How a CA Privacy Law Could Affect Your Marketing Plans

ep. 14

Growing a Successful Sports Medicine Program

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In this episode of the Growing a Successful Orthopedic Practice Podcast, Randy S. Schwartzberg, M.D., President of the Orlando Orthopaedic Center Outpatient Surgery Center,  joins Keith Landry, to offer strategies about how to grow a successful sports medicine program.

The orthopaedic surgeon says building a sports medicine program develops one relationship at a time, and there are no shortcuts to success.

Dr. Schwartzberg says a grassroots marketing effort and years of word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied patients will push your sports medicine program over the top.

Tune in to discover:

  • Why athletic trainers should be part of your program’s outreach plan
  • How to use seminars to build your sports medicine program
  • Foundation events can serve athletes and expand your program’s reach
  • Measuring return on investment can be challenging during the first few years

About Dr. Randy Schwartzberg

Randy S. Schwartzberg, M.D. is President of the Orlando Orthopaedic Center Outpatient Surgery Center and President of the Orlando Orthopaedic Center Foundation. He is board certified in sports medicine and in orthopaedic surgery. He has spent his entire career building a leading sports medicine program and treating high school, college and professional athletes. Dr. Schwartzberg is also an assistant professor of orthopaedics at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine.

How a CA Privacy Law Could Affect Your Marketing Plans

About Keith Landry

Keith Landry is Director of Public Relations at Insight Marketing Group. Keith has been a public relations consultant since 2010. He has more than 26 years of experience as a news anchor, news reporter and public affairs show host, which he uses to implement innovative public relations strategies for medical practice clients.

Sponsored by OrthoLive

Episode Transcription

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       It’s going to take a lot of patients. So another point would be, don’t be impatient. It will take years. You will not measure it that well. So for the so-called bean counters in our business, if you’re going to bean count, find something else to do.

Speaker 2:                    Welcome to the Growing a Successful Orthopedic Practice podcast. Join us every episode to hear from fellow medical practice administrators, staff, and physicians, as we break down current issues, affecting the industry and share real stories from guests on their way to growing a successful orthopedic practice. Let’s get started.

Keith Landry:                Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Growing a Successful Orthopedic Practice podcast. I’m your host, Keith Landry. We have a fascinating episode for you this week. We’re going to talk about growing a successful sports medicine program, what an interesting program, and our guest today has so much passion for the topic and experiences, he’s grown it from scratch. So fascinating insights for our listeners today, with Dr. Randy Schwartzberg. Thanks for being here today, Randy.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       You’re welcome.

Keith Landry:                To give folks a little background about what you’ve done. Dr. Schwartzberg is an orthopedic surgeon. He focuses on sports medicine, he’s president of the Orlando Orthopaedic Center Foundation and president of the Orlando Orthopaedic Outpatient Surgery Center, and really just has a wonderful passion for sports medicine. And while we’re at it, I will mention very briefly that this episode is sponsored by OrthoLive. So Dr. Schwartzberg, thanks for being here, interested for our listeners to get the insights you’re going to offer during the next half hour or so. Let’s dig right into it. Give us some background information on the sports medicine program you successfully developed. When did you start it? How do you feel like it’s progressed?

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       Well, the way I would say it started, is the first millisecond that I started practice, because that’s what I wanted to do was develop a sports’ medicine practice and program. It started out with a desire and a philosophy of providing athletes with the best possible care being available. And in order to do that, people had to know that was available. So that was a work in progress for a long time. How do I know it became successful? I don’t know. I’m a hard critic of myself and a hard worker. So I probably didn’t think it was much, for a long time, even though other people thought it was. So that’s hard to put a pinpoint on that. It’s a gradual thing that has just grown over time and grown with the number of people. What started out as a philosophy, continues as philosophy and a plan to take good care of our patients because that’s the most important part as we continue to talk.

Keith Landry:                And Dr. Schwartzberg, our orthopedic physicians and their practice managers listening to this episode who may be thinking about venturing into this should know, this is no easy task. This was a lot of heavy lifting for you.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       It was a lot of work and a lot of personal time, a lot of dedication and a lot of relationship building. There’s still a lot of time and a lot of things that get put into it and you just can’t snap your fingers wish for it.

