High volumes, fast projected growth, and a favorable case mix of young and commercially insured patients make sports medicine a growth priority for health system planners today. But building a differentiated sports medicine program is expensive—labor costs alone can exceed $450,000 annually. As a result, systems are searching for a single "silver bullet" strategy that can both drive new patient acquisitions and build consumer loyalty to capture this attractive demand without putting the large required investment to waste.
New report: When and how to differentiate your sports medicine program
But many of these programs are struggling to find that silver bullet. Case in point: Systems have long tried to win family loyalty by treating student athletes for their sports medicine injuries, despite no evidence of success. Instead, planners must protect their well-justified investment in sports medicine by developing both a differentiation strategy that attracts new consumers, and a plan to hardwire individual patients' loyalty from intake to surgery. Here's how your system can do this:
1. Capitalize on self-referring patients by offering specialized and accessible care
Start differentiating your sports medicine program by appealing directly to the 37% of sports medicine patients who self-refer. These self-referring patients want the specialization of an orthopedic surgeon—in fact, the third ranked metric among sports medicine consumers in our recent survey is surgeon specialization. But at the same time, these patients demand accessible care that surgeons rarely offer—being seen within a week of scheduling ranked 13th out of 44 attributes among survey respondents.
Bridging this gap between specialized and accessible sports medicine care is key to differentiating your sports medicine program in a way that attracts self-referring patients. One way to do so is by employing sports medicine PCPs. These fellowship-trained PCPs offer comprehensive conservative treatment, including therapeutic joint injections, but have shorter wait times than surgeons.
2. Win patient loyalty by creating a frictionless path to surgery
Winning consumer loyalty is essential to capitalizing on sports medicine demand, but programs nationwide struggle to do so because many health care consumers aren't very loyal. In fact, one study found that 80% of consumers scored themselves as "satisfied" or "very satisfied" before defecting to a competitor. As a result, you must hardwire your care pathway so patients know that their easiest and best option is to receive their ongoing or surgical care at your system.
NorthShore Orthopaedics and Spine Institute accomplished this by integrating its musculoskeletal clinic into its urgent care network to keep patients within the system for their ongoing care following an urgent care episode. This model also allowed NorthShore to secure surgical volumes by seamlessly transitioning patients from the musculoskeletal clinic to its surgeons, which it achieved by coordinating all appointments for its patients on the most clinically appropriate timeline given each patients’ specific care needs. And not only did NorthShore hardwire patient loyalty through this model—it increased surgical volumes by 42% over five years in the process.
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