Thursday, June 10, 2010

Building a Successful Wellness Practice, part 3

In this third installment on principles for building a successful wellness practice, perhaps it would be good to first of all revisit some facts and figures pertaining to the growth of the wellness industry in order to see the opportunities therein.

Since 1990 there have been more visits every year to “alternative” practitioners than conventional ones. (NEJM, Unconventional Medicine in the United States). A 2004 Study figures from the 2004 National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) ( say that a large percentage of Americans are utilizing some form of complementary therapy or alternative medicine (CAM) -- 36 percent. If you narrow the focus to certain categories, the numbers are much higher. In cases like perimenopause, more than 80% of women who are currently in menopause are experimenting with natural remedies for hot flashes rather than doing the conventional approach. Since 6,000 women a DAY transition into perimenopause, and since there are more then 45 million American women in this category, this alone represents a huge market of wellness-minded patients. Indeed, we could be seeing the beginning of a massive shift toward wellness services.

“Indeed the research is compelling. Combined with upcoming changes in the U.S. healthcare system, the study reflects a milestone in what some term the ‘death of conventional medicine’ as we know it. NCCAM’s research results are from a survey completed by 31,044 adults ages 18 years or older and included not only therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and chiropractic, but also diets, supplements, and meditation -- among other therapies.” Alternative Medicine Trends Point to a New Future, Terry Wellington, Your Wellness Guide, 2004

“Additionally, 75 percent of people were found to have used complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) at some point in their lives, with 36 percent having used it in the last 12 months, mostly to treat chronic conditions. 28 percent used alternative therapies because they thought conventional medicine would not help, and 26 percent used complementary medicine because a conventional doctor recommended it.” Alternative Medicine Trends Point to a New Future, Terry Wellington, Your Wellness Guide, 2004

Dr. Terry Grossman, founder and director of Frontier Medical Institute in Denver (, which is participating in a $30 million NIH study on chelation therapy, says, “We are at the threshold of a new paradigm of medical care combining complementary and conventional therapies. Conventional physicians have begun to realize that complementary therapies can help them help their patients.”

The Untapped Market
People are looking for safer and more effective alternatives to drugs and surgery, and they often turn to self-medicating with herbs and nutritional supplements, many of which have questionable quality. The supplement industry alone – only one facet of the wellness industry – is enjoying yearly double-digit growth and is a $30 billion industry. Half of all Americans take supplements; most of them purchase them over-the-counter, mail order, or multi-level. Doctors have only 5% of that market.

Many conventional doctors, frustrated with declining incomes because of managed care, have offered “bio-therapeutic agents”(JAMA) to their patients and have turned their practices into successful retail centers that generate into the tens of thousands of dollars per month.

The Waiting Room
The waiting room is the greatest opportunity for influencing the mindset of your patients. Here is where people should see what is on your “menu” of services and what advantage those services are to them.

We can borrow from the business model of McDonald’s here. Although most of us in the wellness industry are diametrically opposed to everything McDonald’s stands for, their franchise does teach us something about effective in-house marketing.

When you walk into a McDonald’s, you don’t have to wonder about their products and services, because they are sprawled on the back wall behind the cash registers for all to see. And once the customer decides on what they want from the giant menu, the teenage cash register attendant will then try to upsell by asking, “Do you want to supersize that?”, or “Would you like an apple turnover?”

So the two points to consider here are that, firstly, your waiting room should provide a “menu” of services that are obvious to the casual observer within the first minute or two after they sit down. If you sell support pillows or nutritional products or shoe inserts or whatever, the patient should know that just by looking around. Display those products conspicuously, and you might also consider other educational/promotional materials and media in order to heighten interest.

Flat screen TVs that provide looping slides are becoming popular components of doctors’ waiting rooms, and in our media-driven world, it’s difficult for people to resist watching them. Mission accomplished. That is a great way to educate your patients, and thus promote your products and services.

If a flat screen TV slide show is not your thing, you can at least explore the possibility of displaying reading materials that promote what you do. Metagenics provides a plethora of well-done flyers and brochures, some promoting specific products, and others that are more generic.

Chiropractic marketing guru, Dr. Donald Hayes, says that when setting up educational/promotional materials in one’s office, there should be no competing materials. In other words, remove anything that would compete for people’s attention, like Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, People, Reader’s Digest, etc. Your waiting room needs to promote YOU and what you do, and if your patients have a choice as to what to read, most of them will take the default position and read something easy and brainless. So don’t give them a choice. Remove anything that is not of a wellness nature, and force your patients to get at least a nugget or two of something that promotes you and your services while they wait for their appointment.

This is what the super-successful wellness doctors already do.