For orthopedic and spine practices, one of the most important factors for success and sustainability is having a diverse patient population. To accomplish this, a diverse marketing strategy must be utilized.
Historically, many practices waited for the local patient population to age, knowing that age often correlated to a higher likelihood of orthopedic injury. However, as more youth and young adults begin to play sports year round and middle aged adults and parents continue to maintain an active lifestyle, the likelihood of injury in these age groups can increase.
For instance, rotator cuff injuries, meniscus tears and disc herniations are no longer injuries that patients are just willing to “deal with” and modify their lifestyles accordingly. Instead, they are seeking orthopedic care to treat these injuries so that they can maintain their activity levels as they age. Practices should be looking to proactively engage these patient groups as they are often less complicated cases and the reimbursements may be higher than those of a Medicare-aged patient.
Determining Your Current Patient Population
To determine the patient population in your local area, as well within your practice, we often use a simple two-step system.
Local Demographics The first step is determining what your practices radius or catchment area may be. For some practices in a more rural setting it may be multiple counties or large sections of a state. For other practices in more urban settings it may be few square miles or grouping of cities. In either case, using the easily accessible data from US Census Bureau can tell you the average age of the population in that area as well as those who are under 18, over 65 or anywhere in between. In most instances, the average age is somewhere between 36-44 years old.
Practice Demographics Next, use your practice EMR or medical records system to run a report of the most common ages as well as conditions of your patients. If this report is showing that the average patient ages are more toward the Medicare aged population and most are coming in with knee conditions related to arthritis, this may be a sign that your marketing strategies are an issue.
What It Means
If the report is showing an overwhelming pattern in patient age or injury, it most often means that your practice marketing efforts are only reaching one audience. This is especially concerning if your practice has multiple specialists (i.e. shoulder, hip, spine, etc.).
Commonly, many practices will engage in local newspaper advertising with the thought being that it is the best way to reach their local audience. However, a study from Pew Research showed that less than 30% of people under the age of 65 read a printed newspaper each day. That number goes up to 48% for those over the age of 65. The obvious correlation here is that newspaper advertising is reaching a predominantly Medicare aged audience, hence the predominantly older patient population in your practice.
How to Diversify
The most important aspect of diversifying your marketing is embracing the transition to digital media and digital marketing. Younger patients are less reliant on traditional print advertising or physician referrals and instead using the internet to research conditions, specialists and procedures. In fact, up to 85% of patients between the ages 18-65 look for medical information online. The second most important factor is using data, specifically consumer and behavioral data, to target those who exhibit the patterns of someone in need of orthopedic care.
Below are two of the most common digital marketing strategies, but it is important to remember that there are several other digital means to attract patients as well as metrics to determine ROI.
Google Adwords & SEO Each time the aforementioned audience is looking online for medical information, it is an opportunity for your practice to highlight its services to patients in your area. Whether it is through organic SEO or Google Adwords, focusing on transactional search phrases is a low cost and high ROI mechanism for generating new patients. By transactional phrase, we mean searches that indicate a patient is looking for a specialist or procedure and has most likely already been given a diagnosis. As an example, “rotator cuff surgeon Austin, Texas” tells us this patient is looking for an orthopedic shoulder specialist in Austin, Texas. If your practice is in this area- this patient should see your website first and then make an appointment from your website or by calling your practice. Developing and maintaining SEO and Google Adwords are significant and complex undertakings but the results are quantifiable and sustainable.
Social Media Marketing Although only 30% of the audience under 65 reads a newspaper each day, this same audience is among the most active on social media. Up to 84% of the audience between the ages of 18-64 is active on social media and up to 90% of this audience is active on social media daily. With this in mind, social media is an ideal place to market your practices services to potential patients.
One of the most important components of social media marketing is the ability to target patients in your catchment area who exhibited the patterns and behaviors of someone in need of orthopedic care. In essence, this is the direct opposite of newspaper advertising as it focuses only on those who match the criteria of a potential patient.