5 Ways to Capitalize on Sports Medicine at Orthopedic Practices

Practice Management

Here are five ways orthopedic practices can capitalize on sports medicine in their practice.

1. Have physicians measure patients' rate of return to sports after treatment. Keep track of an athlete's return to play after treatment, which is one quality metric David Geier, MD, an orthopedic sports medicine physician, says is hugely underutilized in the field of sports medicine. This metric is important, as it allows sports medicine physicians to study and measure the success rate at which they are able to help their patients get back to their sports at the same or higher level previous to the injury. If you have a high success rate, you can share those numbers with current and potential patients.

"With the [return to sports] quality metric, sports physicians not only want to measure the rate at which patients get back to that sport or activity at the same or higher level but also how long it takes to help patients get there," Dr. Geier says. "Those are two huge metrics and are the basis for why sports medicine physicians get into this field of medicine and why patients go see a sports medicine physician."

2. Affiliate with specific teams.
Become the primary healthcare provider for sports teams in the area, whether they are youth, high school, college or professional teams. The sports medicine physicians can serve as "team physicians" and the practice can administer athletic trainers or physicians to stand on the sidelines at the team's practices and games. This affiliation can give physicians the chance to work specifically with athlete-related issues as well as links the practice with their community. "Experience and quality comes through volume – have affiliations helps ensure this" says Les Jebson, executive director at The University of Florida Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute in Gainesville, Fla. "We take pride in being the actual healthcare provider for many of Florida high school, collegiate and professional sports athletes and teams."

3. Open a sports training facility. There is a big focus on preventative care among sports medicine professionals today and one way to ensure young athletes are getting that message is through a sports training facility, says Angie Van Utrecht, director of operations at Orthopedic Specialists in Davenport, Iowa. The facility should employ athletic trainers and other professionals focused on teaching athletes about age- and sport-appropriate stretching and training. Orthopedic Specialists owns Acceleration Quad Cities, a sports training facility that is part of the Athletic Republic franchise.

Practices looking to become a "one-stop shop" for sports medicine care and treatment should especially consider owning an athletic training facility. Though Acceleration itself doesn't generate much income, Ms. Van Utrecht says "it is a huge funnel of athletes into our practice."

4. Work with employers in the community on employee health. Craig Westin, MD, of Illinois Bone and Joint Institute and the Chicago Center for Orthopedics at Weiss Hospital in Chicago, says due to the current economy, employers are working harder to control the costs of healthcare benefits and work-related injuries for their employees. Sports medicine physicians can be proactive and work with companies to discuss ways to reduce workplace expenses. Sports medicine physicians can also work directly with employers to help employees maintain their health as well as assess the "industrial athlete" if they are injured at work.

"The healthcare industry is going to start seeing a shift where even though sports medicine physicians traditionally treated mainly athletes, they may also start treating work-related injuries," Dr. Westin says. "The same individuals who play soccer may have identical injuries and evaluations as those individuals who work at AT&T. We have to work with employers, physical therapists and [other clinicians] to coordinate care around employees."

5. Market services to baby boomers. Sports medicine physicians are trained to care for all athletes, whether they are competing at a professional level or play in a weekend softball league. With the baby boomer population aging, more patients wish to remain active longer and aren't satisfied with surgery that will prevent them from maintaining an active lifestyle. Even though all older patients may not get back to the same level of activity as they were before the injury, surgeons should recognize what the patient's goals are and form a treatment plan around them. "Listen to the patient and find out what the patient wants to do and then based on what you have, you should be able to get them to that point," says Gary S. Levengood, MD, founder of Sports Medicine South in Atlanta. "The key is to get a good idea of where the patients are and what they want to do. If patients are able to ski before their injuries, why can't they do that again? As a sports medicine physician, I take the same attitude toward weekend warriors as I do with younger athletes who expect to get back to the same level of play."

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