While chiropractors in many states were labeled "essential" during the initial shutdown, the longterm effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still only now coming to light. While the pandemic has affected every practice in one way or another — whether that's financially or operationally — one thing nearly all of them have in common is a decline in visits.
Out of our survey respondents, 15.1 percent of chiropractic offices saw a decrease of more than 50 percent of patients. 11.3 percent, however, reported that their visits have gone up. Most saw a decrease of between 10-50 percent.
“The parking lot is our waiting room."
— Dr. Melissa Roberts, Woodbury, Connecticut
The majority of respondents, most of whom are doctors at wellness chiropractic clinics, made changes to their check-in process, with only 3.8% of people saying they made no changes. The majority feel confident in those changes, while 41.5% are unhappy about the changes they've had to make.
Some of those changes include:
Beyond those changes, many offices have also instituted health and safety precautions. The most common include:
About half of our respondents said their practice requires that patients wear masks, while nearly all required that doctors and staff wear a mask.
Because of the decline in patient visits, many practices have applied for the Paycheck Protection Program in order to continue paying their staff.
"We are limited to fewer people in the office at a time and have removed waiting room chairs. We clean the tables more, causing them to crack and become damaged."
—Dr. John Calhoun, St. Louis, Missouri
None of this has been easy for the chiropractic industry. From equipment being damaged due to additional cleaning to managing the patient flow, daily operations are causing extra headaches for staff at chiropractic practices. For example, some doctors report that having patients call when they arrive is causing other unexpected problems.
“We are limited to the number of patients in the office,” explained Dr. Jill Winget in Raleigh, North Carolina. “This is creating a huge influx of inbound calls.”
Winget is trying to institute an easier system for a virtual waiting room, but for now, it’s challenging. From an administrative point of view, having to answer calls so frequently slows everything down.
Dr. Timothy Murzycki, a chiropractor in Bellingham, Massachusetts, has experienced the same challenge.
“Regarding the check-in process, we now have patients scan into the arrival computer to be placed into the list, then go back outside or in their cars until they are called into a room to get adjusted,” he said. “At this time, we have to send out manual texts to each patient to come back in. Sometimes they see their texts, sometimes they don’t… A CT has to call on the phone or go outside to get them. It greatly slows our process.”
Dr. Melissa Roberts in Woodbury, Connecticut, echoes these hurdles. “The parking lot is our waiting room,” she said.
Roberts' staff walks everyone in and out to prevent contact. She has seen a slight decrease in patient volume.
"Starting a new office, it’s been challenging to increase volume while using alternative marketing strategies."
—Dr. Carmen Doerr-Nauth, Texas
Muzycski’s patients have expressed concern that they will not be able to continue their appointments due to economic worry. He's not alone in that issue. Dr. Christian Castellano, Wisconsin, said that he has learned that he and his staff can be efficient and continue to grow throughout the pandemic — "If our office can survive this time of uncertainty."
The hardest part of all this, based on survey results, is simply getting people come through the door. If patients are concerned about their own financial future —and stop appointments based on those concerns —it can be difficult to forecast how your business will fare as the pandemic rages on.
"I am pleased that I can serve the community and be a beacon of light when weathering such a storm, and to be a source of strength and hope while supporting their overall health and function with chiropractic care.”
—Dr. Timothy Muzycki, Bellingham, Massachussetts
Despite the challenges, more than half of our respondents are not concerned about the future of their practice. In fact, many see a silver lining.
“I am blessed that the state of Massachusetts deemed chiropractors essential,” said Muzycski, “and the governor of the state had specifically listed the profession of chiropractic when requesting to stay open to serve the community. I am pleased that I can serve the community and be a beacon of light when weathering such a storm, and to be a source of strength and hope while supporting their overall health and function with chiropractic care.”
Many doctors experienced a slowing down of their schedule, which hasn’t turned out to be all bad. Enjoying more time with family and even slowing down to improve internal practices are some unexpected blessings of the pandemic.
Doctors are also taking the time to educate patients on the benefits of chiropractic on their overall health and immune system.
While many doctors will be happy to return to “normal” once the pandemic has subsided, some will keep the changes in place as they move forward.
“Our state required us to remove waiting chairs,” said Dr. Mark Atnip, a chiropractor in Kentucky. “This is something I had wanted to do for some time, but was fearful of not going fast enough and needing them as patients waited. Once we removed them, we became more aware of the patient's time in the office and the flow of them through the office. We became more efficient and are making room for even more growth now.”
Our team here at Platinum wants you to succeed. We understand how important it is that you continue to serve your patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, and not just from a business standpoint — we want you to keep making a difference in their lives.
Despite the uncertainties of the future, chiropractors are looking to the future with a positive attitude and adapting to change. It’s been unsettling and changes are afoot, but there are also opportunities. While these are only preliminary results, it helps us understand how to better serve you, and we hope it will help you learn how your office is faring compared to others around the country. We will continue to add resources, like our webinars, to help you succeed.
If you would like to participate in this survey, we will keep it open as we continue to analyze the state of the chiropractic industry. You can access that here.
Platinum will continue to add services that help you navigate these uncertain times. We already offer ways to check in virtually or with a contactless patient information card.
If you want to find out more about how we can make everything a little easier, book a free demo with us!
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