Top 5 Fridays! 5 Ways to Have a TMD Practice
I have been asked by more than 1 reader, do I think it's possible to have a TMD based practice, and if so, how do (or did) I go about doing it?
1) Educate yourself
I finished Dr. Mariano Rocabado's Craniofacial Courses and certificate through the University of St. Augustine. I cannot say enough good things about his courses. He not only proved the craniomandibular posittion is related to cervicocranial position, but has literally done hundreds if not thousands of pre and post test scans of the cranial area and TMJ area. Looking at both of these areas prior to treatment, and then after education, manual therapy, and exercise, you can clearly see the changes (increased joint space, better position of the mandible)
One of my favorite outcome measures of his is taking a picture of the patient's face and having them point toward the pain (usually not smiling), then at the end of treatment, taking a picture of them smiling. Great outcomes!
His courses also greatly improve your ability to treat the cervical spine, and headaches in particular. I cannot recommend them enough. He also facilitates referrals to dentists by teaching you basic dental lingo. When in Rome....
2) Market to the right sources
Believe it or not, the average dentist is no better equipped to deal with more difficult TMD cases than the average PT. Both professions most likely learn a bit about it in school, but unless either takes continuing education, they cannot properly assess or treat anything but the simple cases.
Shortly after getting certified, I marketed to the biggest TMD clinic in Western, NY. It just so happened the dentist who owned it at the time took Rocabado's courses. He started referring me a majority of his patients and that quickly became at times between 50-75% of my caseload.
You should also market to ENT specialists. They often get patients who c/o ear pain, earache, tinnitus, etc. Once they clear the ear, sinuses, etc... many of them diagnose the patient with TMD, but do not give PT as an option. There are several ENT offices in the area that send me these patients.
Market to your dentist. My dentist was very happy to hear that I treated TMD patients, asked for my card, and got together the other practitioners in the office to learn my quick screen. Tenderness in suboccipital area, possible pain with cervical rotation or extension, intra-articular click (not necessarily painful), deflection or deviation of mandible depression. Takes about a minute to check. Refer out!
3) Offer to give a presentation to a local dental group
One of the biggest kick starts to my almost 2 year old practice was giving a presentation on TMD to a group of about 70 local dentists. They were all very receptive and asked a lot of great questions. I still get random referrals from a "dentist that knows me" and by knows me, they mean saw me speak over dinner and drinks for a few hours. Every referral counts!
4) Blog/Social Media
Seriously. My business partner calls me the worst marketer in the world. He used to go visit docs all the time, bringing them cupcakes, etc.. We used to call it marketing to Erson, often the docs office was closed, and he would come back with treats and put them on my desk.
Anyway, by blogging interesting cases, putting in search terms on my posts, at least 3 dentists and 1 orthodontist ended up googling me, calling me, or emailing me asking me if I am accepting new patients. I sure am! So yeah, I'm the worst marketer in the world because my online presence has other practitioners contacting me first. The more you blog, the more hits you get, the stronger your search engine optimization or SEO. Every business should have a blog. The trick is writing for the correct audience. If you do not want to do it, or know how to do it. There are services out there (some by PTs) that teach you how. I can recommend some. Contact me!
5) Market to your patients
Patients are some of my biggest referral sources. Our HMOs cover direct access, and after analyzing our clinic data over the past year, we found almost 70% of our patients were self referred. Many were former patients who were told they did not need a referral/script to come back. Some were patients who came back for other body areas to be treated.
I always ask patients, "is there anything else you would like us to take a look at?" I also ask this on more than one occasion, especially when the condition you are currently treating them for is resolving. Also, many cervical patients may have an asymptomatic TMJ click, deviation in mandible motion, tinnitus, or earache. Do you ask about these things or look for them? Every TMD patient is a cervical patient, but not every cervical patient is a TMD patient - some of them are though.
Tell them to tell their dentist about their experience with your practice. Give your patients marketing materials. Providers seem to be more receptive to patient's experiences rather than another Joe Schmoe clinician walking in with cupcakes.
I admit that many of these things were being in the right place at the right time, talking to the right person, or treating the right patient. However, I've been at this 14 years, those are the best marketing opportunities. Everyone you meet is a marketing opportunity. Patients are one of the biggest if you are a sympathetic, compassionate, and educational provider.