Pre-Education: How to Attract Motivated, Invested Patients
NDNR’s mission is to be an open forum for the entire naturopathic profession. Each issue provides readers with the most current information on clinically significant and applicable advancements within the naturopathic profession. In recognition of the tremendous challenges presented to doctors over the last few years, NDNR has decided to offer specific support for the logistical and business needs of practitioners. In collaboration with Freedom Practice Coaching, this column was created to address the day-to-day business and practice management needs of all naturopathic physicians.
When you market your practice and your services the right way, you’ll fill your practice with ideal patients – ones that are motivated and willing to invest in their health over the long term. These are patients that are willing to create a partnership with you and will co-labor with you throughout their journey. If you don’t think that there are people in your community like that, don’t worry. If you have an orthodontist or a popular coffee chain in your town, you have more than enough people to fill your practice.
Let’s try a quick exercise. Take a moment and think about your current favorite patient. Why are they so special to you? Aside from personality traits, it is likely they meet a few criteria:
- They are motivated to follow your advice
- They actively follow their treatment plan
- They ask important, thoughtful questions
- They respect your knowledge
- They come on time and don’t miss appointments
- They take you seriously
While daydreaming, try to envision what would it be like to have a steady, predictable stream of patients like this coming in every month? What would your practice be like if all of your patients shared these same qualities? Maybe it sounds too good to be true, but it’s not.
Setting Yourself Apart
Before we can discuss how to attract the right kind of patients, we need to talk briefly about you and how your community perceives what you have to offer. While the difference between conventional and naturopathic medicine is clear, it might not be so obvious to your potential patients.
Patients have been taught that doctors – of any kind – are people that they see to treat symptoms. They’re used to walking into a clinic, listing off their ailments, and then walking back out again with a prescription that may (or may not) alleviate their most pressing problem. Try out the following thought experiment. If a patient is their 40s or 50s, has gained extra weight, has low energy, experiences low sex drive, has lost self-confidence, and is already on multiple prescription medications, who would they be most willing to seek help from?
Too often, discussions about the benefits of naturopathic medicine are limited by simply comparing the naturopathic vs traditional medical models. In the same thought experiment, what if you gave that potential patient the choice between seeing a doctor or a personal trainer? Who would they be more likely to go see then?
In my experience, most people would rather avoid seeing their doctor and would be much more willing to see a personal trainer. Why? Because they think of the trainer as a guide and mentor who can empower them to attain health. Working with a trainer will them help get in shape, increase their energy, improve their sex drive, and regain their self-confidence. If they follow the trainer’s recommendations for cleaning up their diet, they might even get rid of some (or all) of their medications. Perhaps most relevant to this thought experiment, the people who see personal trainers tend to be all in – they show up to training sessions, they follow meal plans carefully, and they don’t think twice about investing $500-$1,000 per month on themselves.
Find Out What Patients Really Want
To attract motivated patients, to find those willing to invest the time and money necessary to really make a difference in their health, all that is needed is to change your point of view. You need to shift your focus from specific beneficial treatments (the menu of services) to helping patients reach a health destination.
Patients are taught that doctors treat symptoms, and it is part of the job of every naturopathic practitioner to help educate patients about how naturopathic doctors actually do their work. You don’t just remove disease symptoms, you dig deeper to discover who they want to be, what they want to regain, and then help them achieve it. You are more than simply a doctor prescribing a prescription medication in a 15-minute visit. You are a guide that helps them regain health, and it is important to represent yourself as such in everything that you do.
Think about the potential patient from before. Let’s name her Michelle. She’s 45, overweight, exhausted, and frustrated. She used to be able to play soccer with her kids. She used to have an intimate relationship with her husband. But now, she finds herself too tired at the end of the day and embarrassed about how she looks. Her hair is lackluster and limp. She’s noticing fine lines on her face. Sure, there are symptoms she wants fixed – her weight, her skin, her energy – but that’s only on the surface level. Deep down, she wants to feel like she did when she was 20. She wants to feel beautiful. She wants hope. If you told her that you could offer her microneedling and hormone replacement therapy, Michelle would maybe agree, but it is more likely she would tell you that she needs to go home and think it over. Instead, if you told her that you would work together with her to help her feel like herself again, that you’d be by her side with encouragement, education, and treatments on the journey to transform her life and health, what would her reaction be? She wouldn’t need to go home to think it over. She would probably say something like, “Where do I sign up?”
The Importance of Pre-education
You could wait to introduce the ideas of mentorship and reaching a health destination to patients in their initial consultation, but that has a few inherent problems. First, you would still be relying on people to somehow hear about you and then schedule an appointment. Second, it would be a huge drag on your time as you explain these ideas over and over again, and the patients wouldn’t necessarily be prepared to take in this type of new information.
To combat these challenges, the Freedom Practice model employs a very powerful tool – pre-education. This tool is used to educate people in the community about how they can make a difference in their own health, and to explain how you can help them not just get treatments for their symptoms, but guide them through a journey that ends in a destination of health and happiness. While there are many ways to do this – books, magnets, articles – we’ve found that the most efficient and effective way to reach a large number of people is through a 1-hour event, either in-person or virtual, where you can speak directly to the consumer.
No matter the venue, this type of event is the perfect way to help your community get to know you, your personal story, and what makes your approach to healthcare different. In it, you can clearly explain how a successful mentorship can help them recover what they’ve lost – their health. When you uncover what they really want – their health destination – and then paint them the picture of how you can help them reach it, you’ll be giving them the hope they’ve been looking for.
Elements of the 1-Hour Presentation
Over the course of an hour, you can clearly summarize:
- Your approach to health
- How you are different
- What their options are if they are accepted into your care
- Why and how your program is better for them
- That their results are ultimately based on co-laboring
Giving potential patients a clear explanation of your services – and their own responsibilities as part of their care – allows them to make a conscious choice. If they move forward with a consultation, they are choosing to because they agree with you. They recognize that:
- Their health is a primary concern
- They’re beginning a long-term investment of both time and money
- They must take responsibility for their health
At the end of an hour, you’ll have a group of educated, interested people who sign up for a consultation full of hope. You’ll hear things like, “Will you help me,” instead of, “I’ll think about it.”
Because Freedom Practice Coaching clients use the pre-education process, they don’t experience the same challenges that so many other doctors experience when offering cash-based programs. Our doctors remove all of a prospect’s concerns, perceived challenges, and questions regarding payment before that prospect ever walks into the doctor’s office.
By addressing these factors beforehand, it also removes the awkward feeling you may get when you are in the fee-for-service model, where suggesting treatments may come across as upselling. When people are educated about your programs before they are official patients, they begin under your care already knowing that they must invest in themselves.
Remember my earlier comment about orthodontists and popular coffee chains? People are already accustomed to paying for certain services that focus on end destinations. If you have people in your community that are willing to pay $7 000 to an orthodontist to help their children get beautiful smiles, or who even regularly spend $5-10 a day on their morning coffee, you’ll have plenty of people who will be willing to invest in their health and your mentorship. You have the training and expertise that people desperately need. Pre-educating your community will help you make an impact on the people who need you the most, and it will help you fill your practice with ideal patients that are excited to join you on their health journey.[No Refs] [Bio:]
Danielle Chandler is the vice president of business development at Freedom Practice Coaching. She is honored to be able to help change lives and families by showing them a solution to their challenges. With experience in programs for antiaging and optimizing brain health, Danielle finds purpose in giving patients incredible experiences and results while also creating highly successful business models. As a mother of 4, Danielle understands that creating a life with balance is essential to the health of any family.