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A demographic study is a compilation of data used to develop a business plan and assess the feasibility of a location. In the business world, such a study is a necessity - can you imagine McDonalds® building a franchise without first analyzing the neighborhood to ascertain if the franchise could turn a profit?

Treat your prospective business with the same respect. Setting up a practice is a monumental effort that involves many complexities. It's certainly not worth your time if you're not diligent from the beginning.

Determining Your Catchment Area

The first step in performing a demographic study is determining what your catchment area would be. A catchment area is defined as the geographical area from which you draw your patients. Such designations can vary widely; if you're thinking of setting up shop in a New York City high-rise, your catchment area could be as limited as your building. But if you want to practice in a small community in North Dakota, your catchment area could extend as far as 60 to 100 miles in all directions. How do you determine yours?

Start by simply looking around. Walk or drive through the neighborhood or community and take note of any chiropractic offices. Search online to determine the distance from you of each D.C.'s listing you find. Make a comprehensive list, and keep it close at hand as you conduct the rest of your study.

Census Data: You'll Need More Than You Think

A solid demographic study should be able to yield census data not only about the community in which you have an interest in starting your practice, but about the community, county, and state as well. You'll want to find the following information:

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?


  • Does the area offer public transportation?
  • Does public transportation extend to suburbs and outlying areas?
  • Would your potential office be along a transportation route (e.g. bus line)?

Local Government

  • 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 town?

Community Services

  • What kinds of community services does the local government offer?
  • Are the schools regarded as high quality (an indication that the community is growing and thriving)?
  • What other community support exists (e.g.  churches, community centers, etc.)?

Health Care

  • How many hospitals are located there, and how many health professionals of all types practice in the area?
  • Are medical doctors receptive to chiropractic and collaborative care?
  • What is the community's attitude with regard to alternative healthcare?

Take thorough notes on each location you’re considering so you can comfortably develop your SWOT analysis next.

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