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The Expectations of Chiropractic Patients

 A recent national survey was designed to shed light on a subject that often remains obscure: how do patients view chiropractic care, and what kind of benefits do they expect from it? By surveying the experiences of chiropractic patients across the country, the study attempted to determine what perceived benefits and risks they associated with chiropractic treatment, and what qualities they look for in a chiropractor as a health professional who they want to come back to when necessary.

The survey constructed its questions from an assembled data pool based on existing chiropractic literature, including published material from the General Chiropractic Council which creates content and guidance, and outlines best practices for chiropractors and patients. 28 telephone interviews with chiropractic patients also provided information for the construction of the survey. This resulted in 33 succinct questions which asked for patient’s ratings on various aspects of their chiropractic care. Despite the survey being conducted nation-wide, a low practitioner response rate led to a small sample size of only 544 completed questionnaires. Nevertheless, interesting insights were revealed.

 First, patients saw two major benefits resulting from chiropractic care: reduced pain (92%) and increased mobility (80%).  In the minority were patients reporting unexpected or unpleasant effects from their chiropractic treatment (20%). The most common of these complaints were an increase in tiredness or fatigue resulting from chiropractic adjustment (32%) and increased pain that wasn’t there before treatment (36%). 

Patient concern about these effects was mild. Especially in comparison to satisfaction regarding the fulfillment of expectations from chiropractic care. However, there were four major areas of chiropractic care that consistently received low ratings from patients surveyed. These include the following:

Having more information on the cost of the treatment plan at the first consultation (80%). A majority of patients go in for chiropractic care eager to experience pain relief and/or greater range of movement. Chiropractors are focused on delivering their expert assessments and treatment. Somewhere in this interaction, the focus on the cost of the treatment is underemphasized and patients feel resentful later when hit with an expensive bill.

The chiropractor contacting patient’s general practitioner (62%). Patients feel that there’s a communication gap between their mainstream doctors and their chiropractors, where an integrative and collaborative attitude towards combined treatments would be more beneficial.

Discussion about referrals to another healthcare practitioner (62%). If patients can benefit from other forms of treatment beside chiropractic care they would like to know about it, yet they often feel that chiropractors are unforthcoming with these kind of suggestions.

Providing a method of confidential feedback (66%). In every profession, feedback is crucial for improvement. However, its human nature to avoid criticism. Chiropractors would do well to allow their patients to leave them anonymous evaluations, so that a true assessment of the efficacy of their practices can be studied for evolution of the treatment overall.

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