5 Tips for Spine Center Marketing & Business Development

Written by Kathleen Roney | March 14, 2012 | Print  |
New Jersey Spine and Rehabilitation in Pompton Lakes, a spine practice and surgery center, was founded in 2003 by Richard A. Kaul, MD. Dr. Kaul uses minimally invasive surgical techniques to treat patients with back pain and spinal disorders. Like any spine practice or surgery center, NJSR's marketing efforts focus on business development and patient outreach. NJSR's approach to marketing is two-pronged — it focuses on reaching patients and physicians to drive patient volume. The goal of the patient outreach is to educate and inform patients while positioning its physicians as experts in spine care. The goal of NJSR's physician outreach is to develop relationships that will encourage more patient referrals and higher patient volume.

Here Daniel Goldberg, director of business development for New Jersey Spine and Rehabilitation, discusses the practice's five main approaches to physician and patient outreach.


1. Social media
Not every practice or physician needs to have a social media presence. However, social media is a good idea when a spine center wants to communicate messages or ideas to patients. To reach potential patients, NJSR utilizes a variety of social media venues in addition to its own website including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and Manta. "Social media is great because you interact specifically with patients," says Mr. Goldberg. "Facebook and Twitter help you communicate with a tailored, specific group of people. You have the ability to choose who you communicate with."

NJSR has gotten great response from its social media use. "Patients will ask questions on Facebook about a specific disease, wondering if the practice and its physicians can help," says Mr. Goldberg. "I can then ask for their contact information and give them a call to see if they would like to schedule an appointment or come in for a consultation. It is a great way to make contact with potential patients."  

Another great social media outlet for physicians with their own practice is Google+. A recent article in Software Advice, discussed how physicians could use the newer social media outlet to drive traffic to their website and patients to their practice. According to the article, content on Google+ is favored in searches made using Google's searching engine. When individuals search for physicians, Google+ helps content stand out due to the social data that it provides in search results. This can include a head shot of the author, a link to the Google+ profile, the number of people in circles, and the number of people who have liked the content. To receive the most benefit, a Google+ profile, physicians or practices should include basic information, keywords and a link to the practice website.

If social media and other outreach methods aren't feasible, Mr. Goldberg recommends at the very least, that spine practices have a web presence. "With the majority of patients are getting information on conditions and treatment from the Internet," says Mr. Goldberg. "Patients and physicians need to be able to find your spine practice on the Internet. An average consumer may interpret that a spine practice without a website is not as good, not as prepared or not as passionate."

2. Blogs & articles
Mr. Goldberg also writes blogs and contributes to publications — both national and local — to reach NJSR's desired audience while also broadening its brand recognition. For instance, many spine patients come from a blue-collar workforce so Mr. Goldberg writes a 1,500-word article for Constructioneer, an associated construction publication for the Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania area. Mr. Goldberg writes articles on safety tips, how to avoid repetitive strain injuries and other topics that relate to the Constructioneer audience and NJSR's target patient population.

"The articles give our patients a resource for how their job may affect their health while also creating branding and recognition for NJSR," says Mr. Goldberg. In total, he contributes to six magazines monthly while also blogging for the NJSR website once or twice a week.

3. Video & YouTube
NJSR also informs and educates potential patients through patient testimonials and patient documentaries posted on its YouTube channel and website. "If there is an interesting case coming up, document the case before, during and after — one day after, a week or two after and a month after — the procedure," says Mr. Goldberg. Create a profile for patients and their physicians to post with the video on the website.

Patient testimonials are great for informing potential patients who are hesitant or unsure. When they can watch videos of real life people with positive outcomes form spine treatments, it will assuage their concerns and may increase patient volume. "One of the first times [NJSR] did a patient documentary it coved a 16-year old patient who had a spinal fusion surgery," says Mr. Goldberg. "Her case received 15,000 hits on our website. People even called the practice and mentioned the video."

Although there may be some special cases to document, it is important to switch up the themes of the patient documentaries if possible, according to Mr. Goldberg. Follow an age-related patient case with an injury related patient case. "Also, if you have a special patient like a Motocross rider with a spinal injury — document that case and then think about what media outlets would be interested. In that instance, ESPN would be a great media outlet to contact," says Mr. Goldberg.

Overall, spine practices and centers need to stay current with their outreach and business development. It is not secret that digital marketing and advertising are taking over print options. "People are not reading newspapers [in hard copy] anymore; they are on their [tablets] and [electronic-readers]. The paper advertising world is at a standstill or slowing down," says Mr. Goldberg. "It is better to put marketing budgets in digital options."


4. Face-to-face meetings
Relationships with physicians are an important method for increasing patient volume. Each specialty has a different reason for referring patients to spine surgeons and specialists. For instance, general practitioners and internists may have trouble dealing with chronic pain patients especially since long-term treatment on narcotics is not ideal. NJSR offers an alternative treatment to narcotics, but general practitioners would not know NJSR was a resource for their patients unless they had a relationship with the physicians at NJSR.

Starting relationships is integral for acquiring patient referrals. The classic method of cold calling is effective if you introduce the practice, set up lunch and then discuss how the practice and its physicians can benefit the physician's patients.

"It is a best practice to meet with other physicians face-to-face," says Mr. Goldberg. "We invite physicians to lunch, we invite them to our office and we have visited their offices. We have an open door policy."

NJSR also runs a program that hosts various physicians form the New Jersey area to visit their practice and watch surgeries. "Since we focus on minimally invasive techniques, when a physician can visit our practice and see our procedures first-hand, it solidifies the techniques in their mind and makes it more likely they understand and refer patients to our practice," says Mr. Goldberg.

5. Conferences & panel discussions

NJSR holds several conferences a month to reach physicians across different specialties. "I created an association called the Inter-Disciplinary Education Association, or IDEA, to bring physicians from six different specialties to the conference," says Mr. Goldberg. The six specialties include among others orthopedic, internal medicine, chiropractic and pain management.

The conference includes a panel with physician representatives from each specialty. Mr. Goldberg says it is a great opportunity for physicians to learn information about different specialties and meet physicians in their local market. Tight referral networks develop from the conference because the physicians have a forum to discuss treatments and approaches while building relationships.

"An internist may want to have a relationship with a chiropractor but does not have a mutual friend or past colleague in that field," says Mr. Goldberg. "The conference and the panelists allow physicians to forge relationships while also receiving reliable information on the healthcare industry."

Each month the panel consists of new physicians and the represented specialties vary from month to month. "Physicians enjoy being on the panel because we allow them to present their new research," says Mr. Goldberg.

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