6 Ways Orthopedic Practices Can Boost Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Laura Dyrda -  
Many physicians rely on word-of-mouth marketing to increase their patient volume and practice reputation. "Patients that you already have are your best audience for marketing," says Peter Althausen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Reno Orthopaedic Clinic and chairman of the board of directors of The Orthopaedic Implant Company. "We have more than 400 patients that come through our office every day." Dr. Althausen discusses six ways to optimize word-of-mouth marketing.

1. Tout your practice physicians as experts and live up to the reputation.
If you want to market your practice as the best in town for orthopedic care, make sure you live up to your own standards. An easy way to do that is by only recruiting fellowship-trained physician partners to practice their subspecialty. "In a city where there are lots of orthopedic specialists, you have to have people focusing on their subspecialties," says Dr. Althausen. "If you do something 10 times per week, you'll be better than someone who does them once per month." While patients may not understand this concept, they will hear about your reputation as an excellent surgeon.

Additionally, it's important to practice evidence-based medicine to produce the best outcomes for your patients. "There are a lot of new procedures and implants out there that aren't always proven technology," says Dr. Althausen. "There's nothing that ruins your reputation like a bad outcome when you're using new technology." Patients can go online and see reviews and statistics on each physician, which makes producing good outcomes even more important in today's market.

2. Develop good interpersonal skills.
Patient satisfaction is about more than good outcomes and if surgeons don't have excellent interpersonal skills, the patient will often be dissatisfied regardless of the outcome. "Have good bedside manner and make sure you have good people on the phones," says Dr. Althausen. "We established a code of conduct to make sure patients are treated appropriately." Surgeons should introduce themselves when they enter the patient's room, smile at the patient and stand without their arms crossed when engaging in conversation. Use appropriate language to discuss the patient's treatment and make sure they understand every step of the process. "These things really make patients feel better," he says.

3. Run physician videos in the waiting room.
Compile five minute video clips from all of the practice physicians discussing their subspecialty and the latest technology in their field. Spine surgeons can talk about minimally invasive procedures while knee surgeons might talk about new techniques for joint replacement. "If you're going to spend money on marketing, the most important place to do that, at first, is in the waiting room," says Dr. Althausen. "If you market yourself as 'top in technology,' you want to show your patients that from the beginning. You also want to make sure your waiting room is clean, put together and modern."

4. Hang a plaque with physician certification in the waiting room. Patients who come to your practice for joint replacement might have a great experience, but they'll go elsewhere for their spine surgery or ankle care because they don't know physicians at your practice can treat those conditions. Hanging a plaque in the waiting room that includes each physician's certification is a relatively inexpensive way to communicate the diverse range of conditions practice physicians treat. Patients will also remember these conditions when their friends need orthopedic care. "The patient might come to the practice for their shoulder, but their friend might need a knee replacement and they'll remember to send them to your practice," says Dr. Althausen.

5. Give patients a reason to choose your ancillary services. Orthopedic practices that include imaging and physical therapy services are required to give patients options about where they receive those services. Patients need a reason to choose your services. "We have our physical therapy department right next to our waiting room with large glass windows between the two," says Dr. Althausen. "Patients in the waiting room can see the new equipment we have as well as other patients going through the rehabilitation process."

6. Utilize electronic media to promote the practice.
Create a practice website that includes information about the physicians, patient outcomes and patient satisfaction. Use search engine optimization to make sure the practice website is the first site that comes up when patients search for orthopedic surgeons in your area, says Dr. Althausen. Practices can also install computer terminals in the waiting rooms so patients can access the practice website and data while they wait.

You can also market directly to patients through e-mail. "You can send an e-newsletter out to patients every month that gives updates on new procedures, features a new physician and provides them with information about upcoming seminars," he says. "The newsletters can be created pretty easily and they don't cost any money to send."

Learn more about Dr. Peter Althausen.

Read other coverage on orthopedic and spine practice marketing:

- 4 Key Concepts for Direct Marketing of Orthopedic Practices to Patients

- 5 Essential Features of Orthopedic Practice Websites

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