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Podiatrists - People who just hand out pieces of plastic

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by Trent Baker, Mar 3, 2008.

  1. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member

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    I recently attended the Australian Shoe Fair at Darling Harbour in Sydney. I was one of a few Podiatrists who volunteered their time to man the ApodA NSW stand. Whilst I was at the stand I fielded many questions about what Podiatry is, what a Podiatrist does and how we can build relationships with footwear retailers. This was the basic idea of the stand, continuing efforts to increase the profession's profile.

    I then had a lady approach myself and the other Podiatrist on 'duty'. This lady proceeded to tell us that despite what we may think of our profile in the footwear industry, that we are viewed as "people who just hand out pieces of plastic". She was quite nice about the whole thing of course, and explained that she had nothing against our profession. However she felt a need to let us know what was thought of us. We spent time explaining to her that Podiatrists assess patients and offer a variety of appropriate treatments for pathologies within the lower limb, orthoses being only one. Despite our efforts, it seemed to wash over her.

    Keeping in mind this Shoe Fair was very fashion orientated and although there were some technical brands present, the focus was on fashion. This individual though was from a children's shoe store, which is even more of a worry.

    I have to say I was a little taken back. I mean I know there is a resistance out there in some respects but I really hadn't ever come accross this within the footwer industry. These guys should be our allies, not our enemy.

    Is it possible that this person is not alone? Are these retailers out there telling their customers we are just going to flog them a pair of orthotics, so they might aswell just have these off the shelf devices we have here in the shop, without assessment or review??

    Has anyone else come accross this attitude from footwear retailers before? If this is the attitude out there, how do we undo it?

  2. LuckyLisfranc

    LuckyLisfranc Well-Known Member


    Don't be upset - 10 years ago she might have said that podiatrists just cut toenails.

    Maybe in another 10 years someone from the industry will say all podiatrists do is perform bunion surgery and straighten toes...

    My neighbour is an orthodontist. He quite happily quips that all he does is fit braces all day, and is very comfortable (financially and emotionally) with that.

    I see it as a positive, rather than a negative.

  3. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member

    I don't know that I was upset so much as surprised. I have a great relationship with most of the footwear retailers in my area and with confidence I can say I know how I am viewed. However getting out there in the big wide world, I can see that it's not always the case.

    Thanks for the pep talk Liz. I'm back in the saddle seat, head down and smiling again. Just an interesting experience I thought I would share.

  4. Boots n all

    Boots n all Well-Known Member

    Trent, she (the shoes retailer in question) is very much a lone voice, more and more understanding/respect is growing in the industry daily and hopefully will continue to do so.
    If that is her view of Pods, l would not want one of my children to be her client.
  5. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

  6. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    I don't think she is a lone voice. In Victoria it is a geographical thing...it depends on the kind of practitioners you have had contact with and what kind of practice they run. There are some very hard sell places out there...."everybody needs orthoses"......headache?.......sore shoulder?...slightly overweight and want tighter buns? (buy the magic thongs) ....all available for the amazing knock down price of only......$xxxx or the annual program years booking of "foot health" checks.....just saw my first one of these advertised in the local paper....discount specials and cheaper if you book a years worth......some pods do just hand out plastic and take a lot of money for it.....but you can do it ethically too......

    your choice in the end.....
    regards Phill
  7. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member

    I'm aware that there are Pods out there doing that Phill. It's a bit of a worry that they are actually advertising themselves though. I mean do these people have no scruples, surely they know how this looks. Or is the dollar more important?

    I take the approach that if I do all the right things, get good patient outcomes and build trust with my patients and the community at large, then it comes back to me eventually in dollars. The important thing for me is that I can pride myself on what I offer people walking in my door looking for help, not what I have parked in the driveway.

    Perhaps discounting and deal making in our profession should be monitored and restricted?

  8. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    Hi Trent,
    Sounds like you have a good attitude....I'm sure in the long run it will earn you a living and the respect of your patients and peers, (it probably already has). I have moved to a rural area with some very heavy advertisers, not many local pods, there is more than enough work to go round, it beats me why some of us behave the way we do......the public have fairly sensitive BS detectors.....so I try to avoid all that stuff.
    regards Phill
  9. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member

    We've gone into an area that frustrates the hell out of me Phill. I'm in a very busy, growning area in the west of Sydney, there are several practices here and one in particular really hits the marketing hard. They are in magazines and newspapers and every possible medium of advertising possible. This bloke even came to me before he opened in the area in an attempt to buy my "small boutique practice" giving me a chance to "get out of the area" before he puts down roots.

