The fundamentals of an orthopedic practice marketing strategy
The field of orthopedic surgery has transitioned from one based primarily on physician referral to one that requires marketing and a great reputation with patients.
Patients are more likely now to decide when they need an orthopedic doctor, and then research their options and book an appointment online — often without any input from their primary care physician. This represents an important shift that puts a much stronger emphasis on consumer marketing for orthopedic surgeons. Orthopedic surgeons who use only traditional referral marketing may fall behind.
Orthopedic surgeons who want to reach prospective patients where they go for information (online) need to implement a comprehensive digital marketing strategy to increase practice awareness, acquisition and conversion.
Although each local market is unique, digital marketing and advertising tactics support the long-term growth that an orthopedic practice needs to be successful.
Elements of a powerful digital strategy
To start, your orthopedic practice needs a strong website design and strategy. Your website can captivate and impress prospective patients, but it represents much more than copy and images on a page. To ensure optimal online performance, your website must load quickly, be easy to see and use on a mobile device, and be easy to find via search engines.
Then, a strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategy helps your practice rise to the top of search results. After all, if your practice website is hard to find, it doesn’t matter how great it looks or how well it performs.
Once a patient finds your practice and researches your surgeons, an impressive online reputation helps affirm your doctors are a great choice for orthopedic care. Positive online reviews highlight your surgeons’ reputations, and a high volume and frequency of reviews also improves your search engine ranking. This drives more prospective patients to your website when they start looking for an orthopedic doctor.
Also, using digital (online) advertising can help maximize your patient acquisition efforts. From cost-per-click (CPC) advertising to social media and digital display ad campaigns, you can reach more prospective patients where they spend their time.
Finally, a focus on patient loyalty and retention keeps patients coming back. Orthopedic surgeons who put an emphasis on patient satisfaction are likely to see greater long-term practice growth. Best practices for better retention include delivering automated patient satisfaction surveys after each appointment, and offering other digital tools that improve the patient experience.
The benefits of modern marketing and advertising
For orthopedic surgeons, marketing and advertising requires a multifaceted approach. To attract more patients, connect with providers who can refer people to you. Also, connect with prospective patients who have independently decided they require an orthopedic surgeon.
Referral marketing programs are effective, but they’re time-consuming, costly, and difficult to measure. Supplement your referral marketing with a digital strategy to attract a steady stream of new patients. The key benefits of digital marketing and advertising include:
- Better value and return on investment: Digital marketing and advertising is cost-effective. With lower production costs and better targeting compared to print marketing, digital marketing leads to greater conversion at a lower cost per impression or click. In many cases (e.g. pay-per-click campaigns), you only pay when your ad performs, which results in lower overall expenses.
- Scalability and flexibility: The ability to scale and adjust strategies as needed is one of most significant digital marketing benefits. Start small and invest more heavily in what’s truly driving more new patients to your practice. If a strategy doesn’t deliver, you can adjust quickly and shift that investment somewhere else. Digital campaigns can be updated with the click of a button, whether you change a headline, image, or your patient call to action. Your ads can stay fresh with changes you make over time.
- Greater control and insight: Digital advertising allows you to target the right audience with accuracy and precision, where traditional print ads fall short. You can target your intended audience by age, gender, income, location, personal interests, and so on. You’ll also gather valuable data that shows how well each campaign performs so you can make decisions that lead to greater marketing return on investment (ROI).
How to connect with orthopedic surgery patients in a digital world
In most cases, today’s orthopedic surgery patient journey starts online, where patients look for answers. Patients start with a simple online query: Why does my ankle hurt? How is tennis elbow treated? What can I do for lower back pain? From there, the journey continues. Who is the best orthopedic surgeon for a full knee replacement? What orthopedic surgery practice is near me? Which orthopedic surgeons accept Medicare?
Your practice must be well-positioned online to be found quickly and thrive.
Orthopedic surgeons compete with other orthopedic surgeons, and with physical therapy practices, primary care doctors and pain management specialists. Some patients who could benefit from orthopedic surgery don’t know surgery is even an option for them. Or, they’ve heard stories of orthopedic procedures from decades ago and don’t know about advances in the field that yield better outcomes, faster recovery, and less pain.
Your online presence helps you tackle these challenges when you connect with prospective patients during their search for care. Whether a patient needs a solution to their lower back pain, or requires a full hip replacement, your online identity can help connect people who are searching for care with your practice and surgeons.
