Here are five things to know about online orthopedic practice promotion.
1. Create practice 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.
After launching your social media strategy, focus on measuring its effectiveness. “The beauty about social media is because you can do it in an automated and comprehensive way, you know exactly how many people are finding you,” says John Luginbill, CEO of The Heavyweights, a marketing company. “Target the type of work you want with social media and measure what is coming in. We’ve seen orthopedic spine surgeons who were doing one spine surgery per week grow to 20 spine surgeries per week using almost exclusively social media as a way to be found.”
2. Create a company website. Bill Rabourn, founder and managing principal of Medical Consulting Group, says websites are an essential tool for surgery centers that want to capture more market share and keep patients happy. A great website should include location, contact and parking information, meaning the surgery center’s address, phone number and where the patient should park for their visits, Mr. Rabourn says. An easy way to provide location information is by including an online map, such as Google Maps or MapQuest, of the surrounding area.
The site should also include patient forms, which your staff should encourage patients to download and complete before their visit to your center to decrease time filling out paperwork at the facility. The website could also include educational materials on treatment and rehabilitation, pictures and photo tours of your facility, video clips of previous patients talking about their experience and physician profiles. Designing a clear, thorough website will help attract new patients to your center as well as improve the experience for patients preparing for surgery.
3. Contribute to educational programs and telerehabilitation via online sources. Many baby boomers 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.”
4. Dominate your presence through positive press. One way to take control of your online reputation is through creating regular news releases or updates on your practice or procedures. 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 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.
5. Actively monitor your presence. You must keep track of the online comments posted about you on a daily basis so you can remove any libelous claims about your practice or practice physicians immediately. There are programs, such as RepuChek or Trackur, that can automatically notify physicians when they are mentioned in cyberspace. “Oftentimes, physicians don’t even know these negative comments are being posted,” says Mr. Luginbill. “You’re not allowed to post libelous comments anonymously, so on many of these sites there’s a button that allows you to report abuse.” If the physicians don’t keep pace with the online content about them, a patient can search their name and potentially read a scathing review on their competence, regardless of their skill level or training.