Chiropractic industry trends, ‘trendencies,’ and a call to action

Current chiropractic industry trends are opportunities that must be pursued

A HYPER-WELLNESS MOVEMENT THEME CONTINUES TO TREND THIS YEAR. People want information that will help them avoid chronic illness and diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia because they want to preserve their memory and alertness.

They want to maintain mobility and avoid arthritis and diabetes. Baby boomers want a better quality of life than their parents, so they embrace the thought of a healthy lifestyle for a longer lifespan. I liken it to wealth management or financial security; I call it “health security.”

Once again, chiropractors are not going to be on anyone’s top 10 list of trends, but overall the future of chiropractic health care is optimistic. Chiropractic college enrollment is up across the nation. Predictability in our business is stability. I’ve been writing about trends since 2011 and I’m certain that staying with chiropractic industry trends adds revenue sources. The good news is that we are popular — the bad news is that we are in a very competitive market.

Eating and therapy fads

Defined by the dictionary as “a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period,” fads such as the modified fasting diet emerged in 2018. I think modified fasting diets are a fad, not a trend, but will remain strong in 2019. We have seen other food and diet fad changes this year, evidenced by the paleo diet losing ground to the keto diet, and bone broth losing ground to collagen. Eating insects is now a fad, but it could become normal to eat crickets mixed with organic pumpkin as a protein-based energy bar in the future. Patients will start asking you about it!

On the therapy scene, cupping is more a fad than dry needling; however, acupuncture, as the parent of these, will remain a treatment trend.

Health ‘trendencies’

These are long-term and will not be replaced by a fad “something.” Currently if you are doing things that promote and support healthy skin, healthy digestive function, healthy joints, brain function, better sleep, weight loss and decreased stress, then you are in the “trend” because these are the top health “trendencies” for the year.

Other specific health trends and fads that appear today include genetic testing, cryotherapy (especially chambers), hyperbaric- and infrared- and oxygen- and cannabis-“whatevers,” along with stem cells, virtual reality and IV drip therapies. If it helps your skin, hair, nails, digestion, stress levels, mental alertness or weight loss, or relieves pain, it’ll be competing to be a fad or trend.

Recently I had a trends “research” weekend where I did cryo-therapy and a vibration plate workout, ate at a “beyond fresh” juice bar, had Thai/shiatsu massage, took an ELDOA class and got stretched at a stretch center. One thing missing was the compression recovery chair session and magnet therapy session. I could have tried (or needed) an “immune drip” right afterward.

Conveniences trending

Massage house calls are on the rise as online app companies do to the massage business what Uber did to the taxi business. If this works with massage, it’ll bring back mobile chiropractic, too.

In addition to massage therapy (which about 50 percent of chiropractic offices currently offer), patients need a periodic cleanse for digestion, kidney and liver detoxification, and the elimination of waste. All this helps skin, hair, nails and weight loss, and relieves pain — you can see how cleansing remains a chiropractic industry trend.

I see a lot of products that have merged traditional therapies with innovation in marketing, such as oxygen therapy, which doesn’t make sense to me for our patient population. Buy a pulse oximeter for $40-50 and use it in your office; it should be right at 98% of saturation. Do you really think you can change that? Call it what it is if you charge for it — relaxation time.

I think I’m the first chiropractor in the country to use virtual reality in my practice. I can have patients sitting in a chair while they are swimming and breathing with dolphins, or feel like they are sitting in a garden, and by breathing more deeply they help leaves grow on a tree. VR can be very helpful for relaxation and breathing enhancement. This will be a slow-moving trend over the next several years.

Wellness trending

We will see more consumers turning to affordable online DNA and blood analysis companies (23andMe, Ancestry, National Geographic’s Geno Project) to get answers about genetics and identify potential health concerns. It would be smart to offer custom health, diet and nutrition plans in your office. The functional medicine trend will continue because people want practitioners who can analyze data from multiple tests to provide them with a more comprehensive wellness report — past, present and potential future health.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), teaching older adults how to exercise, body weight exercises, yoga and Pilates will continue to be popular. The new rehab “kid” on the block is ELDOA method, exercises and myofascial stretches.