To attract patients who are looking for answers to their health concerns, focus on the tools and tactics that enhance your online presence. An overview of these tactics includes:
- Optimize your website. Aside from making a great first impression, your website must attract online searchers who don’t know about your practice. To do this, you’ll need fast loading speeds, a mobile optimized design and pages that are built to be searched, indexed and found by search engines. You’ll also need as much relevant content as you can create, related to the conditions you treat and the procedures your orthopedic surgeons provide. Doing so will assure the search engines that your site is a good resource for prospective patients who are looking for answers.
- Look beyond your URL. While your web presence begins with an impactful website design, your online identity stretches beyond. Start with a Google search of your practice name, where you’ll likely find numerous online directories that feature your business. Sites such as Google My Business, Bing, Vitals, Yelp! and others allow you to officially ‘claim’ your online profile. You can also add practice details and information, and even include photos, videos and answers to frequently asked questions. Invest the time to claim and update these profiles, because the results lead to more website traffic and online authority, which help you land more new patients over time.
- Invest in search engine optimization (SEO). Another key to more website traffic is to use a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Because SEO tactics can change frequently, this is one marketing activity that’s often outsourced. But, for those who want to manage it on their own, there are tactics that drive more website traffic. For example, use keywords that align with what patients search for on your website, online profiles and blog posts. Think of short search terms such as robotic spine surgery, partial knee replacement, carpal tunnel, ACL injury, and long-tail search terms like, “what can I expect from a knee replacement surgery,” or “how do I know if I need spine surgery?,” etc.
- Enhance your online reputation. Your online reputation should help reassure prospective patients that your orthopedic surgeons are highly qualified and known as the best in town. Your reputation also signals to the search engines that your practice is worth displaying in search results. That’s because the volume and frequency of your online reviews affirm to Google and other search engines that your practice is frequented often, and has local relevance. This helps your practice move closer to the top of search engine rankings and attract patients.
- Focus on content marketing. Publish relevant and timely content through blogging, social media, video and email marketing to extend the reach of your brand online and boost your online presence. Blogging in particular has a major impact on your search engine ranking. Video is also a channel that has gained incredible momentum, with the average adult spending nearly five hours a week watching YouTube. Lastly, content marketing benefits your online presence, and enables you to connect with current and prospective patients more frequently to strengthen the patient and provider relationship.
Key steps to take control of your online reputation
Patients today are savvy. While some may ask their primary care doctor or a friend for an orthopedic care recommendation, most people like to take control of their care, and make decisions after researching their options online.
Hopefully, your orthopedic surgery practice already has a powerful brand, website and online presence, but patients need to see what others say about you. Patients turn to third-party online reviews for research and to validate that the orthopedic surgeon(s) they’re considering are a great choice for their individual needs. PatientPop research indicates that 74 percent of patients find online reviews very or extremely important. Sixty-nine percent say they won’t consider a healthcare provider with an average star rating of less than 4.0 out of 5 stars.
An effective online reputation management program can have a significant impact on your patient review volume, frequency and sentiment. Here are some key factors that contribute to a great online reputation:
- An exceptional experience. Keeping patients happy results in more positive online reviews. While patient satisfaction is multifaceted, practices that keep wait times down, communicate effectively, and foster a positive patient relationship are well-positioned for better reviews. Invest in digital tools that streamline the patient experience (online scheduling, digital registration forms, automated appointment reminders), and support communication (email marketing tools, text messaging) to improve the patient experience and improve patient reviews.
- Useful feedback. If you want to know what your patients think about your practice and providers, ask them! Automated patient satisfaction surveys can be delivered via email or text after each appointment. These let patients know you value their opinions and suggestions. The real-time feedback you receive can help you make operational changes that improve your practice over time.
- Timely response to patients. Keep a watchful eye on patient online feedback and your reputation. Your online reviews, patient satisfaction survey results and social media comments will help you determine patient sentiment. Respond to all negative reviews promptly, to mitigate their impact and demonstrate your practice listens to and resolves concerns.
More on online reputation management:
Creating and maintaining a 5-star reputation for your healthcare practice
The risks and potential rewards of negative patient reviews
How to respond to patient reviews and other online feedback
How to drive orthopedic surgery patient loyalty
Orthopedic surgery practice growth doesn’t stop with adding new patients. Long-term growth also requires a patient retention strategy.
Patients who don’t get what they need from their healthcare provider are likely to go elsewhere. In fact, 72 percent of patients say they’ll consider switching doctors for a better or more convenient experience. To increase loyalty and connect with patients between visits, use these patient engagement and retention strategies:
- Deliver patient emails with relevant information about health conditions. For example, a monthly newsletter for chronic arthritis patients could include tips for symptom management, information about new service updates, or details about medications and procedures.
