication is up to you from the day your open your door.

2. See each first patient appointment as if it were a job interview…because it is. To get a feel for real patient response, walk a friend through a first appointment at your clinic and ask them to critique everything. What did they like and what should you consider doing differently? Some things to look at… in this "audit" include phone service, ease of finding you, parking, paperwork, educational materials, smells, sights, lighting, retail displays, office accoutrements, bedside manner, check out process.)

3. If there is time, get new patients to do the required paperwork in advance. If possible, read it thoroughly PRIOR to their visit. If the appointment is same day or next day, schedule them 15-20 minutes prior to when you wish to see them so there is no rushing with your paperwork. Make sure the forms are neat, easy to read and understand. Ask if they have questions or understood everything on you forms.
Also...always at least skim each patient chart prior to a visit. They won’t believe you care if you cannot remember anything about their case each time they come in.

4. Send or give all new patients a Welcome to Our Clinic Folder. Make sure there is an information sheet about “what to expect on your first visit” for them to read. Talk about how much you look forward to helping them regain balance and health in their bodies and lives and how much you look forward to working with them. Tell them what to wear and not wear; when to eat prior to coming in. Ask them to arrive a few minutes early so that they can rest…and because the pulse and other aspects of the diagnosis will be more accurate. What else could go into your welcome folder?
    • Cover letter welcoming them
    • Brochure about your clinic services and what you can treat
    • What to expect, what to wear, what will happen
    • Basic FAQ (similar to phone scripts you wrote)
    • Map to your clinic
    • Picture of yourself treating someone
    • Referral letter from a satisfied patient?

5. If a patient must wait to be seen on the first visit, control what happens during that wait. Give them a specific checklist to do such as what did they eat that day or a 1-10 severity of their symptoms today, yesterday, the day before that. Have  some interesting retail displays that are either educational, fun, exotic, or enticing. Control the waiting time as well. 5-7 minutes can be useful, more than 10 is insulting. If you are running behind, come and tell them so in person.

6. To generate relaxation, show new patients around your clinic…patients will get a feeling for how proud you are of the clinic and your medicine. Demonstrate needling on yourself if you think they seem really nervous. Look them in the eye; nod your head; explain what you are going to do before you do it. Consider headsets with healing music or sounds while the needles are in as an option for nervous patients. Don’t keep your clinic freezing cold.

7. The practitioners with the happiest patients are the great listeners. People feel cared for and understood when you listen…even for just a few minutes. Try to ask one question that you already know the answer to but which may surprise them…it increases placebo effect. You must stay in charge of the clock, but listen as much as you can, especially this 1st time. Good listeners get more patients! Remember, you are applying for the job of being this person’s healthcare provider.

8. What patients really care about is feeling heard, feeling cared for, and feeling touched at a deep level. To foster this, do a great physical exam…wow them with its thorough nature, but learn which questions to ask or signs and symptoms to look for quickly to confirm or deny a hypothesis. Don’t waste too much time learning everything about their life. Keep it medical not personal this 1st visit. Touch and treat with confidence. Your body language should be “all about them”  and “I know what to do” even if the only thing you can think to do is needle St 36.

9. It's nice to surprise a patient when you can. For example, if you know they have spleen qi deficiency, press Sp 2, 3, and 6, and perhaps Sp 17 and say something like “I expect you may be tender on these spots.” If you know they are under stress, probably vertebrae T4 and T5 will be tender. In their minds, if you know where they hurt, what else will you magically understand about them?

10. When patients ask questions, take a moment to formulate an answer. Think clearly before you speak. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out the answer, but don’t lie or equivocate. Give hope and be reassuring without boasting or promising; our medicine can do wonders for people

11. Your office can and should have lots of relevant, interesting signage. These can be in treatment rooms, hallways, bathrooms, or inside small plexiglass photo frames. Here are a few ideas.
    “Did you know that Chinese medicine has successful treatments for: (WHO LIST)?”
    “Western and Eastern medicine can be compliments. Western medicine is usually better for acute problems such as trauma and infectious disease. Asian medicine is usually more effective for chronic conditions.”
    “If you have to wait more than 20 minutes for your treatment; it’s free!”
    “Want to take some information to a friend? Ask for a brochure or some research about your friends’ health challenges.”

12. If you feel you need to do research for a patient, then start with something simple
Acupuncture: do a simple treatment that usually produces good relaxation like Four Bars…then add ONE thing for their major complaint and do research prior to the next appointment.
Herbal med: decide on the major pattern discrimination & give a 1-2 day dose. Research the formula, review the S&S, call them the next day to hear results, and revise more accurately for a revised formula on day three.

