It’s always hard to place a value on health. Many people say there is nothing more important than your health, but putting a dollar value on that is difficult. For the father that can’t work and provide for his family because of debilitating spinal pain, relief can often be priceless. For the mum that can’t look after her children because of back pain, a reduction of pain is literally life altering. How do you price that? And what are you really paying for when you have a consultation? Therapists often struggle with charging the correct amount of money for the service they provide. But do patients really understand what they receive for their payment? It’s a real struggle, because the results we get and the time spent becoming good enough to get those results are hard to quantify from person to person, and very hard to justify to a community looking for their version of value.
One thing I know for sure is that therapists who are motivated primarily by income don’t last long in the business. It’s ok (and preferable) that good therapists make a decent living and do well from their professions. Successful hard work should have great rewards, one of those being financial. But the main motivation for most of the professionals I know (including myself) is primarily to help people. We got into this line of work so we can make a significant difference to people’s lives. Money is a byproduct of how successful you are at that and how much reach you can achieve. I don’t know of any Allied Health professionals who are billionaires from this line of work. Sure they make a decent living, but there is only so many hours in the day, so many people you can see and only so much you can scale a service based business. So when the general public, your clients, get the impression that you are in this primarily for the money, they are usually dead wrong!
Now I can’t (and shouldn’t) speak for a whole health profession, but at least in our case, at our clinics, commercial interest is not our primary motivation. This was pounded into me by my mentors and I have made sure to only work with those people who share a similar value. We believe in trying to get the best result, in the most time and cost-effective way possible. We don’t like unnecessary treatment and we definitely don’t want you to be in pain for longer than you have to. In saying that, not everyone will get it. Not all our clients will be convinced, and some will never see the value you give them, even after helping them for many years, through many painful periods in their life. They’re skeptical and counting the dollars they spend with you.
So when patients see us, because they have a booking at a certain time, they assume that they’re paying for our time and that’s it. That maybe true, but not in the way you think it’s true. Patients aren’t paying for our time in that consultation, they are paying for our time at University (5yrs), they are paying for the accumulated time (and money) spent (and still spend) doing courses, they are paying for the time we spend reading and learning, they are paying for the time we spent examining and assessing, they are paying for the time we spend with our colleagues discussing their problems, they are paying for the lessons I’ve learnt from the countless mistakes I’ve made, the countless injuries I’ve seen just like theirs. Because all of that, the whole accumulated 16yrs of knowledge, mistakes, wins/losses, hard work goes into a diagnosis and a treatment. In short, you’re not just paying for my time, you’re getting value from the many years of accumulated knowledge and hard work, that gets more efficient everyday, allowing me to get more results for you in the shortest amount of time possible.
One thing I have learned in my years is that overtreatment is a real thing. Like overcooking meat, overtreatment can lead to the opposite effect that you’re looking for. The body can tighten and guard, and because you’ve worked on too may structures, the nervous system fails to respond to the specific problem that we’ve identified. There are some types of people who require less frequency and more time to bring about the desired result. Older people, people with arthritic degenerative conditions are some examples. But if you’re generally healthy, but have a problem that’s developed over time from you doing something over and over again, you may require a more direct approach. These issues require shorter, more targeted treatment, more frequently. This is so because you’ve developed a bad pattern, and to break that pattern, a good therapist will identify the pattern, be able to bring it into a better balance with the rest of the body, then leave the body alone to do it’s magic and heal. They will do this again within the space of about 2-4 days until they assess that there’s been a change to the system. In most cases, this may take 4-8 sessions, twice a week for two, three, maybe 4 weeks. But they key here, is not to overcook them in the treatment. If you do too much, spend too long, if you lose efficiency, you’re likely to get poor results. This will obviously cost you more time and money than coming in once a week, but not as much as it will cost you getting a poor result. And once you get a good result, you can move the patient into less frequency, encourage more activity at a higher intensity and slowly get them off treatment altogether. So…Why in the hell would you want me to spend 30-60 mins with you when I can achieve the result in 15 mins?! Do you not see the value in the result?! Do you not see the value we’ve given you in however many months/years we’ve helped you time and time again?! Do you really think we’re primarily commercially driven?
I’ve learnt the lesson the hard way. I’ve worked on people for way too long when they’ve asked for it, knowing in my gut that it was not what they needed, but what they wanted. They saw that getting more of my time meant more value for them. They never improved and they never came back. Yes, some people require more of your time, for example, if their problem is soft tissue (muscle) based, it will take you more time. So you give it to them. But if their problem is more structural/mechanical, then efficiency is key. Here, less time is required depending on the skill level of the practitioner. That may upset you if you’ve previously required more time from me. You might see that as getting less value, and you might get upset and go looking for solutions elsewhere, solutions that fit what you want, not what you need. Maybe we need to do a better job communicating that discrepancy, but in my experience, most of these patients come back. And we welcome them with open arms, without judgement, because primarily we are here to help. There are the few stubborn ones, but we figured out real quick that we don’t want them anyway.
Most professionals in my field are agreeable people. Agreeable people tend to be more empathetic and go the extra mile to make others happy. Whilst empathy is a powerful character trait to possess, agreeableness without consideration will ruin a good practitioner. It will burn them out. As people demand more of them, they give more. But there’s only so much you can give. You learn to become efficient. Almost cerebral in the application of your profession. You retain your empathy because the project you’re working on is an actual person, flesh and blood, with hopes, dreams, a story and character. You are but a helper on their journey. We don’t want to waste your time. Even if you want to waste your own time, we don’t want to waste our time. Because we’re also flesh and blood, with hopes, dreams, a story and character. You have come to seek our professional help, to seek our skills and passion. So let us help you using our accumulated knowledge. See the true value and assess us on that. When we assess you, you expect us to ask about and understand the months and years you’ve spent creating this problem for us to solve. So when you judge our performance as therapists, why don’t you see the years we’ve spent to help you right now?!
If you’re seeking a good practitioner that will provide you with true value, find someone that empathises with your situation, learns and understands how it is you got to where you are that you need their help, and then let them help you based on how they got to where they are. Only then can you judge if you’re getting true value. And if you have been seeing someone for years, and they have a history of getting good results for you, you are very lucky. They will generally understand your body better than anyone else and be able to be very efficient with their assessment and treatment. In most of these cases, you’re receiving far more value than the dollars you’re paying.