Visualize and create your wellness practice by Marc H. Sencer, MD

Chiro Biz Quiz: Visualize and create your wellness practice

By Marc H. Sencer, MD
Many doctors envision performing wellness or alternative medicine services, but don’t often think about specifics and what a good business plan should include.

There are, however, steps you can take to create a profitable wellness practice.

The first step should be deciding what services you want to offer. There are many services to choose from including: Acupuncture, nutrition, biofeedback, anti-aging, and detoxification/chelation. Some services will require special training for certification (acupuncture), while others, such as chelation or vitamin injections, will require that you have MDs on board. Remember, you must take these factors into consideration.

You should also consider your patient demographics. A practice in an upscale area is more likely to have patients who will be able to afford esoteric cash-based services.

It’s important to carefully examine your office’s layout to be sure you have the space necessary for any additions. Most wellness services require little space, but if you are already bursting at the seams, you may run into a problem. Also consider the aesthetics of your office, as this may be a good time to remodel.

Once you have made a preliminary decision about the services you want to offer put them into a business plan in order to determine what it will cost to make them profitable. Sometimes doctors find that their “dream practice” won’t work as a business.

When formulating your business plan, it is helpful to use a worst case estimate of the number of existing patients who would potentially use your new service, without having to market to new patients.

Next, try to get an idea of how much these patients would spend on a monthly basis. It may be useful to survey your patients about the new services and get their feedback. Just be aware that many patients will be enthusiastic, but may never use the new services. Factor this into your calculations.

It is often helpful to work backward. For example: Let’s say you want to increase your practice’s income by $5,000 a month, and you know that approximately 100 patients could purchase supplements each month. Your goal could be accomplished if each patient purchased supplements that had an approximate net markup of $50, or a retail price of $100. Is that realistic? Is it too expensive, or not expensive enough? Be sure you can answer these questions.

Once you have vetted your idea as a business and determined it can work, develop the clinical protocols that will be best for your patients without violating the parameters of your business plan. This balancing act between you as a doctor and you as a businessman isn’t always easy — but it is essential. It may mean giving away some services to patients in need, but in the end it will help maintain your reputation and bring referrals to you.

Most wellness practices consist of diagnostic testing, office visits, and nutritional supplementation. You will need protocols for these components, and everything you do for your patients, otherwise you’ll have to reinvent the wheel each time you see a new patient.

Once you have organized your wellness practice and are comfortable with the protocols in place, consider marketing. It’s best to start slow, with a small budget, and market only to your existing patients and your network. Once you feel comfortable, you can expand out.

Because a wellness practice is a niche business, there may not be as much competition as with a chiropractic or medical practice. This enables you to market yourself as the wellness expert in your community. Consider writing a book, blog, or a regular feature in a local publication.

A good practice management consultant with wellness experience should be able to help you through the process of creating your wellness practice. In this era of decreasing insurance reimbursements, a cash-based wellness practice makes good financial sense.

Marc H. Sencer, MD, is the president of MDs for DCs, which provides intensive one-on-one training, medical staffing, and ongoing practice management support to chiropractic integrated practices. He can be reached at 800-916-1462 or through www.mdsfordcs.com..

Test Yourself

Test your knowledge about what you should know when creating a wellness practice with this true or false quiz.

[ ] 1. Patient demographics are less important in a wellness practice than in a traditional chiropractic practice.

[ ] 2. Some wellness services require a medical doctor.

[ ] 3. Competition for patients in the wellness arena is fierce.

[ ] 4. One of the most effective marketing tools is to position yourself as a wellness expert.

Answers: No. 2 and 4 are both true. Some wellness services may require you to have a medical doctor, while others could require special training. Marketing yourself as a wellness expert may be a good way to bring patients to your door and help garner referrals.

No. 1 and 3 are both false. Because wellness services are usually life enhancing rather than essential, and most are not covered by insurance, only patients who can afford them and perceive their value will seek you out.

Because wellness is a niche business there will be far less practices competing with you. In some areas you may be the only doctor with a wellness practice.