Perhaps your dream is to return to your childhood home. Maybe you have a spouse or significant other with work or family ties to the city where your school is located, so that will become the home for your practice. Either way, you need to complete a demographic study to help you make some important decisions.
by Mike Whitmer in Choosing a Location on Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Do the Demographics
A demographic study is a compilation of data used to develop a business plan and assess the feasibility of a location. For example, for a chiropractic practice, you’ll want to locate in an area that not only has many families, but also has a high number of two-income households and an accepting attitude toward alternative healthcare. Also, your demographic study becomes an important part of your business plan when seeking financing.
Step 1: Finding your Patients
Performing a demographic study starts with determining your catchment area, or the geographical area from which you will draw your patients. In a major metropolitan city, your catchment area could be as limited as a four- or five-block area. But if you want to practice in rural Nebraska, for example, your patients could come from hundreds of miles away.
One of the best ways to determine a catchment area is to simply look around. Walk or drive through the neighborhood or community and take notes of what you see and feel.
Step 2: Understanding the Area
If you’re moving into a new city or rural area, you’ll want to find out as much as possible about population trends there. The U.S. Census Bureau provides plenty of helpful data on population trends and statistics. You can also contact local and state agencies for their input. Another good resource is www.city-data.com.
Don’t overlook the county and state, as well, especially if your catchment area encompasses more than a single town or city. Here are just a few of the things you’ll want to know:
Employers and Occupations
- Who are the area’s major employers?
- Are they manufacturing related or service oriented?
- What occupations and job titles relate to those employers?
- Do their benefit packages include chiropractic care?
- Be cautious when considering communities largely dependent on a particular industry; a downtown could be bad for business.
- Will potential patients drive to your location or walk?
- Is safe public transportation available, and does it extend to suburbs and outlying areas or just service downtown and industrial parks?
- What kind of government oversees the area – city government, township board, etc.?
- How many people does the local municipal government employ?
- Is the local government one of the larger employers in the area?
- What types of job titles, wages and benefit plans does the local government offer?
- What kinds of community services does the local government offer?
- Are the schools regarded as high quality? This often translates to a growing and thriving community.
- What other community support exists? For example, is there a variety of churches, a community center, a thriving business or entertainment district?
- Does the area show a commitment to healthcare?
- How many hospitals are located in the area? Are there a number of other health professionals present such as dental and optometrist offices?
- Are medical doctors in the area receptive to chiropractic and collaborative care?
- What is the community’s attitude toward alternative healthcare?
Step 3: Scoping out the Competition
You’ll want to know how many D.C. offices are located within your catchment area. In a large city, it may not matter as much. But in smaller cities and towns, competitors in the immediate area might not be a good thing, especially with a limited number of potential patients.
Step 4: Finding the Information
We live in an age where almost anything is available at the click of a mouse – including demographic and competitive analysis data. It may take a little digging, but you can probably find the information you want somewhere online. In addition to the sites mentioned already, use the following to start your search:
- www.chamberofcommerce.com. You’ll start very broad at first, and then narrow your search until you arrive at links to specific sites for the area in which you’re interested in researching.
- School district websites. These sites usually contain five- and 10-year plans that outline growth projections for the community. Projected growth is a good sign for increased population and business potential.
- State Department of Economic websites. From Google or Internet Explore, type in, for example, “Iowa Department of Economic Development.” The first listing is often the best one. Economic development websites are good links to neighborhood associations, schools and real estate agencies, too.
Be sure to visit the “Planning” section of NCMIC's Learning Center to learn more about using data and demographics to establish a successful practice.