5 Marketing Tips for Sports Medicine Practices

Practice Management

Here are five marketing tips to improve patient volume and revenues at sports medicine practices.

1. Send athletic trainers to local high schools. A representative onsite at the high schools can increase the practices visibility among the athletes. Athletic trainers should be available at high school practices two or three times a week in order to examine injuries as they occur or the trainers can advise athletes on treatment for recurring pain. The trainer acts as a liaison between the coaches and the physician. If the athletes are familiar and comfortable with the athletic trainer, they will be more likely to visit the trainer's practice for serious injury treatment. "Having an athletic trainer at the schools gets the practice name and group out there," says David Geier Jr., MD, director of MUSC Sports Medicine in Charleston, S.C. "The trainer is the first person the parents come in contact with after the injury."

2. Host educational sessions and answer questions. Many orthopedic and sports medicine practices offer coaches and athletes preseason clinics for preventative care education. These clinics often draw an audience of potential patients and their parents, who could also be potential patients, says Angie Van Utrecht, director of operations at Orthopedic Specialists in Davenport, Iowa. After the clinic, the presenting physician should offer to answer informal, individual questions. This way, parents or athletes can approach the physician and ask questions they did not want to pose in front of a large group.

Ms. Van Utrecht says that when one of the physicians from Orthopedic Specialists offered to answer individual questions, many of the parents lined up to ask questions about injuries or pain they were experiencing. Essentially, the physician gave free advice to the contributing audience members, which helped him form a relationship with future patients. "He absolutely connected with these individuals and took the time to answer all their questions," says Ms. Van Utrecht.

3. Attend high school preseason meetings. Most high school teams have preseason players and parents meetings in order to discuss team requirements, goals and schedules. Send a physician to both meetings as a contact point for parents and players so the athletes have practice contact information when injures occur. "Showing up at these meetings reassures the parents their kid will be looked at and not be forgotten," says Joshua A. Siegel, MD, director of sports medicine at Access Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics in Exeter, NH. Physicians can also arrange to give a short presentation about injury prevention and treatment at the meetings.

"When people see you give a talk, they don't need your services right away, but when the injury happens they will remember you," says Dr. Geier

Sports medicine physicians should also focus on having a relationship with coaches. 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."

4. Commit to saying "yes." Athletes involved in school sports and after-school activities are often injured during the weekends or after clinic hours, yet they require immediate attention. Dr. Lowe says a successful sports medicine physician should always be available for his or her patients, regardless of the time or a busy schedule. "It takes a commitment of answering your phone and saying 'yes'," says Dr. Lowe. "The patients are usually young and highly motivated. If you want to survive in the sports medicine world, you have to have the mentality of service to your patients." If the physician turns a young athlete away, he or she will find another facility willing to offer immediate treatment. Many sports medicine practices offer Saturday morning sports injury clinics for student athletes who are injured on Friday night or Saturday morning. Advertising these clinics at the local schools or in newspapers can reach the intended audience.

5. Stand on the sidelines at youth games. When a sports medicine practice is affiliated with a high school athletic department or team, the practice should send a physician to stand on the sidelines at each game. Sideline physicians evaluate and treat game-day injuries for the athlete as well as advise the coaches as to whether an athlete should return to play after an injury. Standing on the sidelines also creates additional exposure for the physician because sporting events are attended by team parents and the greater community.

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