Gr8 Health: Clinic chain adjusts to health care changes

CARMEL (WISH) — A new kind of clinic aims to turn bad backs into good business and better health.

But The Joint is a bit of a mystery at first glance. Inside, it looks like something from a hip night club. Outside, a sign shows a price you’d more expect to see at a barber shop.

“And we can probably get you in and out a lot quicker than you can get your hair cut,” jokes franchisee Drew Emsweller.

What The Joint actually offers is chiropractic care with zero frills on a monthly membership model.

“We’re about volume,” Emsweller explains. “We’re not trying to sell you products or retail or extra services or x-rays.”

One location of The Joint opened recently in Hamilton Town Center. Emsweller’s location at 116th Street and Rangeline Road in Carmel debuted this month. Even though they have different owners, the clinics look nearly identical. From the paint to the light fixtures to the pictures, the chain aims for consistency.

That applies to the chiropractic doctors who work there, too. Emsweller says all of them must be trained in the same kind of adjustments so that no matter which franchise a patient visits, he or she will have the same experience.

In Carmel, the doctor is Steve Smiley. He is stepping back from his own private practice to join The Joint. He still keeps a few hours and patients at the other clinic, which he shares with his wife, but Smiley says he’s convinced The Joint will make good health sense for patients and good business sense for him.

“Personally I was a little skeptical of the price range,” Smiley told us. “But knowing the amount of patients we’re getting through the door has been pretty eye-opening for me.”

The prices start at $19 for an initial consultation and adjustment and max out at a $59 per month plan that offers several adjustments and no long-term commitment.

“We’re shooting for 350 members,” Emsweller said.

The Joint operates on cash or credit only; the clinics do not take insurance. Emsweller says his prices are well below almost all co-pays and contends that adding the staff, time and paperwork costs of processing insurance would drive the prices up.

Right now there are about 200 clinics in The Joint chain. Emsweller says he’d like to open more in Indiana in the near future.

If you are trying to decide whether The Joint or clinics like it would be a smart choice for you, here are some of the pros and cons to consider:

Strengths

  • Consistency: From the chairs and carpet to the artwork on the walls, every Joint in the entire chain looks almost identical. And the owners say the docs are all trained to adjust patients the same way.
  • Prices: The prices are far lower than most – though some other clinics offer pricing programs that are competitive.
  • Quick: At The Joint, there are no appointments and no insurance. You get in and out quickly.

Limitations

  • Quick: Yes, the same thing that may be a strength may turn off some potential patients. Since there are no appointments, you may feel like you are in and out more quickly than you would prefer. If you are most comfortable with a series of long sessions with a doctor who will provide wide-ranging services, this health care model may be a bad match for you.
  • Limited Care: Adjustments and only adjustments. The Joint does not offer x-rays, fitting for orthotics, nutrition counseling, massage services, or any of the other extra care items that many full-service chiropractors promote and offer.
  • No Insurance: While a positive for many potential patients, it could be a negative for people with exceptionally good coverage or those who rely on Medicare.
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