In the past, we’ve had several posts talking about the importance of building relationships and business.
While this is a crucial part of the therapeutic relationship with our patients, it’s just as important in our communication and in building our practice with other practitioners.
However, not everyone sees this or treats it with the importance they should.
With this post, I’ll go into why it’s important and two different circumstances where this has made a massive difference in my life, and in my practice. If spending time building relationships with patients and other practitioners aren’t something you’ve been focusing on, I suggest you start.
Here are two examples where this has helped me in the past two years.
Back in 2009, it was my third term of massage therapy college.
I knew from the start, I wanted to work with athletes and teams. I was fortunate enough to have a friend from my hometown playing for our local Junior A hockey team, so I asked if they had a Massage Therapist working with them. They didn’t, so he helped get me in touch with their head trainer, and my start in hockey as a therapist began.
The first game I was introduced to the team chiropractor, he instantly started getting players to get treatment from me. I was astounded at how supportive the medical staff was.
For the next seven years, that chiropractor and I worked together on the team. Once I was certified and in practice, we referred patients back and forth. A year or two into my career, I looked at the schedule and half of the people booked in with me one week were referrals he had sent.
There are patients who I’ve been seeing for the past seven years of my career (obviously only when they need it, not weekly or anything) because they were referred from that chiropractor.
About three years ago, he referred another patient to me, and the relationship building with that patient started. He spoke fondly of our chiropractor friend every time he came in. As our relationship built, I mentioned how I was a volunteer firefighter and hoped to get a career job one day. He immediately told me about one of his best friends who worked at one of the fire departments in town (and it was the department I really wanted).
Skip ahead a year and that department started a hiring process.
My patient got a hold of his buddy and said: “you gotta help this guy, he’ll fit in perfectly.”
Then the text messages started. His buddy was giving me advice on what to study, how to get ready, exactly what steps to take. As the hiring process unfolded, he texted me every step of the way with advice on what to do. The advice was invaluable and helped me with the process in ways I can’t even explain.
AND I HAD NEVER MET THE GUY! However, based on his friend’s recommendation, he was willing to help!
After volunteering for 16 years, applying to several departments, spending thousands of dollars on hiring processes, this past June, I was the first person hired off the hiring list and started a career that I worked so hard to get.
None of that wouldn’t have happened if nine years ago, I hadn’t started building a relationship with my chiropractor buddy, or with the patient he referred.
Back in 2005 a good friend and I invested in a franchise business for repairing dental equipment.
Whenever people bought a franchise, they would have to go down to Oregon to receive training on how to repair the dental equipment and learn the business etc. The man who owned the parent company would always have the new franchisees attend a two-day workshop that was basically a self-improvement kind of thing.
We honestly scoffed at the idea initially, but it turned out to be a pretty good two days. One of the key messages we learned was that whenever we made decisions both personally and professionally we would always try to make the decisions a win-win. Each decision had to be made so it would always be something that would benefit us both.
We worked that business together for two years until we came to the realization it was only going to make enough money to support one of us. After some discussion, we decided he would buy me out, and that was what paid for me to go back to college to become an RMT. The decision was truly a win-win as he still runs the business, I’m clearly enjoying my career, and we’ve remained good friends ever since.
Fast forward 11 years to 2016 and I was faced with another business decision.
Do I take a chance and move on to another clinic to pursue my interest in exercise with patients, or continue with the clinic where I was given my first real chance to build a practice. Part of the difficulty for me was the stories I’d heard about people leaving clinics and there being a fight over patient clinic files between the owner and contractor. Plus the clinic owner and I had built a solid relationship and a great friendship over my five years there, how was that going to work out?
Over a three day period, I kept trying to ask her to grab a coffee or go for a drink or something so we could chat about it, but our schedules didn’t work. On the third day when I tried to arrange something, she looked at me with a smile on her face and said: “are you breaking up with me!?”
When we actually sat down and talked she said it would never be held against me for chasing after the career I wanted and to make sure and email all my patients so they knew where I was going so they could find me and book in.
Since then I’ve referred patients to her clinic, she refers patients to me and there has never been an instance where a disagreement occurred about a patient file. In fact, I still have access to all of the files for when the lawyer requests records for one of my patients.
Even better, that clinic owner refers her family members to me and comes to me for treatments herself (and yes she gave me permission to write that, so I’m not breaking confidentiality). So, when I hear those rumours (I hope they’re just rumours) about owners and contractors bickering over patient files, I can’t help but wonder WHY!?
Why is this an argument?
The patient has the right to choose where and to whom they go for their treatment, it’s not up to the practitioner or the clinic to decide that. I get there might be an instance where there is a monetary value to the file if a lawyer or insurance company etc requests the file, but it’s not so great a value that is worth ruining a relationship over. There are many patients who followed me to the new clinic when I moved and just as many who stayed behind and continued at the old clinic because all of them had the right to choose. The most important thing in that whole experience is the relationship that remained between myself and the clinic owner. Because the decisions made between us were done on a win-win basis, the patients win, both the clinic owner and I win, and our relationship has never been better. And to be honest, that relationship is far more important to me than the monetary value of a file, or whether a patient followed me.