Keith Landry:                So let’s talk about the passion that you have, which has actually resulted in the success of the program. What is your passion for treating sports medicine patients? Is this something that goes back to when you were a young athlete?

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       I have to attribute it to that timeframe because I don’t know what else to attribute to. I grew up in a sports’ family. I played sports. I watched sports, I love sports. It’s just a lifestyle and always has been, always, will be. So I had my injuries and some things that kept me from playing some things that I wanted to, and didn’t really have anyone that knew much about it then. And I think that’s what drove me into it and then really to take care of those people and really the youth that’s who I really like helping the most because they need good advice. They need people to help them out. They need direction so that they can play the games that they enjoy to play when they’re young, everybody can play it when they’re young, you got to be real good to play it at a higher level. I want to help those folks too.

Keith Landry:                Great. When did you start the sports’ medicine program? So folks have some concept and context of how long we’re talking about and how did it evolve over the years? Was there a point where it sort of scaled dramatically?

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       I would call it all gradual. I’m not sure that anything blew up into a large area, all of a sudden. And it really started early on once again right when I started practice developing relationships with the people who are in the sports community. So for example, when we opened an Oviedo office, the group that I used to be in, I went to every high school. I met every single athletic trainer and I would meet coaches and athletic directors. I wanted everyone to know who I was, what I could do, what I could offer. And we wound up taking care of some of those schools as team physicians. I interacted with college athletic trainers. I gave a lot of talks. I gave talks to professionals like physical therapists and athletic trainers and nurses, every chance I could get, I met absolutely as many people as possible.

And then as time went on and became involved at Orlando Orthopedic Center and joined it in 2002, we then added more physicians and sports medicine physicians in particular. So we were able to do more work and we were able to take care of more high schools, colleges, a variety of different sports that are out there and things that we do in the community and make ourselves available more and grow it more. So it’s really become a fairly large entity and we’re going to hit on a few other things that we’ve done along the lines of our foundation and our educational seminars and other ways that we’ve made ourselves known and provided other services to the community that someone may not think of as being part of a sports’ medicine program.

Keith Landry:                Fascinating. Let’s look ahead to the next three to five years. What’s your vision for where you take this sports’ medicine program looking ahead?

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       The first thing I would say is we’re going to continue our number one principle that has been successful, which is taking the best care of patients and athletes that we can and being accessible, because if we’re going to look at it from a marketing standpoint, the best marketing tool. If we’re going to look at it from being a physician, which we should, that’s what we do and that’s what our goal and role is, that’s what we’re living for at work. What are we going to do beyond that? Well, we’ll continue to take care of our high schools and colleges and any pro athletes we take care of will continue to run our seminars. We’ll grow them all. We’ll grow all of that.

We’ll look for any opportunities that come our way, which is what happens a lot of times, whether it’s a new sports entity or a high school, and being that we’re on the map, people will come to us and we’ll continue developing our relationship with entities like USTA, which is the center of tennis in [inaudible] central Florida now, and as the new Cirque Du Soleil show starts back up, we’ll continue to work with them. So those will be some of the things and some we’re not sure of, and what’s going to transpire, we’ll see.

Keith Landry:                And it’s interesting when you stay in action, when you have a vision and a plan and you constantly stay in action and work toward whatever the goals are, the stuff just comes along. It just comes along if you do the work.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       It does, and you got to keep everybody focused. We need leadership, I try to do my best with that. And we have a good group of people. We have a tremendous group of doctors. We have a great group of support staff and a lot of people who care about it.

Keith Landry:                So we could do a whole podcast on this next question, but I’ll try not to. Talk to us about how you market the sports’ medicine program.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       Sure. So I’ll go back to saying, I believe that our number one marketing tool is the care that’s provided at Orlando Orthopedic Center. And patients have to have good access and have a great experience from the second they step in the office. This is no different than any other type of orthopedic or a medical [inaudible 00:07:28]. The patient’s experience is what matters the most. They need to be treated well, promptly and have excellent care and good outcomes, and be able to say that these are people in positions at this practice that care about them and do a good job, that’s number one. Beyond that, some of the traditional marketing methods are things that we don’t jump into a lot, a lot of the ad sponsorship and print things and radio things that doesn’t tend to be a very useful type of marketing in my opinion, for what we do.

