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Overcoming The Challenges of Chiropractic Patient Education in the Pharmaceutical Environment
May 30, 2005

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Every now and then we send out information about our colossal health care system and the vested interests that profit most from it.

Why? Because it is within this macro-system that your patients, and their M.D.’s, are being bombarded by a constant stream of propaganda about “health” care solutions.  It is good to know, and be reminded of,  what you are up against in promoting your own services.

Our health care system and culture are under an all out assault by drug companies to sell their products.  In 2003, roughly 15.7 billion was spent marketing drugs in the US, and this has been estimated to be increasing annually about 20% each year.1  Also in 2003, 4.8 billion dollars were spent in “detailing” physicians, which includes dropping off free samples at the doctor’s office, taking them to lunch, etc.  Drug reps meet with individual M.D.’s  an average of four times per month.2  Then, there is the estimated $750 million dollars drug companies have spent on lobbyists in the last 7 years to in influence Congress and Administration officials. 3   

Why do they spend so much on marketing and lobbying? It pays. The pharmaceutical industry continues to be the most profitable US industry, with profit margins in the year 2000 nearly four times the average of Fortune 500 Companies.4

Driven by such marketing, “the value of the US pharmaceutical market is expected to top $330 billion in 2006…” “The US market will thus account for over 60% of the total Market Prognosis International market, up from 56% in 2001. US per capita expenditure on drugs will reach well over $1,000, which will be double the expenditure in Japan and three times that in the UK.” 5

Medical students, not yet caught up in the Medical-Pharmaceutical Complex, are protesting this kind of advertising.   The American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the nation’s largest, independent medical student organization adopted, a policy at its annual meeting condemning drug industry-sponsored advertising and supporting medical school curriculum that prohibits pharmaceutical industry representatives from marketing to medical students. 6

Excellent service and care to your patients is the first step to successful practice. Good internal organization that supports this comes next. And effective marketing, both internally and externally comes third.

We consider patient education part of your marketing efforts, though it also has its clinical role as well.   Marketing is especially important in chiropractic offices because of the leadership role you play in the health care system.  Chiropractors and their staffs have been at the vanguard in natural health care for over 100 years.

Patient education is most effective, we feel, if it comes from a larger understanding of the health care system your patients are in.  It works best when its mission is more than just to educate the patient, but to enlighten and motivate them into action. It has to counter the dominance of the medical-pharmaceutical forces bearing down on them. 

The doctors we have seen who do the best at patient education have taken it on as a personal issue, as the medical students who protest drug reps. You and your staff have many opportunities to educate your patients: “table talk” in your adjusting rooms, in the reception area, during therapy, back care classes, report of findings, group report of findings, spinal care classes, newsletters, to name just a few. Pamphlets will help, but for it to be effective, it has to be personally driven by your passion and sense of leadership.

Once a month or so, we also recommend that you read an article or book relating to the this subject. The references below may be helpful in this regard. 

 1,2,3. New England Journal of Medicine, Meredith Rosenthal ( 4. “Off the Charts: Pay, Profits and Spending by the Drug Companies”, a 38 page article found at   Click here to go to article.  5. IMS HEALTH is a supplier of market research to the global pharmaceutical industry.   Click here to go to article.  6. American Medical Students Association (

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Petty, Michel & Associates
Practice Growth & Development Since 1988
Voice: (414) 332-4511 Fax: (414) 332-0909
Post: P.O. Box 170882 Whitefish Bay, WI   53217

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