Extra, extra, read (and listen) all about it!
Make the most of media sources to educate your patients
By Kathleen Misovic
Do you want to get the word out to your community about the benefits of orthopaedics and the services your practice offers? Many members are using media outlets to spread the word about their practice. Whether they put together their own information, or use material supplied by the AAOS, such as patient education articles on Your Orthopaedic Connection Web site, members are finding that promotion goes a long way in building their practices.
When residents of Wausau, Wis., pick up a copy of their local newspaper, the Wausau Daily Herald, once a month they’ll find an article written by a physician at the Bone and Joint Clinic. Several physicians at the Wausau clinic take turns writing articles on various medical and orthopaedic topics to inform the community and promote their practices.
William J. Jarvis, MD, with a patient at the Bone and Joint Clinic in Wausau, Wis.
“We’ve written about everything from arthritis and pain management to hand and foot injuries and problems,” said William J. Jarvis, MD, who specializes in sports medicine at the clinic and is one of the newspaper article authors. His articles generally focus on athletic topics, such as throwing injuries in children.
“It’s good public relations for our clinic, but it’s primarily a community service,” Dr. Jarvis said. “It’s very effective because just about everyone in the community reads the local paper.”
One of the reasons Dr. Jarvis believes the newspaper articles have such an impact in Wausau is because it’s a small community. “There’s a small town attitude here and everyone knows everybody else, so you run into your patients frequently at the grocery store and local sporting events,” he said. “When my patients see me in the community, they’ll stop and say, ‘Hey, that’s a nice article you wrote. It was very informative.’”
Some patients have even taken the time to write a letter to Dr. Jarvis after reading one of his articles. “Perhaps the article had information different from what they’ve previously heard or read, so they take the time to write and ask my opinion,” he said.
The doctor is on the air
Besides the monthly newspaper article, the Bone and Joint Clinic also does a monthly radio spot on a local radio station, during disk jockey Tom King’s morning radio show, 55 Feedback.
“The DJ is a patient of ours whom we treated after he was in a motorcycle wreck,” Dr. Jarvis said.
Dr. Jarvis is one of several physicians who will discuss a medical topic on the air and answer questions from people who call in. “I talk primarily about knee and shoulder injuries. It’s a casual show and a lot of fun,” he said. “I enjoy talking to patients in a more relaxed setting.”
Through the radio show, Dr. Jarvis and the other participating doctors are often able to give listeners simple treatments for common problems. “If you can keep some of the minor injuries out of the office, that’s great because you can spend time on the people who really need you,” he said.
On the other hand, some callers find out that their problem needs a doctor’s attention.
“After calling in anonymously with a problem that’s important and maybe embarrassing to them, some callers find out it’s not so bad to talk about it and make an appointment at the clinic,” he said.
Dr. Jarvis said the biggest obstacle in writing newspaper articles and appearing on radio talk shows is finding the time away from his regular patients. But he believes these are worthwhile endeavors, especially in the competitive field of sports medicine.
“Athletes tend to be a bit more aggressive about doctor shopping, so my specialty in general probably spends more time and effort in marketing,” he said.
Free dinner with a doctor
Another orthopaedic surgeon from a small community who finds promotion helpful to his practice is Noah S. Finkel, MD, a general orthopaedist at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. Dr. Finkel uses material from the AAOS Community Orthopaedic Awareness Program (COAP) when he speaks at programs the hospital regularly hosts at its community clinic. “These talks have covered several different orthopaedic topics— from arthritis, joint replacement and neck and spine issues to a symposium on the effect diabetes has on orthopaedic conditions,” Dr. Finkel said.
These events, which are held about twice a year, are free and include a buffet dinner.
“All of these programs were attended by the maximum amount of people allowed,” Dr. Finkel said. “And I can tell you many more people were more interested in the talk than the free food.”
Dr. Finkel believes that participating in these programs is part of his obligation as an orthopaedic surgeon. “As a doctor at a community hospital, part of your role is to take care of the community by providing information and education,” he said. “This is a really a wonderful way to start selling who we are and the services and information we have to offer to the community. I especially like the fact that it’s a free service; there’s no obligation attached to it for the community members.”
Dr. Finkel was instrumental in putting together COAP, which was created to help orthopaedic surgeons raise awareness of orthopaedics in their local communities. The program includes ready-to-use Power Point presentations and hand-out materials that can be used in a variety of public and civic settings. “Doctors can personalize the program by using their own slides as I do,” Dr. Finkel explained.
Whatever his technique, it seems to be working. People keep coming to the talks in record numbers. “My main audience is senior citizens and they come back year after year, asking different questions every time,” he said.
Women and children first
Laura Tosi, MD, a pediatric orthopaedist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., also regularly uses COAP materials, but her audience of choice is women and children. At the local level, she speaks at PTA meetings about building healthy bones in children, and to church and professional women’s groups about osteoporosis and fracture prevention. On the national level, she speaks mainly about women’s health issues for various organizations, such as those dealing with orthopaedics and physical therapy.
“As a doctor, I consider it inappropriate to just focus on disease,” Dr. Tosi said. “I love practicing orthopaedics, but ultimately our goal has to be to prevent health care problems. Part of the healing art is to prevent bad things from robbing people of their freedom and ability to take care of themselves independently.”
Dr. Tosi said her community talks often result in new patients. “It happens all the time. Parents from the PTA meeting will bring their children in,” she said. “And often a parent of one of my current patients will ask me to speak at their PTA meeting.”
Although Dr. Tosi mainly treats children, she often finds herself getting involved with the health of an entire family. “There’s a strong genetic proponent to bone health. When I work with children, I often end up working with their mother and grandmother as well,” Dr. Tosi said. “Often a child with weak bones may have a mother or grandmother with weak bones as well; they just don’t know it.”
Dr. Novack said he doesn’t know if the show has helped him gain patients, but he is willing to discuss any of the topics featured on the show with current patients.
Dr. Novack encourages other physicians to promote health care reform by using the media. “I’m not telling all doctors to go out and do a radio or TV show, but I would encourage them to consider the importance of their individual role in shaping the future of health care,” he said. “You have a captive audience in your waiting room. Throw away the People magazines and replace them with material gathered from newspapers, magazines and the Academy on health care policy.”