An Interview with Matt Maneggia of West Hartford Acupuncture
We created Clinic Spotlight to share real-world examples of what all TCM clinics are going through as they work to grow their business and improve their patient’s experience.
The following Clinic Spotlight is a transcribed interview with Matt Maneggia, one of the founders of West Hartford Acupuncture.
Maneggia streamlines his practice using Unified Practice’s acupuncture software.
What are some of the key things you’ve done or developed that improved the business side of your clinic?
Matt Maneggia: One key thing is joining the insurance networks. That’s something a lot of acupuncturists resist. That was something I resisted for a couple of years. But when I finally decided to do it I really saw our practice taking off. For better or worse, it’s the way our health care system works. It’s what patients are used to. So that little bit of familiarity, that commonality with the way patients visit a primary care physician, has really eased people into trying acupuncture at our clinic.
In fact, a bunch of our patients have remarked that one reason they chose us was the way we deal with insurance. We don’t hand our patients a super bill to turn in. We don’t make them do the work for reimbursement. We take people’s details and we bill insurance for them.
Secondly, I try to invest back into the practice as much as I can. We’ve been really jamming here for a year or more. But even though we are much busier and bringing in much more revenue, I’m still not taking home much more in terms of net pay. The reason is because I’ve been investing in growing the business with such things as advertising and setting up EHR with Unified Practice. There are certain expenditures I feel are really important to do.
Thirdly, but probably the number one decision, was hiring a really great admin person. I should have done that earlier. Of course, it’s daunting to take on a salary. But there are several key reasons. One, I think of it in terms of optics. When people call up, it is important to have somebody answer the phone other than the practitioner. It gives patients a sense of comfort and that you’re a real legit place.
And more importantly, it lets me focus on the patient. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be working on a patient, and I’d hear the phone ringing, and it took a part of me away from that patient interaction. So it’s super helpful having someone great answering the phones and handling some of the administrative stuff.
What are the key lessons that have transformed the way you practice or work with your patients?
Matt Maneggia: Learning to be adaptable and light on your feet as a business. One example is switching to using an EHR. A lot of us were perfectly content with our paper charts, but the way of the future is the EHR. And getting back to the optics, when a patient sees you take notes on an iPad or a laptop, that’s another commonality with what they see in their doctor’s office. Although hopefully, you’re making great eye contact and really connecting with the patient while you’re doing that – unlike, I think, some doctors I’ve seen who get lost in their device!
The rules of the game of the system seem to change kind of randomly, as well. You have to be adaptable. For instance, about a year ago an insurer who covers about 40% of our patients decided they were going to slash what they would reimburse for acupuncture by 80%! That was a panicky moment. But as new realities take hold, you just have to learn to make that work within the practice.
What are the three most challenging aspects of running or growing your acupuncture practice and how did you overcome them?
Matt Maneggia: CHALLENGE #1: Developing thicker skin.
As an example, about a year into my practice I sent out my first email newsletter. I maybe had a hundred email addresses on my list. And I remember that two or three people unsubscribed. I was just devastated! What, they don’t like me? What’s going on? And I probably didn’t send another email newsletter for about a year. I took me a long time to accept that it’s not a personal indictment if a patient doesn’t want to get an email from me, or stops treatment for whatever reason. In order to get over that, I just tried to focus on the patients who were still with me, and on my future patients.
CHALLENGE #2: Asking for help. It’s always been hard for me, personally, to ask people for help.
For example, I think it’s a great thing for people to see reviews on your website or on Facebook. That helps people feel confident you are someone they’d like to visit for acupuncture. But generally, people don’t think to do that. They don’t leave the office thinking, “Hey, I’m going to write a great online review for that guy.” So that’s one thing I ask patients to do, especially after a first treatment when they’re glowing with the effects of acupuncture. I’ll tell them, “what really helps us out is if you could leave a review or a testimonial on our website.”
CHALLENGE #3: Taking what life has handed you and making it work regardless.
When I was about a year and a half into my practice my wife became pregnant with twins. So that became a major challenge. There was no way I could support myself, let alone four people at that point. My wife is also an acupuncturist. So we joined our practices – we had no choice. Now we have four kids and a thriving acupuncture practice.
What are some mistakes you made along the way?
Matt Maneggia: I dragged my feet for a long time on investing money back into the business. We started off just renting a room, and then eventually two rooms, in a shared building. We didn’t have a sign on the street and I always felt like we were buried in there. I always dreamed of having our own storefront with a sign that people could see.
Well, we’ve had that for the past three years and it’s been great. A lot of people find us by just driving by. And once again getting back to optics, it makes you look more professional and successful. People are drawn to that when they’re making the decision to try acupuncture.
Another mistake was holding off on hiring a receptionist. It’s one of those things that you’re never really ready for, and you just have to take the plunge. Within reason, of course. If you’re only seeing five people a week, you probably shouldn’t do that yet. But once you’re rolling along it really helps the momentum, to put some of that back into the practice.
What advice would you give a practitioner that is just starting their clinic?
Matt Maneggia: Don’t feel like you have to be the world’s best acupuncturist to have a successful practice. I never felt that way. In school, there were people who ate and slept and drank acupuncture and TCM. I was never one of those people, and it shook my confidence a little starting out. However, acupuncture is like pizza or sex – even if it’s not that great it’s still pretty great. So nine out of ten patients are going to have good results regardless of your skills. The more you practice and the more patients you see, you’re going to develop your own style. You will find what works best for you, and that is going to make you a better practitioner. I think you will attract patients who will benefit from the unique approach you take as an acupuncturist.
It’s so much fun once it gets going. It’s a great career. In the beginning, you’re not going to be busy, but if you can reframe that in your mind as an adventure and as a challenge you’re going to have more fun with it. Personally, I love puzzles, so I think of the business side of this – and even the clinical side of it – as a puzzle. There is a solution. You just have to figure out how to put those pieces together to make it work, and when you do it is so satisfying. It’s a lot of fun.
We thank Matt Maneggia for taking the time to be our guest in the Clinic Spotlight interviews and we wish him continued success with his clinic.
Stay tuned for more Clinic Spotlight interviews where we’ll discuss what lessons, tactics, marketing tools other clinics are using to grow their TCM and acupuncture practice.