It’s grassroots marketing, it’s word of mouth. So by taking good care of people that helps, by being out in the community and developing relationships, being around the high school football games, meeting the people at these places, meeting people everywhere we go, all the things we do, all the sports we cover, all of the youth activities we’re involved in, whether it’s with our kids or others, all of the talks that we give, all the people we meet, consistent messaging. They get to know who we are. And you do that over five years, 10 years, 20 years, there’s a grassroots effect. You start taking care of a lot of youth and it grows. They get older and they get to know you still, and they pass it on, but you hit families when you take care of the youth. So there’s a lot of benefit to just that.

So that’s how we do market some of it. Do we do a little traditional marketing? Sure. And some of today’s traditional marketing is going to be some of the social media marketing and the digital media, which we work with Insight Marketing Group, and we have for a very long time. Jen Thompsons Group and you guys are great. And you guys have done a lot for us along those lines. That’s important. The digital media is important. It’s a great way to interact with the community and show people what you’re doing too. So those are the primary things that we do.

Keith Landry:                And you said the key word in this answer you just gave me, the biggest word of that answer was the word relationships because everything that you described that you do is all about relationships. And in the end, people do business and they trust someone they have a relationship with.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       Correct. It’s where it’s at. You can put up all the billboards you want. You can buy all the sponsorships that you want, but it’s transparent to most people. And when someone’s looking for medical care, any of us, for any problem that anybody in the family may have, you want to ask around, you ask around. And when someone says, “Hey, this doctor, these folks, these people, this person, they’re good folks. They’re cool. They take care of athletes a lot. They like athletes. They do a great job at that place. You’re really going to like them. Hey, I know this person, he or she is really cool. Really honest. They take good care of our athletes.” That’s where it’s at.

Keith Landry:                Absolutely. All right, let’s talk about something innovative you’ve been working on for a few years. It’s a conference for sports’ medicine and allied health professionals. Tell us a little bit about that, why your team, or you had the idea and how it’s evolved and what it’s leading to for your sports’ medicine program.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       So I have a tremendous interest in education and teaching, which I do, and that does go hand in hand with our program, it helps us. I’ve taught residents for many, many years and early on, I really wanted to have a conference, have the ability to provide educational services to athletic trainers and physical therapists and then nurses who may be interested in sports medicine and orthopedics as well. And in our community, there was a big void. There was one hospital system that had a little conference each year. It was limited. So this is now 16 years ago because we’re going into our 17th year in 2021. And we decided we wanted to put together a conference, a twice annual conference. So we do a sports medicine conference in early February. Traditionally, we tried to do it the day before the Super Bowl.

And it was always a little fun with that. And then in the late summer, we do what we call our cutting edge orthopedic conference. And we have speakers. My goal was to have some of the best speakers and talks that we could provide. We get orthopedic surgeons, we get other types of physicians. We have physical therapists, we have athletic trainers. We’ve had nurses, we’ve had a lot of different people talk at our conference and we provide great content. We started out a little smaller. We started out at UCF and we had 120 people the first year. And now we’re getting anywhere between 600 and 800 people. We’ve had to modify it, of course, for COVID and have some virtual conferences. But we were getting 600, 800. We were doing it through one of the Rosen Hotels. It’s a great event. People look forward to it every year. They get continuing education credit.

My thought was to provide it at a inexpensive price, which we’ve been able to do. So it turned into a collegial event for a lot of these people. They go and have, we have vendors that help support us that want to use this as their target market. So it’s been a fantastic experience for everybody involved. And it also, from a marketing standpoint, it says, “Hey, Orlando Orthopedic Center is on the forefront of something, they’re on the forefront of educating healthcare professionals in central Florida. And no one else is doing that at that level. And they’re doing it twice a year consistently, providing great content, having great conferences. And we can highlight our doctors when we want to.

We have a new doc comes in, we may have he or she talk a couple of times and present some interesting things and really get to show themselves. And it’s another way to network and develop relationships, but it also gets you known. So that has done a lot for our group. And that was one of the visions with it. We’ve also dovetailed that into our foundation when we started that, which we’ll hit on some point I would imagine. And it’s a great thing. And it basically says these are experts. And look what they’re putting on.

