Bariatric Times

AUG 2016

A peer-reviewed, evidence-based journal that promotes clinical development and metabolic insights in total bariatric patient care for the healthcare professional

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11 Commentary Bariatric Times • August 2016 personal surgical outcomes can help colleagues feel more comfortable r eferring locally. The Internet. After evaluating your physical referral base (patients and physicians), consider the new ways in which we search for i nformation. Everyone throws away the big paper telephone book, and we search Google instead. Remember reference books like encyclopedias? What a blessing it is t o live now, when information is so fluid and current and easily attainable via the Internet! According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 35 percent o f U.S. adults have gone online to figure out a medical condition; of these, half followed up with a visit to a medical professional. 5 While some information found on t he Internet is accurate and useful, it is important to caution that it is a public, open venue. Remind both physicians and patients to be very careful about claims and specific r ecommendations found in Internet content. An office consultation and exam provides the most individualized and accurate information to each patient. In the last three years, the Internet has gained in its importance for my six partners in New Orleans. In 2014, 17 percent of our patients approached the group online. Last year in 2015, it was 20 percent, and year-to-date in 2016 the Internet accounts for 26 percent of our volume. BUILDING YOUR INTERNET PRESENCE AND STRENGTHENING YOUR COMMUNICATION Since research shows that potential patients are online searching for information, developing your own website is a crucial step for those in private practice. It is important to work with a reputable web designer to build a site that is search-engine optimized. A very pretty website that has no traffic is useless, and mistakes are costly to correct. Get recommendations from friends, compare web designers against each other, and ask former clients if they are still happy. Once it is built, you can use your website as an informational platform to teach patients about our work, and about your practice. Drawings and videos of procedures, photos of the practice and employees that are bright and inviting, patient success stories, and succinct data about bariatric surgery are all good ideas for website content. As noted previously, the second most important place to invest is the person who answers your calls and e-mails. Just as the incision or scar is the only part of the surgery that the patient ever sees, these (often low-wage) workers are the public face of your practice and your surgical skill makes no d ifference if the caller doesn't schedule a consult. Furthermore, patients are often still gathering information at the time of their first contact. Does the person who a nswers the phone in your office know the difference between a sleeve gastrectomy and a gastric bypass? They must be able to answer basic questions about every p rocedure that you offer. A website and the contact personnel are the foundation upon which all further practice building stands. Once you have the f undamentals set, develop a marketing budget and method to track where your leads come from, then frequently reassess investments that you make to see if t hey are paying off. BUILDING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE Social media is vast, and it is h ere to stay. I use Twitter as an educational tool to disseminate information about bariatric surgery and obesity treatment. It has been fun to interact with physicians all o ver the world, but I have only operated on two patients that came from Twitter, even though I have more than 5,000 followers. Facebook, on the other hand, has b een an effective patient recruitment tool. I recommend setting up a Facebook site for your practice and posting regularly. Before-and-after photos are visually c ompelling, and are very popular. I also share recipes and motivational quotations, and sometimes get a lot

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