10 Tips for Online Orthopedic Practice MarketingWritten by Laura Miller | February 09, 2012
Here are 10 tips for effective online orthopedic practice marketing through the practice website and social media.
1. Send electronic newsletters to patients. Offer patients the option to sign up for your practice newsletter, which can include articles about bone health, community outreach events and injury prevention. You can also include profiles of patients who were successfully treated at your practice. If you want to include information about a new procedure or technology, find a way to relate it to the patients through a personal story. "Human interest is where you are going to gain more readers," says Karen Rocks, principle consultant and owner of Sparkfire Marketing.
In addition to human interest stories, you can have a section in the newsletter about positive patient scenarios. Patients come to orthopedic surgeons because they are in pain, and fear goes hand-in-hand with pain, says Ms. Rocks. Providing patients with scenarios of cases where other patients with similar conditions recovered and had good outcomes helps ease their nerves. "You have to reinforce that you're trustworthy," she says. "Scenarios help patients see how the physician can help them, whether through surgery or another type of treatment."
2. Interact with patients through a healthcare blog. Setting up a blog about healthcare can allow you to interact with patients and potential patients through the familiar ground of cyber space. You can make blog entries commenting on the big issues in orthopedics or use the space as a forum to provide general patient information, such as tips for youth athletes on injury prevention. On his blog, David Geier, Jr., MD, 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.
3. Create pages and applications on Facebook. If your practice is looking for ways to connect with current and potential customers to increase retention, word-of-mouth referrals and gain new patients, social media is an inexpensive, direct way to do so. However, the world of social media is new, vast and can be overwhelming, so it is crucial to develop a plan before embarking on social media outreach. Identifying your target audience, finding out what social media platforms they are using and strategically entering into their conversations through applications and advertising is the best approach. It's also critical to budget time within your workweek to manage the content and allow the project several months to grow. Assign an office manager or hire an outside marketing agency to assist in the planning and implementation of social media strategy.
4. Promote community events online and through social media. Surgeons can promote their community outreach events, such as general education seminars, through social media outlets, which will reach both patients and their friends online. Remind patients about your orthopedic webinars or seminars to improve attendance. "There's 500 million people on Facebook, and 120 million users are in the United States," says Mr. John Luginbill, CEO of The Heavyweights, a marketing company. "There's a whole lot more people gathering information from the computer than picking up the newspaper."
5. Encourage patients to use social media at the practice. Geoffrey Connor, MD, founder of D1 Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Ala., has focused on digital media to spread the word about his practice. "In this new digital world, social media has done an amazing job of replacing paid-for modalities in media and making word-of-mouth digital," he says. "We are on Facebook, Twitter and Four Square so patients can interact with our page. We are doing unique and cutting-edge things, and the patients we are seeking are involved with these social media networks."
The word-of-mouth digital marketing spreads even further if patients post updates while they are visiting the practice. "The person who comes in with 500 Twitter followers might Tweet that they are here and spending time in the Bod Pod and that's like free advertising," says Dr. Connor. "This type of post reaches a lot more people than a generalized knee advertisement. We've learned to tune out our radio and TV ads, but we listen to our best friends."
6. Post videos showing patients how to avoid injury. Many patients regularly use the Internet and orthopedic surgeons can use this space to their advantage. Thomas Vangsness, MD, chief of sports medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC and the LAC/USC Medical Center, has created YouTube videos of different shoulder and posturing exercises and uploaded them onto his website for patients to use at home. "I tell my patients to go to my website and follow the different exercises for knee and shoulder issues," he says. "For many patients, the videos are a lot better than giving them little sheets of paper with exercise descriptions and pictures. They can actually see how to do their exercises."
7. Upload patient education material and practice forms. Uploading patient educational materials to the website is a convenient way for patients to access treatment and rehabilitation information for each injury or condition. Some patients, especially young patients, will look for the educational material before having surgery so they are prepared for the entire experience.
Additionally, have a copy of the patient forms available to download from the site and encourage patients to complete them before their visit to the surgery center to decrease the amount of time the patient spends filling out paperwork at the facility, says Bill Rabourn, founder and managing principal of Medical Consulting Group. If the patients have already completed their paperwork, their time at the practice will likely go more smoothly and quicker.
8. Include a photo tour of your facility on the practice website. The website should include several photographs of the inside of the facility on different pages or as a compilation "photo tour." The images help new or potential patients visualize the facility before they arrive for their appointment or surgery, which can make the experience more comfortable, says Bill Rabourn, founder and managing principal of Medical Consulting Group. "It used to be that websites were very copy heavy," says Mr. Rabourn. The more attractive the website is for the patients, the more comfortable they will feel with the surgery center and their procedure.
9. Post patient testimonials. Have patient testimonials on your website describing their favorite aspects of the visit and encouraging other people to visit your practice as well. If your practice is geared toward a certain population, such as a sports medicine practice, patients can talk about how your physicians and specialists helped them return to play after an injury. If your practice is largely baby boomers, patients from that population can relate their stories about regaining quality of life after treatment. When people see patients who are like them getting better, they are more likely to seek treatment for themselves.
"Practices need to have a presence on the web and make sure they specifically cater to [their patient population, such as] active boomers," says Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at New Jersey Medical School in New Brunswick. "Testimonials from patients are always illustrative. Question and answer sections about common questions baby boomers might have (such as: Will I be able to run after my total knee replacement?) may reassure them that your practice understands their needs."
10. Publish press releases to positively promote your physicians. Compose new releases on new or "revolutionary" procedures you are performing, an upcoming event at your practice or a particularly heartening surgery you performed. Patients are able to connect with the human interest stories, and having them regularly appear on the internet will increase your credibility.
"Consumers often assume providers that those who advertise are more qualified simply by virtue of the fact that they advertise," says Daniel Weinbach, executive vice president of The Weinbach Group, a healthcare marketing firm. You can also lend your expertise to a news publication that prints online. If you ask somebody about how they heard about you or who referred them, if it isn't traced back to word-of-mouth marketing it can often be a well-placed article online or in a magazine.
Related Articles for Orthopedic Practices:
11 Statistics on Orthopedic Surgeon Practice Setting
15 Orthopedic Surgeons on the Move
8 Ways to Elevate Orthopedic Practice Employee Satisfaction
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