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Keith Landry:                Let’s go right to the foundation. Let’s talk about how you have used the foundation to dove tail and strengthen the sports’ medicine program. I think you guys have been very strong at that.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       So that was in 2012, maybe the year before I had the idea and the vision to do something more than just what an orthopedic group does, even though we’re already doing a lot, but from officially being able to do some things from a charitable standpoint and with our passion and my passion for youth athletics, we were able to start a foundation. I pitched it to my partners and had great support. They’ve supported this through the years. And we have a foundation that primarily is designed to aid youth athletics and youth athletes. And we fund youth athletes who may be financially disadvantaged. We think that one of our main philosophy is that every kid should be able to participate in all sports that they choose regardless of their background.

And that’s not easy, because there’s a lot of roadblocks for them. So we’ve done a lot of things along those lines, cultivated programs, but part of the mission of the foundation is education and research and injury prevention. So our conferences immediately, once we started having a foundation, we run those through the foundation. It’s a foundation event and it meshes with the mission of the foundation. It meshes with the goals of Orlando Orthopedic Center too. So it’s all hand in hand. We give out scholarships, at our conferences we give out an educational scholarship every time. We give a $2,500 one to UCF student athletic training organization, and another one at the other conference for research to the UCF student, Physical Therapy Association.

We have them there. They’re involved with us. They participate in every conference. Again, relationships, getting people involved with us, hopefully getting them to help the foundation someday. So that’s where that comes into play with a lot of the things we do, we provide some sports medicine outreach coverage through the foundation. We scholarship athletes through certain clubs. And so another way that we develop relationships with certain large clubs, and those are just some of the avenues that the foundation can actually help us. And once again, though, the main purpose of the foundation is to help the youth of central Florida.

Keith Landry:                All right, getting back to the intricacies of running, maybe launching a sports’ medicine program, are the staffing needs different if you’re launching a sports’ medicine program compared to the general orthopedic care you’re providing?

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       I think that you need to have some special staffing. And I don’t know that in the actual clinic itself, providing orthopedic care to patients, I don’t think it needs to be any different. If you have some athletic trainers that are involved in your clinic, that’s nice because they know a little bit more about sports medicine, but it’s not absolutely imperative from that vantage point. However, from a standpoint of the outreach component of your sports medicine program, I think that it’s important to have someone to coordinate the outreach, at least on a part-time basis, if not full-time. And that person should be an athletic trainer. That should be a certified athletic trainer who has been involved in sports medicine for a while, and not someone just right out of school, but somebody who has actually been out there and understands orthopedic practices and hospitals and rehab clinics interact in the sports’ medicine community.

So that’s one person you need to have. And really the staffing beyond that, it just depends on your community and in our community the high schools, for instance, have athletic trainers, at least the public high schools do. There are some communities around the state and the country where they don’t have them. And so that’s another project altogether where you may decide to hire athletic trainers to cover these schools and things. So it’s a different undertaking. A lot of places don’t need to do that.

Keith Landry:                All right. So I love this question, because you will give the best nuggets imaginable here. What are the things that you would advise our listeners not to do while trying to launch or grow a successful sports medicine program? Because let’s face it, you walked the path for about 20 years. So what troubles can you save them?

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       Well, I think you need to have the right mindset on what you’re trying to do. You need to have a vision that’ll work. So vision that won’t work would be, “Hey, we’re going to make some investments. And at one year we’re going to evaluate our proforma and see if we’ve got a good return on our investment, and we’re going to somehow track this. And then in two years, we’re going to do the same thing.” I think that’s a mistake because it takes longer than that amount of time to build something. And also the return on investment part is difficult because it’s hard to track the people, it’s very difficult to know, is this how we got the people? I can do it. I’ve done it for certain clubs and programs that we’ve done to show our group that it is successful, but I was only able to track them for the people I saw and I did it manually.

Because in orthopedic practice, the people that are answering your phones, they don’t know where these people are coming from, and you’re never going to be able to do that. So one thing not to do is to have a group administrator or some person who’s a business person say, “Well, we’re going to track this.” Because I don’t think you can do it accurately because when mom calls up and says to the scheduler, “I’d like to get my son, Johnny, and he hurt his knee playing ball.” How are you referred? Well, I was referred by Jeff Jones. Well, they don’t know who that is. So it doesn’t work. Other things that I would say not to do. I would not jump into hiring a bunch of people like athletic trainers and putting them out in high schools in the community immediately.