The overall trend and direction for our profession is to continue to do what we do best. We take care of patients through manual therapy, chiropractic adjustments and mobilization — but be smart and offer other natural, non-invasive and less-expensive therapy for musculoskeletal complaints. If about 50% of offices across the country offer massage in their offices, then why aren’t you? About 25% of offices use rehab protocols or exercise as therapy, which can add value to your office, create better outcomes and generate revenue. Recently, one doctor added $5,000 worth of services in the first month after taking one rehab class.

I bet some vendors find it way more challenging than anticipated to break into the chiropractic market, so please support vendors that support our conferences, our students and post-grad courses. Vendors should be used to help you be successful.

Health care system trends

Another trend to get proactively involved with as the health care reform debate continues is interacting with hospitals and larger health care systems. We have spoken out about being in the Veterans Administration (VA) system and have done a great job of accomplishing this goal thanks to the American Chiropractors Association and doctors like Tim Novelli and Anthony Lesi. Our professional stance on the matter of helping our nation’s vets will continue. Continue to think of ways to get into hospitals and health systems while the ongoing health care cost debate is still hot.

Recently I was invited to the RAND Corporation to hear a panel of expert speakers including John Scaringe, DC, and Ian Coulter, PhD, along with three MDs talking about what “alternative” health care will look like in the future. Scaringe and Coulter did an excellent job on our behalf. The most frustrating part of the alternative health care debate is that the parts that have the greatest effects on people’s health and well-being — getting people to be more physically active, quit smoking, control food portions and diet, improve sleep, decrease stress — are not well implemented…yet.

A call to action

I hear a lot of talk on the radio, the internet and elsewhere about these topics; so sure, they are talked about, but what are you really doing in your practice to create change? This is truly what people want, so make this year the year to help our patients lose weight, feel good about themselves, decrease loneliness and make positive mental change.

I strongly acknowledge that chiropractors help create health gains by being experts on musculoskeletal conditions, and we as health care providers must stand out as leaders. We must remain vigilant in our commitment to provide care to those in need and preserve our mission to improve the health of our communities.

I want to see the ACA and other state associations take a broad approach to work on future health reform that includes what we do, and that means each practicing doctor must become active by attending group meetings like NCLC in Washington, D.C., becoming a member of the ACA and their state associations, and joining local societies.

While I know we are thankful more patients are utilizing our services, I want people to have additional access to chiropractic health and wellness services in every community. The chiropractic profession as a movement needs to band together like a CrossFit gym, clean up our old messes and abuses, and educate medical doctors and health system leaders. The medical profession and government are doing it with opioids, and this is what continued research and evidence-based chiropractic care will do for us.

‘Don’t wait for Washington’

The health system leaders are aware of areas that need attention, such as the insurance market’s rising health care premiums and high out-of-pocket costs. I don’t have answers for these way-too-long-lasting trends, but they will remain for a long time. At the same time, we can’t wait for hospitals to open doors for us; we need the practitioners who have already created access and “done it” to help the profession as a whole.

Don’t wait for an answer from Washington to do this. Chiropractors should be taking the lead on health care expansion. We should all embrace principles of being more consumer-focused; continuing to create a unified message that what we do is safe and effective; providing more affordable health care through operational efficiencies; and sharing methods so we can better coordinate care.

We also need to advocate for the needy. Every city I’ve traveled into this past year has a homeless issue. These are folks who are disadvantaged in our society. The Santa Monica Chiropractic Society used to do a city-wide food drive for shelters, but I have not heard of a group food drive in years. Maybe that’s one way we can help, and we need the ACA’s voice to take care of being responsible for doing that.

We must work together, resist the influence of conflicting technique bashing and political ideologies, and enlist the expertise of researchers and providers when working on health care law. Health care is truly complicated and personal. If we hope to get this right for the country, we should be working together across party and technique lines.

Let’s build on what we’ve achieved

The final trend is focusing on improving access to chiropractic health care services for the underserved. We’ll protect the coverage we’ve gained and achieved through the opioid crisis. But we need to be sure whatever is put in its place continues to enhance the health and well-being of Americans.

Again, get involved or continue to play an active role in your local chiropractic society. Efficiency, effectiveness and cost elements are trends for 2019 and beyond. Personal health and well-being concerns will continue. My hope is to see every DC continue to do their best to improve the American health care system through chiropractic care. 

JEFFREY TUCKER, DC, is the current president of the ACA Rehab Council. He practices in Los Angeles, Calif., and can be reached at DrJeffreyTucker.com.

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