6 Tips for Orthopedic Surgeons to Increase Visibility in Their Community

Practice Management

Here are six tips for orthopedic surgeons to expand their community presence.

1. Host educational sessions at the practice and answer questions.
Many orthopedic and sports medicine practices offer coaches and athletes preseason clinics for preventative care education, says Angie Van Utrecht, director of operations at Orthopedic Specialists in Davenport, Iowa. These clinics often draw an audience of potential patients and their parents, who could also be potential patients, says Ms. Van Utrecht. 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.

2. Give public lectures at sports clubs or gyms. Collaborate with a local sports club or gym to give a presentation on the best practices for nursing injuries, staying healthy and keeping a nutritious lifestyle. "Typically, the population that attends these sorts of events are the middle and older age group," says James N. Gladstone, MD, co-chief of sports medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "I often find that people come in and their knees hurt because they are overweight. They want to lose the weight but can't run. We can be helpful in offering alternatives based on the patient's specific ability." Some of these alternatives include dieting, walking, swimming and bicycling. Dr. Gladstone also emphasizes stretching among his older patients, especially if they only occasionally engage in sporting activities. While the information isn't necessarily sports-related, the surgeon is still building a reputation among a potential patient-base.

3. Use online social media to attract and interact with patients. Social media needs to remain a two-way street. After all, that's what sets it apart from traditional websites. On his blog, David Geier, Jr., MD, is 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. Offer free preseason clinics for young athletes.
If physicians can identify physical deformities or the potential for overuse injuries, they can create an individual workout plan for an athlete based on the athlete's condition. This includes providing advice for appropriate conditioning and exercise techniques for someone with flatfoot deformity, identifying the right sized equipment for each athlete and instructing left-handed pitchers about preserving their arm, as the natural deliver of many left-handed pitchers incurs increased stress on the rotator cuff. Many states require this type of preseason physical; an orthopedic or sports medicine practice can achieve an edge over other practices by offering a "free" preseason clinic day for young athletes. While the initial physical is free, the athletes establish a relationship with practice physicians for the future.

Additionally, many orthopedic and sports medicine practices hold "sports injury" clinics during the fall in order to accommodate young athletes playing games on Friday nights or Saturday mornings. These clinics usually include a physician and nurse as well as imaging staff in order to correctly diagnose and treat the athlete's injury. Having convenient hours for young athletes is important for every sports medicine practice.

5. Be available on the sidelines of youth events.
Commit to being a team physician for local youth sporting events and stand at the sidelines for each home event, says Walter Lowe, MD, of the University of Texas Health and Science Center and team physician for the Houston Texans, Houston Rockets and the University of Houston Cougars. If an injury occurs, the physician can make an assessment on the sidelines and treat the athlete as soon as possible. If the athlete has a good experience, he or she will relay that information to other players.

"You do have to build a good reputation because your patients are out there playing with other people who are your future patients," says Dr. Lowe. "The marketing dollars that are spent trying to promote physicians through advertising at the stadium for the most part are wasted." He says very few of his patients come to him as referrals from other physicians; most learn of his work through word-of-mouth.

6. Add locations for easier patient access. If a large portion of the patients at the practice are traveling long distances or from another state to receive care, the practice should consider constructing another location to accommodate those patients, says Faris Ghani, COO of the Center for Advanced Spine Technologies. While patients will travel across the state and into new states for treatment, it becomes difficult for them to return for check-ups and receive additional guidance from the practice surgeons and staff. Building a new location closer to that group of patients makes it more convenient for the patients to make several trips to the practice for check-ups, surgery and rehabilitation.

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