8 Tips for Marketing Orthopedic Practices in 2012

Practice Management

Here are 10 ways orthopedic practices can market their services in 2012.

1. Tout your practice physicians as experts and live up to the reputation. If you want to market your practice as the best in town for orthopedic care, make sure you live up to your own standards. An easy way to do that is by only recruiting fellowship-trained physician partners to practice their subspecialty. "In a city where there are lots of orthopedic specialists, you have to have people focusing on their subspecialties," says Peter Althausen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Reno Orthopaedic Clinic and chairman of the board of directors of The Orthopaedic Implant Company. "If you do something 10 times per week, you'll be better than someone who does them once per month." While patients may not understand this concept, they will hear about your reputation as an excellent surgeon.

Additionally, it's important to practice evidence-based medicine to produce the best outcomes for your patients. "There are a lot of new procedures and implants out there that aren't always proven technology," says Dr. Althausen. "There's nothing that ruins your reputation like a bad outcome when you're using new technology." Patients can go online and see reviews and statistics on each physician, which makes producing good outcomes even more important in today's market.

2. Create pages and applications on Facebook. If your practice is looking for ways to connect with current and potential customers to increase retention, word-of-mouth referrals and gain new patients, social media is an inexpensive, direct way to do so. However, the world of social media is new, vast and can be overwhelming, so it is crucial to develop a plan before embarking on social media outreach. Identifying your target audience, finding out what social media platforms they are using and strategically entering into their conversations through applications and advertising is the best approach. It’s also critical to budget time within your workweek to manage the content and allow the project several months to grow. Assign an office manager or hire an outside marketing agency to assist in the planning and implementation of social media strategy.

3. Keep a blog. Setting up a blog about healthcare can allow you to interact with patients and potential patients through the familiar ground of cyber space. You can make blog entries commenting on the big issues in orthopedics or use the space as a forum to provide general patient information, such as tips for youth athletes on injury prevention. On his blog, David Geier, Jr., MD, an orthopedic surgeon and director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, responds to patients' questions. Through a disclaimer, he clarifies that his response contains general information rather than a specific diagnoses or individualized treatment advice. Those who submit questions know ahead of time that Dr. Geier may feature them in future blog posts. He also encourages people to reach out to him via Twitter and e-mail, and shares the locations of his practice.

4. Regularly updates your website. To remain a dynamic tool, your website will require regular updating.  If the web developer you hire lacks management capabilities, you won’t be able to keep your website fresh and up-to-date. This can be problematic if the physician adds new procedures, wants to update staff information, additions or moves to a new location, practice changes, or reception of new recognitions after the website is built. You can also add practice newsletters, press releases, new patient testimonials and fresh links to physician publications as they arise.

5. Distribute coupons for cash-based services. With reimbursement declining for office visits and surgical procedures, some practices are beginning to offer cash-based services for additional financial support. These services can include sports performance, nutritional analysis and other tests for showing how physically fit a person is. For cash services, Geoffrey Connor, MD, founder of D1 Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Ala., has begun to issue coupons for discounts. "We have worked on some different coupons for cash-based services, whether it's the body fat analysis, monitoring or platelet-rich plasma injections, to bring patients into our practice for non-payor based services," he says. "Patients really respond to that."

6. Offer Saturday morning clinics year-round. While many practices already have sports Saturday sports injury clinics open during the fall sports and football seasons, Angie Van Utrecht, director of operations at Orthopedic Specialists in Davenport, Iowa, says successful sports medicine practices should offer these clinics to athletes all year. The Saturday morning clinics can be helpful to athletes beyond football players, such as basketball players and weekend warriors. If these individuals know the clinic is available, they are likely to utilize its services when an injury occurs. As Ms. Van Utrecht points out, "soccer, basketball and volleyball (which are fall sports) have the highest rate of ACL tears." Cheerleaders and track athletes are also likely to incur injuries during the winter and spring seasons.

7. Hold several seminars for elective orthopedic procedures. For elective orthopedic procedures, the consumer is in a position to decide when to push forward with care and where to receive their treatment. Seminars related to joint health and sports medicine can be highly successful in building relationships with new patients. Advertise for the seminar in the newspaper or other print publications to attract potential patients. "Once the patient comes to the seminar, they are more likely to proceed with care," says Dan Weinbach, executive vice president of The Weinbach Group, a healthcare marketing firm based in Miami, Fla. "For the patient, it's part of the educational process and a way to connect face-to-face with the surgeon." At the seminar, talk about all different types of surgical and non-surgical interventions to help the patients understand the potential treatment modalities available to them.

Consumers assume providers that advertise are more qualified, says Mr. Weinbach, so frequent advertising can generate patient volume and build credibility. "Organizations that advertise have a greater top-of-mind awareness," he says. "We know there's a great correlation between those who advertise more frequently and perception of quality."

8. Tell patients they can recommend you to their friends. While orthopedic surgeons assume patients with a good experience will tell their friends, asking them to refer your services goes further to promote the ever-important word-of-mouth reputation. "You’re your patients that the best way to show they are happy with their care is to refer family and friends if they are seeking orthopedic services," says Karen Rocks, principle consultant and owner of Sparkfire Marketing. "Just hearing this from their physicians really enforces that idea."

Related Articles on Orthopedic Practices:

6 Things to Know About Expanding Orthopedic Practices

10 Ways to Strengthen Orthopedic Practices in 2012

35 Orthopedic & Spine Surgeons on the Move

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