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Is chiropractic ready for primetime?

Editor’s note: As the Affordable Care Act transitions from legislation to reality, it behooves our profession to position itself to thrive in a new heath care environment. One year ago, Palmer College of Chiropractic began sharing the results of its groundbreaking “Chiropractic Identity” initiative. The goal is to unite the profession and provide a marketable identity to consumers that explains the role of the Palmer Doctor of Chiropractic, specifically, and all chiropractors, ultimately.

Chancellor Dr. Dennis Marchiori and West Campus President Dr. William Meeker have toured the country speaking to national and state chiropractic organizations about chiropractic identity. Palmer’s identity statement is a clear and concise view of what a chiropractor is: The primary care professional for spinal health and well-being. Most recently, the statement was discussed at the November 2013 Chiropractic Summit (a gathering of representatives of 40 major chiropractic organizations). The phrases “spinal health” and “well-being” were approved as “credible marketing messages.” The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress was asked to continue testing these and other phrases for consumer impact.

The chiropractic identity is supported by a number of documents, all of which are available at palmer.edu/our-identity.

Following are excerpts from an article by Dr. Marchiori published in the Jan. 15, 2013 issue of Dynamic Chiropractic (used with permission).


Toward a mainstream Chiropractic identity
By Dennis Marchiori, D.C., Ph.D., Chancellor, Palmer College of Chiropractic

The greatest challenge now facing the chiropractic profession is our need for greater public awareness of the benefits of chiropractic care. In part, this will be accomplished through a clearly defined professional identity—one that allows our profession, our patients and the general public to understand the essence of who we are, what we do and how we contribute significant value to the health care system and society as a whole.

Leading from the center at a high-stakes moment

Because 25 percent of the world’s doctors of chiropractic are Palmer graduates and because Palmer's own identity combines a deep respect for chiropractic tradition with full engagement in cutting-edge developments in evidence-based practice, we feel we are uniquely positioned to aid in the profession’s transition through its current identity crisis and to help it emerge with a renewed sense of clarity and commitment. We see this as “leading from the center” with broad-based, common-sense approaches.

What research tells us

Robust majorities of our chiropractic community—alumni, recent graduates and clinic patients—agree that chiropractors are health professionals and are concerned with spinal health care. On these issues the general public strongly agrees. The sharpest split between the chiropractic community and the public comes in response to the statement, “Chiropractors are primary care doctors.” Nearly 90 percent of our recent graduates agreed, as did 72 percent of alumni; however, barely half of our clinic patients and a strikingly low 16 percent of the public saw D.C.s in a primary care role.

Primary care is now an essential component of chiropractic identity

I want to emphasize the importance and the urgency of including the term “primary care” in our statement of professional identity. We want to be very clear what we mean by this: we are primary care professionals within our scope of practice.

Just as dentists are widely seen as providing primary care within their scope of practice, chiropractors must strive to be recognized for primary care delivery within our own scope. But before the public will see us as primary care providers, we need to consistently define ourselves in those terms and reach a shared understanding of what we mean. Chiropractic possesses numerous characteristics of primary care. We are portalof- entry providers; 85 percent of our patients come to us directly, not on referral. We are a self-defining and self-regulating profession whose practitioners are extensively trained and licensed for both diagnosis and management.

Claiming a primary care mantle doesn’t mean we seek to be all things to all people; it means that in our area of expertise, we are ready, willing and able to take on the core duties and responsibilities required of primary care practitioners: diagnosis, management, case management and referral where needed, with evidencebased preventive care as an integral part of our domain.

Unity, not uniformity

The “big tent” of our profession has always included a rich variety of opinions, approaches and perspectives. In seeking widespread support for the chiropractic identity statement, we understand that a call for unified action cannot achieve success if coupled with a demand for uniformity. We believe that any widely acceptable statement of chiropractic identity must focus on what unites us: our contribution to the health and well-being of the people and communities we serve.

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