13. Do a bonding call… Within first 24 hours at latest. This can be done by a front desk person, but it's even better if it’s you,
This allows you to do a number of things.
    • Shows you care and are on their health team
    • Allows you to find out if what you did so far was effective
    • Allows you to nip any potential problems in the bud and get patient back in quickly

14. From the first visit and even the first phone call, make sure people understand that 6-8-10 visits is usual and expected and that you need 2-3 visits just to refine the treatment plan. Reiterate this in the bonding call and in your educational materials. Patients don’t know what to expect; be reassuring and educate, educate, educate! You create the treatment plan; people are actually happier with having your guidance in most cases.

15. During those first appointments, your most powerful educational and marketing tool is to focus all your attention on your patient while with them. Never talk about yourself.
And, every time they come in, you should teach them something new about themselves and their health. These can and should be small things …about diet, about their daily routine, about feng shui, about natural cosmetics and their skin, about self-massage of points. It does not matter what, but it can keep their fascination, interest, appreciation, and buzz.

16. Send patients home with something to do to keep their health (and your services) in mind:
    • Food diary for a week
    • Breathing or other exercise (one or two only!!)
    • An article, brochure, or book to read
    • A liniment, patch, or compress to use daily
    • A handout about their treatment protocol and plan…

17. When you take antibiotics or other Western drugs, you are told to take the whole course even if the symptoms abate after 4-5 days. Make sure your patients understand that your treatment plan is similar! Without adequate treatment, they may go away saying that CM does not work. Give them a treatment plan handout with a fixed minimum number of treatments (or weeks/months of care in the case of herbal medicine). Voice and on paper increases compliance.  Especially if your Tx plan calls for 5,6,8 treatments, make as many of those appointments in advance as possible…even ok in CO to offer package discounts.

18. Always get another appointment scheduled before they leave the office if possible. Try to keep appointments at the same time of day and same days of week…helps patients remember. Also do reminder calls the day before every appointment. This will cut missed appointments by as much as half.

19. When a prospective patient calls and you have treated the condition they are experiencing, say so. If you do not, show/send/email them some research or a reference in a book. Discuss that you can help with their underlying imbalances allowing their body to heal itself no matter what the condition. Then suggest a limited tx protocol of 4 sessions and then a reassessment. However, if you think you CANNOT treat them, refer them to another practitioner who you think could and tell them you hope they appreciate your honesty and will refer others in any case.

20. Remember to say thank you every time they come in. They could be someone else’s patient, but they have chosen you. Make sure they know that they are appreciated.
Let them know you always want their referrals and that this is the highest compliment they could ever give you.

Good luck and best wishes to all my readers!
Honora Wolfe • Copyright 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

How to write a headline that gets more readers, listeners, attendees, and interest from your potential next patient

So you are getting ready to give a talk at the local Chamber of Commerce, write a blog series, write copy for some office brochures for an upcoming speech you are giving, or create a month’s worth of radio shows and you need some ideas for really getting the attention of potential attendees, listeners, or readers.

Here are several sure-fire headline templates that will help you reach your goal. You can change the verbs, nouns or adjectives. These are flexible ideas to give you the best shot at the most potential customers.

1. Give Me [short time period] and I’ll Give You [blank].

This headline promises a strong benefit to the reader/listener, like all good headlines do. But this one is especially effective because it promises to deliver in a very short time period.

Give Me An Hour of Your Time– and I’ll Give You the Tools to an Easier Allergy Season!

Give Me 10 Minutes a Day – and I’ll Help You Stay Out of the Doctor’s Office.

2. If You [blank] Now, You Be Sorry Later (or) If you [blank], You’ll Be Happy Later.

All people can be motivated either by fear or hope. Use a little of both in these headlines.

If You’re Eating Sugar Now, You Could Be Sorry Later

If You Follow This Simple Health Advice Now, You’ll Be Happy Now and Later.

3. The Lazy [blank’s] Way to [blank].

This headline always works well with time-pressured people, and that’s certainly true for most of us. No one likes to think of her/himself as lazy, but everyone likes to save time and effort.

The Lazy Man’s Way to Better Back Health

The Lazy Woman’s Way to Better Sleep.

The Lazy Mother’s Way to Healthier Kids

4. Do You Recognize the [number] Early Warning Signs of [blank]?

Here's a more compelling structure than your typical “Top 10” article. People want to avoid problems, and this headline promises critical tips before it’s too late.

Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of High Blood Pressure?

Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis?

Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of Metabolic Syndrome?

