1. Host educational sessions and answer questions. Many orthopedic and sports medicine practices offer coaches and athletes preseason clinics for preventative care education. These clinics often draw an audience of potential patients and their parents, who could also be potential patients, says Angie Van Utrecht, director of operations at Orthopedic Specialists in Davenport, Iowa. After the clinic, the presenting physician should offer to answer informal, individual questions. This way, parents or athletes can approach the physician and ask questions they did not want to pose in front of a large group.
Ms. Van Utrecht says that when one of the physicians from Orthopedic Specialists offered to answer individual questions, many of the parents lined up to ask questions about injuries or pain they were experiencing. Essentially, the physician gave free advice to the contributing audience members, which helped him form a relationship with future patients. "He absolutely connected with these individuals and took the time to answer all their questions," says Ms. Van Utrecht.
2. Coordinate events for discounted preseason physicals. Michael Corcoran, MD, says his practice, OAK Orthopedics, takes part in an effort to provide preseason physicals to youth athletes in the community every year. 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.
3. Partner with local high schools or sports clubs. Orthopedic physicians can partner with local high schools to provide team physician services. If possible, the practice should provide an athletic trainer to every sports practice and the physician should stand at the sidelines during home games. Being on the sidelines increases the physician's visibility to the players and the fans, and if an injury occurs the physician will be able to provide immediate care and further treatment advice. The physician can also offer free preseason physicals, which are necessary for the athletes to play. In some areas, physicians are also giving presentations on injury prevention during preseason meetings for the athletes, parents and coaches. These meetings are also an opportunity to become familiar with the athletes so that when an injury occurs, athletes will remember you and seek out your services.
4. Add services to add value. There are several services orthopedic and sports medicine specialists can add to their practices that will increase its value, says Geoffrey Connor, MD, founder of D1 Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Ala. From a medical prospective, adding extra equipment to perform procedures such as platelet-rich plasma injections or in-office fiberoptic arthroscopy gives patients additional options if they choose to pay more out-of-pocket.
There are also several non-medical services sports medicine practices can add to bring in additional patients and revenue. Dr. Connor's practice includes equipment to perform nutritional analyses, cholesterol monitoring, C-reactive protein monitoring and the "Bod Pod" to perform body mass indexes, among other services. "These services measure patients' performances and helps them achieve their goals," he says. "My training is in surgical reconstruction of the joints, but I can provide other services and patients will see them as an added value."
5. Enhance your online presence. If your practice isn't online or doesn't update its online presence continuously, it won't be socially or culturally relevant. Some surgeons feel they serve an older or more rural demographic, so most of their patients don't use the internet, but their assumptions are wrong. Recent studies show that in 2011, 80 percent of internet users looked for health information online, and 60 percent of people in the United States currently use social networking sites.
"Senior citizens are more tech savvy and the internet is more readily available across the country," says Steven Siwek, Jr., founded Medical Marketing Solutions. "When considering these things, you have to realize you need to establish a presence on the internet."
He focuses on six points to build a practice's internet presence:
• Domain name
• Website aesthetic
• User friendliness
• Approach to search engine optimization
• "Call to action" components
• Social media
"As our culture becomes more digital, make it an easier experience for the user to get to your practice," says Mr. Siwek. "Making an appointment button on the website changes everything. Include your phone number on social media."
However, surgeons and practices aren't done once the websites and social media pages are launched; they must update their content regularly with pertinent information for their patients and colleagues. "Your presence on social media has to be consistent and informative," says Mr. Siwek. "You have to be consistent and get back to people who write on your wall or message you."
6. Become a leader in the community, not just at your practice. Orthopedic physician leaders can hold leadership positions within their city and participate in informal community events. Michael Cox, PhD, CEO of Central Maine Orthopedics, sits on the board of directors of his area's Chamber of Commerce, for example. The practice has also supported local events, such as the Dempsey Challenge, an event hosted by hometown celebrity Patrick Dempsey and Central Maine Medical Center to raise money for a local Dempsey Cancer Center. In addition, CMO has also created a benevolent foundation supporting local agencies involved with health and human services. This has helped to increase the practice's visibility and to make the practice a household name in the community.
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