    I just played dumb with this guy and responded with "well maybe we can go for lunch when you move in, but I'll keep my little 'boutique' practice for now thanks". I just keep my head down and keep doing what I do. The other guys that work with me here all approached me for the work and all think the same way about our profession and how we should do business. So I hope you're right Phill.

    I agree though, the public do have a good BS detector, I've had plenty of patients come over from these other guys for that reason.

    The unfortunate thing is that these Pods are often pretty high profile, due to the advertising and marketing they carry out and they are the same guys that give us a bad name. It's Podiatry practices like that who give people the idea that we just take money off people and hand out plastic.

  10. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    Hi Trent,
    It does sound like we have a few similar factors around us...I moved to one of the area towns specifically to offer an alternative to what was already there. All I do there is functional stuff, no general foot care, I get a fascinating days work of all sorts of accident, injury, post trauma rehab...I really like that day...no toe nails and a generally younger group. It adds a bit of variety to my life. Having said all that it makes me sound a bit self righteous.......but I do try pretty hard not to "give out plastic" unless it really is necessary
    regards Phill
  11. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member

    That does sound like a great and interesting days work Phill. Just to put the self righteous tag to bed, I do prescribe orthotics, but as you said when it is really necessary.

    Often when people present to clinic, they have symptoms that are related to footwear, injury or activity. They don't always need correction, sometimes they just need a bit of good advice and/or some soft tissue work. Sure I always assess them thoroughly to ensure there are no significant mechanical factors contributing to their problems, but that doesn't always end with a casting.

    There seems to be allot of people out there who's idea of therapy is assessment=casting, when there are so many other treatment options available. It's in your patient's best interest to be a well rounded clinician, not just an orthotic expert.

    It's good to know I'm not the only one suffering the onslaught of 'Corporate Podiatry'.

  12. lcp

    lcp Active Member

    Glad to hear that sort of thing doesnt just happen in the country areas. Couple of experiences down my way (south coast nsw) include a "big name" footwear store actually telling one of my patients not to wear their brand new orthoses, as "these shoes will fix your problem". thankfuly the patient phoned me to ask if that was right, same shop dishing out orthoheels like they were going out of fashion, telling customers, "these will work, i know that because we at the (insert shop name) have had full podiatry training". needless to say, i dont refer to that shop anymore!!
    Another good example of the lack of public knowledge about podiatry involved a rather irate grandmother of a patient acusing me of not doing my job, because i did not cut her grandaughters toe nails when, wait for it, she came in with heel pain!! According to the grandmother, podiatrists cut toe nails, she knows because her podiatrist cuts her nails. 25 minutes later, i still couldnt convince her that we do more than cut nails.
    some days i wish i was a lawnmower!!
  13. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member

    lol, that is hillarious! I remember when I was studying at UWS one of the academic staff told us, that we would spend our entire careers justifying our profession. How true do those words ring when you start talking about episodes like this.

    The shoe store situation is made worse by their insistence on the 'Add-on sale'. These guys don't make enough margin out of the footwear so they encourage their staff to sell accessories for which the mark up is much greater. Insoles, prefabs, deodorants, you name it. I think they need to have a big hard look at themselves though, when they take it to the point where they allienate their local pods.

    I pointed this out to the franchisee of a local outlet. The revenue they generate via referral by me, far outways the margin gained by add-on sales. If they truly think a customer might have a problem foot type, or symptoms then refer to the health professional trained to help them. Nine times out of ten that patient will be sent back to them, with an appropriate shoe prescription that is often more expensive than they would have otherwise purchased. The customer also knows that the store has done the right thing by them and everyone is a winner.

    It seems simple but it's actually quite difficult to get the owners to listen.
  14. lcp

    lcp Active Member

    You've got it right there trent. Since the shenanigans with the more local store, I have formed a very good professional relatonship with a store a little further away (45k compared to 10k), to where I refer all my patients in need of footwear. The owner of this store is very keen to provide great service, without over stepping boundaries, and because of this has made quite a large number of sales, including repeat sales. In return, he is always willing to go through the latest models etc with me, meaning my knowledge is up to date. Its win-win as far as im concerned, all parties just need to acknowledge their limitations.
  15. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member

    Absolutely. That takes us back to the basic problem of greed. Too many people want the lion's share of everything. Good luck trying to curb that one.

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