- Bring patients back in for routine follow-up appointments and screenings. If a patient is due for a follow-up appointment or annual bone density screening, use email or text messaging to send a timely reminder and appointment confirmations.
- Prioritize patient convenience. Make it easier for patients to interact with your orthopedic practice. Patients appreciate online scheduling, digital appointment registration, text messaging, and telehealth options.
- Focus on the patient experience. Keep wait times down and quickly address patient complaints or feedback. Use automated patient satisfaction surveys and a reputation management solution to streamline the process.
When to use orthopedic surgery content marketing
Regularly publish and share relevant content with current and prospective patients to boost your overall practice marketing. Content marketing strengthens your online presence and search engine optimization, and connects you with patients.
Content marketing doesn’t have to be all-consuming, and everything you post doesn’t have to be professionally-produced. What’s most important is to publish regularly, with content that’s informative. From social media and blogging to email campaigns and video content, use multiple channels and media types to keep your readers engaged.
Here are some content topics and mediums to consider:
- A blog that highlights non-surgical treatments for mild to moderate lower back pain, written by one of your providers.
- An email campaign that highlights common conditions ankle/foot and wrist/hand treatments.
- An email campaign that targets athletes, with tips for preventing overuse injuries.
- A Facebook campaign that features recent patient reviews and testimonials.
- A Q&A blog post that tells patients what to expect before, during and after a total knee replacement.
- A YouTube video that details the benefits of robotic surgery.
- A Twitter post that features the latest scientific data about surgeries or services you provide.
If you need additional inspiration, here’s a list of common orthopedic search terms that can complement your content marketing:
Common Orthopedic Surgery Symptoms & Conditions
- ACL Tear
- Carpal Tunnel/Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Dupuytren’s Contracture
- Back Pain
- Hip Pain
- Elbow Pain
- Foot Pain
- Knee Pain
- Neck Pain
- Shoulder Pain
- Spinal Stenosis
- Herniated Disc
- Lower Back Pain
- Meniscus Tear
- Rotator Cuff Tear
- Sports Injuries
- Trigger Finger
Common Orthopedic Treatments & Procedures
- Orthopedic Surgery
- Arthroscopy/Athroscopic Surgery
- Joint Replacement
- Fracture Care
- Foot & Ankle Care
- Regenerative Medicine
- Pain Management
- Spine Surgery
- Shoulder Surgery/Shoulder Replacement
- Elbow Surgery
- Hand Surgery
- Knee Surgery/Total Knee Replacement
- ACL Surgery
- PRP Therapy/PRP Injection
- Spine Surgery/Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
- Spinal Fusion
- Sports Medicine
- Stem Cell Therapy
Tip: When writing for search engine optimization, think like a patient. Use the questions, keywords and phrases you hear most often from orthopedic patients.
More on content marketing:
Two overlooked strategies to expand your healthcare practice brand
7 blog post types for healthcare marketing
5 fast tips: How healthcare practices should use social media during COVID-19
Boost search engine rankings with content marketing
How a practice growth platform supports your marketing strategy
A successful practice requires a long-term growth plan, supported by marketing and advertising for patient acquisition and retention. Here’s how to approach this:
- Focus on convenience. Patients are busy, and expect digital convenience. Offer online scheduling, digital registration, automated appointment confirmations and reminders, text messaging, telehealth and online bill pay to make it faster and easier for patients to make appointments and keep up with their healthcare.
- Listen to your patients. According to PatientPop, 67 percent of patients want a provider who is a good listener, in and outside your office. Automated patient satisfaction surveys give patients the opportunity to tell you what went well during their appointment, and what could use improvement. When you use feedback to improve your interaction with patients, you can boost loyalty and retention for long-term practice growth.
- Set goals and measure performance. Growth is about more than revenue and new patients. Keep an eye on metrics related to your website traffic, search engine rankings, patient sentiment, online review volume and frequency, and appointments scheduled.
An all-in-one practice growth platform that incorporates digital convenience and a dashboard with 24/7 insights into performance against goals is imperative. A practice growth platform should include:
- Solutions that help you attract new patients by improving your website, search engine optimization, social media, and advertising campaigns.
- Solutions for online reputation management, including automated patient satisfaction surveys that offer real-time insight into what your patients experience with your providers and staff.
- Tools that streamline the patient experience such as online scheduling, text messaging, and telehealth appointments.
- Front office automation that supports your staff and improves workflow, including appointment reminders and confirmations, online registration, intake forms, and digital fax.
- A dashboard that provides full visibility into how your practice performs against targets and goals, in real-time.
More on practice growth platform:
What is a practice growth platform and how can it help me achieve my growth goals?
The healthcare provider’s practice growth checklist