8 Strategies for Orthopedic Practice Community Outreach

Practice Management

Here are eight strategies orthopedic practices can use for effective community outreach.
1. Become a leader in the community, not just at your practice. Orthopedic physician leaders can hold leadership positions within their city and participate in informal community events.  Michael Cox, PhD, CEO of Central Maine Orthopedics, sits on the board of directors of his area's Chamber of Commerce, for example. The practice has also supported local events, such as the Dempsey Challenge, an event hosted by hometown celebrity Patrick Dempsey and Central Maine Medical Center to raise money for a local Dempsey Cancer Center. In addition, CMO has also created a benevolent foundation supporting local agencies involved with health and human services. This has helped to increase the practice's visibility and to make the practice a household name in the community.

2. Partner with rehabilitation specialists.
Physical therapy and athletic training services often hold community outreach programs, such as injury clinics, to treat young and amateur athletes for non-surgical injuries, says Diane Ryckman, director of sports medicine and orthopedic services at Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio. Practice physicians can collaborate with the rehabilitation specialists during these clinics to further associate the practice with active individuals and potential patients. If an athlete with a more serious injury arrives at the clinic, the rehabilitation specialists can also refer the patient to the orthopedic practice.

3. Host events for discounted preseason physicals. Michael Corcoran, MD, says his practice, OAK Orthopedics, takes part in an effort to provide preseason physicals to youth athletes in the community every year. The physicals included expertise from orthopedic surgeons, ophthalmologists, dentists and other medical processionals that examine the children and clear them for play. The physicals cost $20, which is affordable for people in the community. "We pumped about 500 kids through our office space during that event," says Dr. Corcoran.

The physical charge of $20 goes back to the athletic department of the athlete's school and is used on the athletes or athletic training supplies.

4. Invite youth sports coaches for an injury seminar. In many communities, coaches for youth sports are often parent volunteers and school team coaches are teachers or administrators. While these coaches may mean well and are knowledgeable about the sport, they often are unfamiliar with the early signs of overuse or the best techniques in injury prevention. Sports medicine physicians can lead programs or seminars in order to impart this information to coaches at all levels. Programs should have specific topics, such as concussion awareness, proper use of plyometrics or early signs of overuse in pitchers.

"Each sport has its own risks and injuries," says Peter J. Millett, MD, M.sc., a partner at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. "In baseball, the star pitcher gets used more than they should because the team wants to win. A dancer might receive a stress fracture from practicing too much. If we can understand what causes the different types of injuries we can understand what has to be done in order to prevent the injuries."

5. Conduct seminars focusing on elective 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. These seminars can take place at local health clubs, gyms or community facilities where a single poster or mention in the organization's newsletter could attract several members who could be potential patients. "Once the patient comes to the seminar, they are more likely to proceed with care," says an 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.

6. Keep a public safety or health blog related to orthopedics. Having a social media presence through blogs or a Facebook page can make your practice more accessible to web-savvy patients and create a two-way street for public interaction. David Geier, Jr., MD, is an orthopedic surgeon and director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Geier started a blog in early Sept. 2010, which he updates with information regarding sports injury treatment, prevention and wellness.

On his blog, Dr. Geier 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.

Professionals should figure out why they are using social media in the first place. Information sharing, cost-effective advertising, community outreach or customer service are just a few purposes a social media presence may serve. Dr. Geier wanted to increase his communication with the public, helping them learn about sports injuries in a conversational, easy-to-understand way. Through his blog, he also schedules public speaking engagements and shares recent research findings.

7. Send electronic newsletters to patients with helpful articles
. Once you create an electronic practice newsletter, you can send it to a distribution list where patients sign-up to receive it and you can post it on your website so future patients can read it as they research the practice. Include patient stories focusing on the relief of pain after treatment. If you want to include information about a new procedure or technology, find a way to relate it to the patients through a personal story. "Human interest is where you are going to gain more readers," says Karen Rocks, principle consultant and owner of Sparkfire Marketing.

In addition to human interest stories, you can have a section in the newsletter about positive patient scenarios. Patients come to orthopedic surgeons because they are in pain, and fear goes hand-in-hand with pain, says Ms. Rocks. Providing patients with scenarios of cases where other patients with similar conditions recovered and had good outcomes helps ease their nerves. "You have to reinforce that you're trustworthy," says Ms. Rocks. "Scenarios help patients see how the physician can help them, whether through surgery or another type of treatment."

8. Collaborate with hospitals and other providers on mutually beneficial projects. One way to coordinate a face-to-face meeting with several primary care physicians in your area is to host an educational luncheon. Have each orthopedic surgeon give a presentation about their subspecialty, such as going over MRI for shoulder surgery or when to get epidural instead of recommending surgery for back problems. The lunch also fosters an environment where the physicians can get to know each other. "The surgeon is able to shake hands with the primary care physician and their staff," says Peter Althausen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Reno Orthopaedic Clinic and chairman of the board of directors of The Orthopaedic Implant Company. Bring the practice office manager to the lunches to ensure your practice will be easily accessible for the primary care physicians.

In many communities, healthcare systems and hospitals employ primary care physicians, and if you want access to them, you must have a good relationship with the hospital. You can market your expertise to hospital administrators through statistics that show you have good outcomes and few complications. You can also present patient outcome reviews to accomplish this goal, says Dr. Althausen.

Related Articles on Orthopedic Practices:

5 Tips for Choosing a New Orthopedic Practice Partner

5 Points to Emphasize in Payor Contract Negotiations for Orthopedics

8 Marketing Tips for Orthopedic Practices in 2012

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