Lasers of various sizes and power levels have been utilized in chiropractic offices for many years. New and updated lasers are introduced regularly to the marketplace. Lasers generally will penetrate skin, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Every staff member in the office should experience being treated with each laser used in the office for various conditions. A sure way to speak with authority to patients is to share a personal story about how the laser helped the CA.
In the past few years, the number of chiropractors and chiropractic assistants utilizing lasers as an everyday modality has significantly increased. Accordingly, the CA’s role has evolved. This article focuses on the nine ways a CA can aid the chiropractor using lasers. Always make sure your state allows CAs to treat patients.
1) Be conversant in how laser therapy is different from other modalities.
Chiropractors have a wide range of modalities at their disposal. The CA needs to be able to operate the equipment. However, more importantly from a patient’s perspective, the CA needs to be able to explain the differences between a TENS machine, interferential current, electrical stimulation, vibration devices, and the unique mechanisms that are laser therapy.
2) Understand contraindications to ensure patients are treated appropriately.
Knowing contraindications is critical for providing care. The provider never wants to slow improvement or cause an adverse reaction. The CA should be able to articulate contraindications to patients whether absolute, relative, or anecdotal/unproven, as well as sensitivities. For example, open growth plates should be avoided even when a parent or guardian insists on treatment.
3) Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Patients are often nervous or may have forgotten the information that was explained to them about laser therapy. During the first treatment, the CA should cover a variety of topics with patients to manage expectations.
Important discussion topics with patients:
- Expected number of treatments (acute versus chronic).
- Duration of each treatment.
- Expected improvement of condition(s).
- Potential side effects.
- Thermal effect of the laser (if any).
- Sounds the laser may make.
Rob Callahan, DC, of Healthsource Tallahassee, summed up the situation when he said,
“Educating the patients from multiple angles helps them understand treatment much better, and that helps them stick to their treatment plans. Our CAs are trained to go over the patient’s laser care plan and current step in the process each visit, and are trained to document it into the patient’s file so that any changes can be maintained by whichever team member treats the patient next time.”Rob Callahan, DC, Healthsource Tallahassee
4) Refer patient questions to the chiropractor.
When the CA cannot answer any of the previous topics in this list or if there is “concern” from the patient, the doctor should be brought into the discussion. The CA should feel empowered to work in partnership with the doctorto answer patient questions and concerns.
5) Document, document, document the treatment.
An individual CA may not treat a patient every time he or she arrives in the office for laser therapy. Treatments should be repeatable regardless of who in the office applies the laser therapy. Good documentation allows staff members to follow the treatment plan including power, wavelength(s) utilized, areas treated, and duration of treatment. Furthermore, state boards are always looking at the amount and detail of documentation.
6) Collect patient feedback to use in marketing materials.
Satisfied and happy patients provide quality testimonials to list on websites, social media sites such as Facebook, and blog posts. Quote patients in newsletters and advertising. CAs can contribute articles to newsletters featuring patients as success stories. Remember to get any patient’s permission in writing.
7) Ensure laser marketing materials are prominently displayed.
Posters, brochures, testimonials, brag books, videos, and similar items should be easily seen and accessed by patients to spur interest in laser therapy. Regularly make sure that the materials are in good condition and that there is an adequate supply of brochures. Properly executed, the patient has a level of awareness built before staff members even discuss laser as a potential treatment modality.
8) Be the eyes and ears for the doctor about how each patient is responding.
All patients should be warmly greeted. Patients undergoing a series of laser treatments need to be queried every time about areas of discomfort and levels of pain. Document the findings. These areas and pain levels will change as treatment progresses. Alert the doctor to improvements or new areas of concern.
9) Sell packages of laser treatments
Laser therapy generally is not a “one and done” modality. Chronic conditions took a long time to reach that stage. Likewise, they will take a series of treatments to improve or resolve. Acute conditions require multiple treatments in the first several weeks. In both cases, set patients’ expectations that they will require a series of treatments.
Some insurance carriers will cover laser therapy under limited circumstances. Many do not cover laser therapy. Be prepared to explain how laser therapy is a cash modality. All payments should be collected up front to encourage patients to complete the series
of treatments. Patients will tend to end treatment early if they feel “better” even if the condition has not fully improved. Neuropathy is a great example. The tingling has reduced and some sensation has returned. The patient is happy. Imagine how much happier the patient would be if the series of treatments was completed.
Wrapping it up
Chiropractic assistants are critical in the care of laser therapy patients. They are involved in the entire continuum of care. Their relationships with patients reinforce the impression of the doctor and the office as the type of provider with whom they enjoy interacting.
Rob Berman is a partner at Berman Partners, LLC, a medical device sales, service, and marketing company. Berman Partners specializes in new and pre-owned therapeutic lasers. He helps doctors improve patient outcomes while increasing physician income. He has held a variety of marketing roles during his career, which include building and managing a marketing department, directing product development and product management for multiple organizations, and serving as general manager for a variety of business units.
Rob can be contacted by phone at 860-707-4220 or by e-mail atrob@bermanpartners. com. His company website for new lasers is www. bermanpartners. com and the website for used lasers www.usedlasercenter.com.