March 2010

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Practice production gaper’s block

Practice production can be influenced by odd behavior.


My friend, Ed Petty, from PM&A practice management, and I were driving down the highway looking forward to a hike up in the San Bernardino mountains of southern California, looking for relief of our aching butts after sitting thru a seminar called CalJam. These kinds of adventures are right up my alley. That’s why I’m known as the down to earth doctor.


Dr Tom Potisk (left) Ed Petty (right)


It was a gorgeous mid morning, the sun was shining, the traffic was moving along well considering we were only ½ an hour out from LA, and the banter between us was jovial.


Suddenly, we see a few brake lights up ahead, then a few more, then a sea of red dots as every car in front of us is braking. Ed, the driver, slows us to a stop with a cuss; “Welcome to LA!” he grumbles.


“Yeah but we were moving along fine, and the weather is good, and…..”


“Welcome to LA” he says again, this time in a drone.


“Yeah but according to the map, there’s nothing up ahead but desert, there shouldn’t be any congestion.” I whine.


“LA,” he repeats, “maybe construction ahead”.


“Yeah but there’s 6 lanes for traffic, surely the traffic on one side or another should be……….”

He gives me a frustrated stare as we sit idling in the sea of cars.

We both sit quietly looking straight ahead. I fidget with the radio.

We move ahead a few feet, then stop. We move a few more feet, then stop.

Ed squeezes in to the next lane because it’s moving a bit faster. Then we stop. Then the lane we were in starts going faster than the new one we’re now in.


“Son of a ………” says Ed.


After a half hour moving at a snail’s pace in the middle of six lanes of traffic, we crest a hill and see what’s the hold-up – nothing, basically nothing. A car is parked on the shoulder with a Sheriff’s squad car behind, red lights flashing like there’s no tomorrow – so what!


Ed pounds the steering wheel with his two fists. I sit back and let out a long sigh.


10 minutes later, we make it past the pseudo obstruction and Ed stomps on the accelerator making the four cylinders whine. Our anticipated 1 hour drive time has now become 2 hours.


A few miles down the road, the story along with our frustration repeats – it’s another gaper’s block! As we sit mired in the seemingly endless lines of cars, our hopes of getting to the mountain trail for our hike fades with the setting sun. This time the slow down is resulting from a car on the shoulder with a flat tire – arrgh!


“I wonder if practice production is affected by a sort of gaper’s block?” I blurt out.


Ed straightens up in his seat, inhales deeply, then pounds the steering wheel with both fists again, but this time it’s because of my insightful pondering. “That’s it, that’s it! Practice production gaper’s block!” he exclaims, “I see it happen to doctors all the time! They slow down or even get stuck just like we are right now simply because of what’s going on around them! It’s an irrational emotion that negatively affects their practice production significantly.”


“You’ve been coaching and consulting docs for 30 years. What kinds of things get doctors slowing down?” I ask.


“Tons of things like the news about the current healthcare system reform, or proposed regulation changes, or because they heard about another DC who got a nasty letter from a disgruntled patient. That kind of stuff gets doctors thinking irrationally, that they ought to slow down and see what’s happening – just in case.”


“Just in case of what?” I tease.


“In case of nothing, usually it’s absolutely nothing!”


“I remember once, after reading one of the newsletters from my malpractice insurance carrier, I was afraid to adjust my patients that day,” I recall.


“Exactly!   And what did you do about that?”


“Well that messed up my head for awhile as I remember, until I came to the realization that chiropractic has the best safety record in healthcare, that DCs have significantly lower malpractice insurance rates because of the lower risk, and that yeah, I need to be cautious, alert, and thorough as a doctor should be, but not irrationally fearful to a point where it affects my production.”


“Very good! Yes, good reasoning is the way out of that block. You chiropractors need to remind and support each other because the gaper’s block happens far too often, and can be a hidden source of struggle in a practice. Also, for prevention, just being aware that yes, some docs get lawsuits, and some docs get slapped by the licensing board, and there will always be a few disgruntled patients and employees, but these occurrences are all quite rare as a percentage of the profession, not significant enough to warrant any kind of slow down in practice production. Make sure you write about this and post it on your website, reclaimthejoy.com


Just then, as if God smiled on us, the traffic picked up, the sun seemed to shine brighter, the 4 cylinders whined again, and we were on our way with time to make the hike to the mountain top.


Hey doc, what gaper’s blocks are you in?

Dr Tom Potisk hiking in the San Bernadino Mtns of CA

By the way, have you seen my other popular blog sites? For the general public: http://www.wholehealthhealing.com and http://www.thedowntoearthdoctor.com.

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