By: Daniel Goldberg | Gold Medical Marketing
In years past, medical practices may have spent thousands of dollars a month on billboard ads hoping that someone in their community would have an orthopedic injury, see the ad and then contact the practice. Now, we can target patients online whose behaviors, search history, etc. indicate that they are in need of an orthopedic surgeon for pennies as opposed to thousands of dollars. These “digital billboards” are far more effective than traditional print or billboard ads and are only shown to those in need of orthopedic care based on the data collected about them through private medical practice marketing.
The major mistake I see is orthopedics practices not understanding the need for a direct to patient marketing strategy. The landscape of healthcare has changed and patients are doing far more research into their conditions as well as the best specialists in their area to treat these conditions. In fact, 70% of all medical journeys begin online. Without a direct to patient marketing strategy, orthopedic practices miss the opportunity to highlight their services and expertise to potential patients.
Fifteen years ago, both patients and orthopedic surgeons relied on referrals from Primary Care Specialists. However, patients are now determining their own care path and seeking specialists who meet their needs and qualifications.
The key to creating stability and viability is having a steady stream of new patient volume. Over the last several years, many orthopedic surgeons have seen reimbursements decline while the administrative of running a practice have continued to increase. In an effort to maintain viability, practices cannot rely on only their existing patient base to generate the revenue needed to support the practice.
While many orthopedic groups see marketing as an ancillary expense, they should be seeing it as a revenue generating opportunity. If practices responsibly allocate a budget toward marketing, and the marketing is executed correctly, the ROI should far outweigh the initial budget.
The reason working with an orthopedic marketing expert is important is that they understand the challenges and struggles within orthopedics. This not only includes an understanding of the challenges facing orthopedic practices, but the challenges many patients face when considering seeing an orthopedic surgeon. Private Medical Practice Marketing is not effective if the team responsible for it does not see both the physician and patient perspective and uses that to create a unique strategy.
Unfortunately, many companies see orthopedic practices as having deep pockets and pray on them by promising results but never delivering. We have seen countless “local marketing” companies tell orthopedic practices that they will help grow their new patient volume and never deliver. The reason these companies fail, at your expense, is that they have no knowledge of orthopedics and try to treat your practice like any other local business. But, if the marketing company doesn’t know what a meniscus tear is, or what a partial thickness rotator cuff tear is – how are they supposed to bring in patients with those conditions?
This is true in marketing as well as finance. We have seen many orthopedic surgeons make huge financial mistakes by assuming the financial planning firm down the street can help them plan. The truth is that healthcare is not like most industries and therefore physicians need someone who understands the challenges and opportunities within this field to help them make the best decisions. Discussing what has worked for similar physicians in the past, common mistakes and areas of opportunity will ensure that you are benefiting from experience and can maintain long term financial viability.
The first trend I see continuing is hospital acquisitions of both primary care and referring practices as well as increasing the numbers of hospital employed orthopedic surgeons. These acquisitions allow the hospitals to control the entire continuum of care and keep it inside the hospital system and reduce leakage. This means that independent practices need to make sure they are aware of these acquisitions and are engaging in their own direct to patient marketing efforts so that they are not dominated by these larger systems.
The second trend is the increased push for outpatient procedures and a reduction in cost to both patients and payors. If an orthopedic surgeon is performing surgical cases on an outpatient basis, this needs to be communicated to the public as part of an overall marketing effort. Secondarily, ownership in an ASC can be another opportunity that allows orthopedic surgeons to remain financially independent and viable.
The third private medical practice marketing trend is the continued expansion of online data collection. By now, most are aware that digital platforms like Google and Facebook are collecting massive amounts of data about their users. And while this can be disconcerting for some, it shows no sign of slowing down. One of the most important aspects of this data is that orthopedic practices can use it to serve highly specific ads, content, video, etc. to potential patients in their area.
Check out Daniel Goldberg's interview with Spaugh Dameron Tenny Co-founder, Shane Tenny, CFP®: Financial Planning for Orthopedic, Spine and Neurosurgeons
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