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Posted on 07-04-2016

Free Consultations vs. New Patient Examinations - What's The Difference?

As a Baltimore Chiropractor that spends the majority of my time treating patients involved in Baltimore auto accidents, I often get asked by prospective patients what the difference is between a free consultation and a new patient examination. That is, a prospective patient will walk through the door and they may not know whether the treatment we provide is right for them and for the injuries. My office is happy to allow for a free 10 minute no-cost, no obligation consultation for patients. The thinking behind this is quite simple - Both parties, the patient, and the provider, want to make sure that there is a condition or series of conditions that we can help prior to beginning the arduous task of contacting insurance companies and filling out boatloads of paperwork. If your tooth hurt, chances are pretty good you already know that you need to see a dentist. But sometimes when people in Baltimore have headaches, neck pain or back pain, they are unsure whether they need to see a Baltimore chiropractor, Baltimore physical therapist, or Baltimore orthopedic surgeon. My staff and I welcome these opportunities to meet prospective patients, offer them our best guess as to what may be going on, and to let the prospective patients know that we either think we can help them or we think that we can't. These free no-obligation consultations are not high-pressure sales tactics. If we think we can help you because you appear to be presenting with "bread and butter" chiropractic injuries, then we are happy to tell you so, have our front desk staff confirm your chiropractic benefits, and then schedule an appointment for your evaluation and treatment. If, on the other hand, you have conditions that do not fit into our "sweet spot" or your past medical history indicates that chiropractic care may be contraindicated for your condition (if could make you worse, for instance) then we will tell you that as well. Believe me when I tell you that even if our office is not a good fit for you, we are happy to give our two cents about how to go about feeling better and where to turn next.

During a free consultation one of the chiropractors on staff will listen to your complaints and we will give our best estimations as to whether or not chiropractic care is an appropriate treatment option for the condition. Here is where the tricky part comes in. We can't always say for sure whether or not a patient will be a good fit for the practice, because technically, we are still having a conversation with a "stranger" at this point, and we have not yet entered into a "doctor patient relationship" with a client. That is, during the consultation, we are not examining the client, we are not physically evaluating the client, nor are we x-raying the prospective patient. We are just answering some questions about their condition and trying to determine if it is in the best interest of both parties to move forward with becoming a patient. In the free consultation our "duty" as providers is minimal. We may shake your hand to introduce ourselves and greet a prospective patient, but we are not "yet" your providers. We do not owe you any duties that we might otherwise owe you as a patient, since you are not yet technically a patient. Since that is the case, it is hard to answer "specifics" about an injury since we are not technically evaluating it.

If a patient decides after a consultation that they do want to become a patient, then they return to the waiting room to fill out new patient paperwork, as they would have had they been any type of new patient to the practice. If the office has time on its schedule to see the patient right then and there, then we will see the patient right away. If, on the other hand, the schedule is booked and we do not have time to see the patient that day, they will be offered the option of waiting to be seen as a walk in (with no guarantee that we can see them) or the option of rescheduling for a subsequent day. The choice is theirs and theirs alone.

If a patient or provider decides that a prospective patients is not a good fit for chiropractic care, then they can go on their way. They do not owe us any money and they are under no obligation to return. That is, they just had a discussion with a professional who did not undertake a doctor-patient relationship. The providers do not have to produce any medical record of the encounter and the person can leave, never having become a patient of the practice.

Although there is a fine line between prospective patient (during a consultation) and a new patient (during an evaluation) the line is very important from the provider side. In the first example of a consultation, we do not owe the prospective patient any duties typically owed during a doctor patient relationship. We can't fail to diagnose an injury or "miss" a diagnosis since technically that "stranger" is not a patient that we owe that duty to. Whereas, once a stranger elects to become a patient, we now have an obligation to provide care for them without falling below the standard, thereby exposing ourselves to malpractice.

Several times in the first four years of my practice I have had patients ask me what constitutes a free-consultation vs. a new patient evaluation. Some have even gone as far as filling out paperwork and asking me to evaluate them and then have been shocked when they are told that they owe us money for services rendered. I hope that this information clears up the difference.

If you are not sure that you would benefit from Chiropractic care in Baltimore and would like to schedule a free no cost no obligation consultation, please contact Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic at (443) 842-5500. We would be happy to help!

Dr. Gulitz

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