Patient stories lend muscle to value of orthopedic medicine

Orthopedic medicine has received some negative press in recent years, ranging from device recalls to a Department of Justice investigation on payment issues.

Organization: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (Rosemont, IL)
: Weber Shandwick (Minneapolis, MN)
: A Nation in Motion
: January 2012-ongoing
: $510,000 for Jan-Dec 2012

Orthopedic medicine has received some negative press in recent years, ranging from device recalls to a Department of Justice investigation on payment issues. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) hired Weber Shandwick to help develop and execute A Nation in Motion to drive positive messaging.

"We are committed to tell the story of the value of orthopedic medicine and the positive impact orthopedic surgeons make in patients' lives," says Sandra Gordon, director of PR at AAOS.

"We created the website to capture the authentic voices of patients to help them share stories of how orthopedic care restored their lives and alleviated pain," explains Nancy Longley, EVP, healthcare and public affairs at Weber Shandwick.

Media relations and social media outreach drive awareness. A Nation in Motion board game was also created to engage audiences and PSAs will roll out in early 2013.

The campaign and website launched on April 23. The site features patient-submitted stories, educational resources, a digital version of the board game, and click-to-share buttons for Facebook and Twitter.

"We didn't anticipate this, but AAOS members have been sending patients, scheduled for surgery, to the website to read the stories," Gordon notes.

In late April, AAOS members met with policymakers in Washington to talk about the campaign and deliver hard copies of the board game.

The game was also used by state AAOS chapters to engage local government officials; in AAOS members' offices; and by physical and occupational therapists. Gordon says media coverage has prompted the public to order hard copies. Top-tier national outlets and select healthcare bloggers are pitched regularly. Patient stories are sent to media in their home states and cities.

Dance instructor Christina Ernst, who submitted her story, and AAOS president John Tongue, MD, participated in an April 25 satellite and radio media tour. Additional surgeons have also conducted media interviews.

Posts are made daily to AAOS' Facebook and Twitter pages. Patient videos are regularly posted to YouTube. Print PSAs featuring five patient stories will be distributed to media and featured in airports and bus shelters beginning January 2013. Radio and TV PSAs will follow.

By early October website visits hit 20,073, far exceeding the goal of 800 to 1,000 visits per month, and 550 patient stories, nearly quadruple the year-end goal, had been submitted.

The online board game received 322 visits, more than double the goal, and Gordon says at least 2,500 hard copies have been distributed.

Engaged Facebook page users increased from 442 in January to 1,236 ending September (Facebook Insights), and Facebook is among the top five website traffic drivers (Google Analytics).

More than 2,600 stories have run in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, AARP The Magazine, and Sirius' Doctor Radio station.

AAOS will work with Weber on the campaign for at least another year. Plans for a surgeon stories section of the website and a surgeon blog will launch soon. Results of AAOS studies demonstrating the economic value of orthopedic care will be promoted throughout this year.

PRWeek's View
This team has created a valuable online property that's truly benefiting the academy's physicians and patients. The patient stories are not only helping drive positive coverage of orthopedic medicine in general, they're also driving communication between physicians and patients. Adding the physician point of view in the surgeon stories and blog sections will further strengthen the site and the campaign. Promotion of the economic value studies should also add momentum. Overall, this is a very strategically smart and effectively executed campaign.

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