This article was written by Dick Pepper, a medical marketing specialist who blogs at VoxMD.com and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

I recently heard someone say "Facebook is dead." I thought this was quite a profound statement, but it was from a very smart client, and I run their social media strategy. Needless to say, I looked into where this idea may have come from. It turns out there are articles online claiming this. They're mostly quite old and biased to other online services, or written from the angst-riddled perspective of college kids who don't like the rise in Facebook usage by adults. According to Pew Internet (http://bit.ly/11TWk01), the most cited and trusted source of online usage, 69 percent of all online adults, representing more than half of the entire adult population of the United States, use a social networking site. No authoritative source says Facebook, or any other social media, is dying, but many point out a few key social media mistakes that can negatively affect your orthopedic and spine marketing:
Published in Spine
Dr. GeierDavid Geier, MD, is a board-certified sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon with the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Geier is the director of the MUSC sports medicine, which he built from the ground up. He serves as the head team physician of the Charleston Battery soccer team and chief tournament physician for the Family Circle Cup women's professional tennis tournament.
Here are four practice technology trends that are becoming more popular today, according to a Medscape report.
A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that specific consequences for physician violations of online professionalism have not been outlined, but there is general consensus on a few events that should "never" happen.
Published in Practice Management
At the 19th Annual Ambulatory Surgery Centers Conference in Chicago, Kim Woodruff, vice president of corporate finances and compliance at Pinnacle III, will be giving a presentation titled "The Use of Social Media by ASCs and Practices."
Gold Medical Marketing was founded in June 2012 and provides tailored marketing campaigns for spine surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and pain management physicians. "Too often medical marketing companies take a 'one size fits all' approach to marketing a practice," says Daniel Goldberg, founder of Gold Marketing. "I believe in the polar opposite of this approach. The essence of an effective marketing campaign is research and implementation."

In his efforts, Mr. Goldberg uses both demographic and psychographic research to identify potential patient populations. "My goal is to capitalize on that feature and use it to generate patient volume for that physician using the principles of research, identification, branding and positioning," says Mr. Goldberg. "I want to identify physicians who are using progressive techniques and approaches to maximize the outcomes for their patients."

Mr. Goldberg discusses how spine surgeons can benefit from targeted marketing efforts and where the field of spine marketing is headed in the future.

Q: How can marketing benefit spine surgeons?

Daniel Goldberg:
Marketing can be a benefit to spine surgeons because it allows surgeons to communicate their services to different demographics and populations. Medicine is a business and the customers, or in this case patients, are the lifeblood of any business. However, to be of the mindset that one generic marketing strategy will reach all potential populations is a fallacy. Potential patients, especially in spine, have diverse lifestyles and vocations. If you are only reaching one small segment of this population you are not maximizing your potential reach and thus limiting your number of patients.

Q: What are the unique marketing challenges spine surgeons face today?

Today spine surgeons face a multitude of marketing challenges. First and foremost, there is the inherent fear that is associated with spinal surgery. Although minimally invasive techniques have been proven effective and as a much less traumatic alternative to open spinal surgery, the common association of spinal surgery is still that of an 8-10 inch midline incision and multiple nights stay in a hospital.

Many patients are hesitant to undergo these perceived invasive and dangerous procedures despite the high level of pain they may be suffering. For physicians practicing minimally invasive procedures in outpatient settings the marketing opportunities are limitless.

Another challenge is presenting the benefits of surgery over prolonged narcotic or opioid based prescription use. Although the neurologic side effects of prolonged use have been thoroughly documented many patients are still reluctant to cede the use of these medications. Many would rather continue this dependent lifestyle than risk a surgical complication or Failed Back Surgery Syndrome.

Another challenge is increased competition within the field. Many large hospitals have begun to consume smaller practices and bring them on staff to the hospital in an effort to quell competition. These hospitals have the financial resources to "out-market" physicians in private practice or smaller group practices. This is when the need for a clever marketing and PR strategy becomes evident. The ability to separate your practice from these conglomerates and maintain a personal aspect to your practice is imperative.

Q: What steps can spine surgeons and practices take to develop and utilize a comprehensive marketing plan?

The key to any successful marketing plan is identification and benchmarking. I have never been a believer in broad marketing techniques, instead I firmly believe in creatively marketing to different segments and tailoring messages for those groups. Identifying these groups and creating relevant content makes the most impact. However, you will never know if your campaigns are successful unless you track the results. For instance, if you place an ad in a magazine and that ad costs $500 that ad might only generate two patients. The reimbursements from these two new patients may cover the cost of the ad but that does not mean it was successful.

