10 Ideas for Promoting Great Sports Medicine Practices

Practice Management

Here are 10 ideas for success at your sports medicine practice. 1. Market, not advertise, your practice. Craig Levitz, MD, of Orlin & Cohen Orthopedic Group and director of sports medicine and chairman of the department of orthopedics and orthopedic surgery at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y., says sports medicine practices should work to market itself to the public in a way that builds trust with patients, as opposed to simply posting ads in the newspaper about its existence.

"I'm a big fan of marketing and adding substance to a practice's image," he says. "For example, we post educational material on our website for patients and try out best to introduce to the public our experience and high patient volume. We do that so they understand there's a certain pedigree that we uphold for our staff, and there's a certain level of care that differentiates us from the rest of the community."

Think about which types of patients you are trying to attract and market toward them. Some practices focus on young athletes while others peak the interest of baby boomers. To attract older patients, place articles or advertisements in magazines with an older audience, such as AARP or Vim and Vigor, says Dr. Levengood. He has published patient profiles about the work he's done with older patients in such publications, which attracts the publication's readership to his office. "People read the profiles about patients coming in not being able to do things and then we get them back to their lives," says Gary S. Levengood, MD, founder of Sports Medicine South in Atlanta. "The readers say, 'Hey, that's me. I'm not ready to pack it in yet, I'm ready to keep going.'"

2. 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."

3. Be available on the sidelines. Commit to being a team physician for local youth sporting events and stand at the sidelines for each home event. 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 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. "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.

4. Invest in a medical van. OAK Orthopedics in Bradley, Ill., has a medical van equipped with X-ray capabilities and a surgical suite that allows injured athletes to receive immediate care, says Michael Corcoran, MD, orthopedic surgeon at OAK Orthopedics. The van is stationed with the Chicago Bears training camp when it's in session, but when camp is over the van travels to Friday night and Saturday morning athletic events.

"There is a physician and X-ray technician who staff the van to evaluate injuries wherever the van may go," says Dr. Corcoran. "We've done minor surgeries in the suite. We've also treated athletes with dislocations. From an orthopedic surgeon's perspective, it's like a traveling OR."

5. Attend team/parent 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.

6. Host events for discounted preseason physicals. Every year, Dr. Corcoran's practice takes part in an effort to provide preseason physicals to youth athletes in the community. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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. 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."

10. 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. 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.

These partnerships can be convenient for patients, as many of the rehabilitative centers are located in buildings directly next to the practice, solidifying the partnership. The facilities are sometimes even in the same building, though they must have separate entrances for Medicare reimbursement, says Diane Ryckman, director of sports medicine and orthopedic services at Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio. Here are six advantages for orthopedic and sports medicine practices partnering with organizations that have rehabilitation services.

Related Articles for Orthopedic Surgeons:

5 Ways Orthopedic Surgeons Can Connect Better With Primary Care Physicians

10 Tips for Orthopedic Practices to Remain Independent
5 Points on a Successful Orthopedic Department Business Plan

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