I don’t think that works very well either. I think that you shouldn’t try to go and buy a lot of advertisements. You shouldn’t try to listen to everybody’s sales pitch. Whether it’s club sports, youth club sports, high schools, somebody’s magazine, everyone’s trying to sell you ads. And that doesn’t work. That’s a waste of money. And I wouldn’t buy that. I wouldn’t do a lot of print ads. I wouldn’t do the radio ads. That’s not going to build your program. Even the hospitals that have a lot of money and spend humongous amounts on the billboards and the newspapers and the magazines and the radio, they’re everywhere. They’re on my kids’ notebooks that they bring home from school. They’re on the back of that. Even those companies that can spend all that money and do it regularly all the time I don’t think it helps them build their brand for sports medicine.

It may help them build their hospital’s name, but that’s a lot of money. I don’t think those are things that I would recommend not doing. So what it means is that it’s going to take a lot of patients. So another point would be, don’t be impatient. It will take years. You will not measure it that well. So for the so-called bean counters in our business, if you’re going to bean count, find something else to do, and I’ll submit to you that’s not going to work well because it’s very, very difficult to measure the value of relationship building and grassroots work and marketing. It just continues to grow and multiply over years from five years to 10 to 20 to more, it’s difficult to measure.

Keith Landry:                That is absolutely great advice there. What else would you like to let our listeners know? Sort of a final thought about growing that sports medicine program. I think you’ve given awesome insights to the last answer there about if you’re going to just do this to make money you’re barking up the wrong tree. So what other advice would you like to offer? Sort of a final parting shot for them.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       I would say to embark on this, have a sports’ medicine physician champion, or more than one. Be ready to put a lot of time and thought into it. Be very flexible because there’s a lot, I like to say in the marketing when you’re starting out and you’re getting after it, is you have to shake a lot of trees for a couple apples to fall. Don’t be afraid to shake some trees, just don’t buy those trees, shake them for free and continue to work at it and really just be patient and continue your vision. And don’t consider it a business project that you’re going to measure, consider it a career, consider it a lifestyle because you will still be able to be an orthopedic practice and orthopedic surgeon and administrator.

You’ll still be able to do all those things that you normally do. And it may or may not come out to your expectations, your sports medicine program, and it may, and things change in these communities, big hospitals go and buy things, people do stuff, it’s a volatile market. You just have to keep your vision, know where you are, know who you are, know what you have money-wise and do it and be patient and roll with it. That’s my advice.

Keith Landry:                Great advice. And how can folks get ahold of you if they’re following up, they want to talk to you or book an appointment, or get any information about the seminars and other programs you do throughout the year. How can they reach out to you?

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       Somebody wants to get some advice from me or discuss with me questions about what we’ve talked about, about growing a sports’ medicine practice. I’d say a couple of ways. My team is a good way to get emails to me at work. And that’s I’m on the social media. I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter. I’m on Instagram, can reach out to me through any of that. I probably don’t get on it as maybe as much as some people, but whatever time I got, and those would be the ways to reach out to me. I’m happy to talk to folks about what I know and what we’ve done.

Keith Landry:                All right. Dr. Randy Schwartzberg with Orlando Orthopedic Center. Brilliant insights. Can’t thank you enough for sharing those with us today. I know you’re a busy physician.

Dr. Randy Schwa…:       Happy to talk about it. Thanks, Keith.

Keith Landry:                You bet. My pleasure. And that’s a wrap on this episode of Growing a Successful Orthopedic Practice podcast. I know you got something out of it. Don’t be shy with me about it. We got you something good here today for your time, and we’ll do it again soon. Have a great day.

Speaker 2:                    Thanks for listening to the Growing a Successful Orthopedic Practice podcast. Please consider pressing subscribe on your podcast player. So you never miss a future episode. And if you haven’t given us a rating or review on Apple podcasts already, we ask that you take a spare minute to help us reach and share our medical practice growth stories with peers.

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