5. See How Easily You Can [desirable result].

We love quick and easy when it comes to learning something new or gaining some advantage.

See How Easily You Can Manage Your Seasonal Allergies.

See How Easily You Can End Hot Flashes.

See How Easily You Can… [?].

6. You Don’t Have to Be [something challenging] to be [desired result].

People almost always have preconceived notions about things, and this can be a barrier to taking action. Remove the barrier that stands between them and the desired result with your headline, and people are more likely to respond positively.

You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Attain Health and Wellness.

You Don’t Have to Be a Rocket Scientist to Get the Most from Your Health Dollar.

You Don’t Have to Starve Yourself to Lose Weight.

7. Do You Make These Mistakes?

This is always a powerful attention grabber, since no one likes to make mistakes. If you’ve targeted your content well for your intended audience, helping people avoid common mistakes is a sure-fire winner with this type of headline.

Do You Make These Mistakes in Maintaining Your Health?

Do You Make These Common Eating Mistakes?

So there are a whole bunch of ideas for writing your next promotional article, brochure, radio show, blog, or public talk. I hope they help you get more folks interested in your work and in our wonderful medicine.

Stay well everybody, and thanks for reading my blog.

Honora Wolfe

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Another Great Business Blog for Acupuncturists

Check out this new blog from Jason Stein, who teaches the business classes at Oregon College of OM in Portland.

Good luck and best wishes to all my readers and all acupuncture professionals!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cool Videos for You and Your Patients

Health Tips for Patients and for YOU as well?

Check out the YouTube Channel of my friend Anthony Giovanelli, founder of Acupuncture Ambassadors. He creates new digital video about Chinese medicine, self-care, massage therapy, psychotherapy, feng shui, and dietary therapy...just for starters. More video for acupuncturists coming soon..."The 20 Most Frequently Asked Questions from Acupuncture Patients. Turn your patients on to this channel!

Also, check out the Feb. issue of Acupuncture Today for an interview with Anthony.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Online Tools to Help All of Us Stay Organized in 2014

Hi Folks,

I was not sure if I would be blogging anymore, but just cannot seem to help myself! Saw some new tips for saving $$ and staying organized that anyone with a smart phone, computer, or tablet can use that I want my readers to know about. Hope one or more of these rings a bell for you.

1. Make a budget. I know, I know...boring or scary or it makes you feel clueless. Online expense-tracking tools like Mint or BudgetPulse make it easier.

2. Are you a coupon clipper? Amongst the Hamburger Helper and Rice-a-Roni coupons, you can find others for all sorts of supplies that are useful for your clinic (paper products, clinic supplies, office supplies, and more) at Coupon Sherpa, SavingStar, or

3. In May or June, consider a block-or-neighborhood garage sale, which generates more traffic and more sales. Decluttering is an excellent way to re-energize of your home, office, and life. Use the money you make for a new piece of needed equipment for your business or to make an extra payment on your student loans.

4. Do you have the best rates and features on your personal and business credit cards?? Compare card rates at NerdWallet or

5. When was the last time you saw your credit report? You are entitled to a free copy once per year from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You may be surprised (pleasantly or not) but you should know your scores. Check out

6. Have trouble paying your bills on time? Use the tools at Manilla or Check, free apps for your smart phone and set up on time bill pays for everything you can!

7. Online security is a huge issue for all of us and seems to get more dicey all the time. Check out tools like Dashlane, Password Genie, or LastPass for keeping passwords organized (I personally find this maddening!!!) and to keep your financial accounts as safe as possible.

8. If you "Like" the company pages of product and service providers that you do business with you are more likely to receive info from them about clearances, BOGO deals, or other discount opportunities that can save you money. Some companies have regular "Facebook Only" sales that can offer steep discounts for limited time periods. If you are a regular on Facebook, this is something to consider. The same is true about following companies you like on Twitter.

9. Do you like to use Twitter? Check out #Bargain, #SavingMoney, and #Frugal for regular tips to help you get more for your buck every day. This also feeds the mindset of money saving, which, if you have student loans, needs to be part of your life until the loans are paid up.

10. If you want to offer a discount to new potential customers (I have mixed feelings about this), you might consider a site such as Slickdeals to share info about yourself and your services. This web-centered savings community has a huge audience (10-million users!) and 18 different areas of interest (health is one of them). Alternatively, consider posting something about yourself and possible discounts at Frontpage Deals and Coupons.

Coming in a couple of weeks....Communicating with MDs for Fun and Profit.

Happy New Year everyone! May it be peaceful and prosperous for all of us everywhere.