I like to maintain a very high ROI for any paid advertisements, usually a minimum of 15 to 1 (15 patients for every one ad). More importantly, the opportunities for free press and advertising are the most financially beneficial.

Just as medicine is a complex discipline, so is marketing. It takes a keen knowledge of the social and psychological factors that attribute to a patient's decision making process. Having someone who specializes in this process and understands these factors is going to significantly impact the success of a practice.

Q: How does the internet and social media impact a spine surgeon's practice?

There is a lot of varying theories on the impact social media has on a practice all of which have merit. My professional view is that social media should be used for two things: aiding in the branding effort and driving traffic to your website. These two facets will indirectly increase patient volume. Using social media to post blogs, articles, press and testimonials that are linked to your website will facilitate an increase in traffic (this also has an extreme effect of the SEO value of your site).

Once potential patients are on your website, having a clever web design and content optimization is next. You want to keep potential patients on your site and give them the content they are seeking. You also want to allow them to share this content with their social media audience thus capturing their audience as well as your own. Video testimonials, if done well, are always a highly shared asset on social media.

Also, if you are generating relevant and reliable content for your audience your website becomes more than a solicitation of your services. It now becomes a resource for potential patients to garner information about their, or a loved one's, condition. This inherently leads them to trust your practice and, by proxy, your physicians. When they do take the next step and call you to schedule a consult they already feel they know you and feel comfortable with your clinical opinion. This is the essence of branding.

Q: What is the next frontier for healthcare marketing in the spine space?

The next frontier in spine marketing is something that I have been at the forefront of for quite some time and that is direct-to-patient marketing. Traditionally, most spine specialists relied on primary care physicians, attorneys and chiropractors (whom I call The Gate Keepers) for referrals. These referral sources held an undue stake in the success of your practice by being able to control your flow of patients. Although I do believe in the value of these referral sources, I do not think they should be the exclusive source of new patients. In my former practice, 65 percent of our new consults came via our marketing efforts. This was due, in part, to the fact that I took a very direct to patient approach.

Fifteen years ago pharmaceutical companies started advertising directly to patients in addition to soliciting physicians. They gave patients the ability to be educated about a certain drug and discuss it with their physician. The pharmaceutical industry in America is now a $300 billion-a-year industry.
Modern consumers are now doing more research and exploring all of their options before making a decision and potential patients are no different. The days of a patient going into a PCP's office and following the treatment plan the PCP lays out are being replaced by sources like WebMD and internet research. This is actually beneficial to the medical community as a whole because patients are empowered to make decisions and decide what is best for them and not rely solely on a PCP to decide their clinical future.

Physicians who want to survive under an ever changing medical landscape and the looming implementation of Obamacare need to be focused on progressive evidence based medicine such as MIS procedures, stem cell therapies, multi-disciplinary approaches and maintaining a cost-effective structure for patients and insurers. This not only increases their marketability but their ability to maintain lucrative practices.

More Articles on Orthopedic & Spine Marketing:

7 Social Media Tips for Spine Practices & Surgery Centers

Orthopedic & Spine Surgeons: 3 Secrets to Google Local Marketing

10 Tips Diving Deeper Into Orthopedic & Spine Practice Marketing

Published in Spine
Most spine practices and surgery centers are seeking to use social media as a form of marketing and engagement with the public, but some may have questions about how to best utilize Twitter, Facebook and other social networks in a savvy way that leads to more patients.
Published in Spine
Chicago-based Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush Physicians John Fernandez, MD, and Jeffrey Mjaanes, MD, led some of the most successful social media campaigns to date, according to a Ragan's Health Care Communications News report.
To say that the medical community has noticed a change in the government's enforcement stance regarding HIPAA violations would be quite an understatement. Examples of cringe-worthy behavior by providers are becoming legion. In addition to the now near-famous case involving Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island and Alexandra Thran, MD, news reports of physicians discussing patient cases on Facebook, nurses posting "humorous" X-rays on-line and medical personnel "friending" patients, similar incidents are disturbingly common. HHS investigations into this type of behavior represent a sea-change in the nature of HIPAA compliance — from one of education and the handling of paper records, to one of enforcement and the security of electronic media — and a change that should have CIOs, general counsels and compliance directors taking notice. Failure to proactively address these issues could land health systems in perilous waters, in the local media or even as the lead story on 60 Minutes.
Published in Practice Management
Social media tools, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are becoming increasingly important for managing businesses, including orthopedic practices. According to a new Medscape report, Facebook is the most popular social media website for orthopedists. Here are 10 statistics on how orthopedists use social media based on medium and age.
Published in Practice Management
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