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How to Engage Your Patients During the Winter Months

January 10, 2018
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Practice Management

The holidays are gone, but winter is far from over. With the colder temperatures that bring snow and ice, comes an increased risk for orthopedic injuries in your patient population. Use this time of year as an opportunity to build trust you’re your referral partners and educate patients on safety techniques to reduce and prevent winter-related injuries.

Fall and Slip Education

Snow removal can be a strenuous activity, particularly because cold weather can be taxing on the body. In addition, there is also potential for back injuries or slipping on ice, which could result in any number of injuries, including fractures, sending them straight to the ER. This is especially true for older, more fragile patients. Some suggested strategies in reaching this audience includes:

  • Provide print educational materials or classes discussing proper safety precautions: how to shovel snow to avoid slipping and back injuries, what is considered proper footwear for optimal traction, avoiding icy areas, and so forth.
  • Prepare winter safety tips specific to orthopedic-type injuries in a press release to your local media.
  • If you have physical therapy on-site, or work closely with a PT partner in your area, coordinate a strengthening program to teach patients identified at a higher risk for falls.

Offer Winter Sport Safety Clinics

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2015 more than 246,000 people were treated at hospitals, doctors' offices, and EDs for injuries related to winter sports. Whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, ice skating or sledding, if patients understand best safety practices for their winter activities, they can be better prepared in avoiding these types of injuries.

A great way to help educate your active patient population is to offer safety clinics specific to outdoor activities popular in your area. For instance, try partnering with a local ski instructor and your on-site or local PT to create a workshop for current and prospective patients on how to prep for ski season to stay safe. This workshop could include:

  • Winter sport safety tips, such as always participate in activities with a partner, wear appropriate gear for the sport, warm up properly beforehand, and stay hydrated.
  • Strengthening and conditioning routine, which may include planks, goblet squats, and standing hip rotations.

You can also be active on social media and your blog by offering tip sheets and lifestyle hacks. A “hack” is a tool or technique that makes some aspect of daily life easier or more efficient. An example would be, to avoid foggy goggles on the way up to the ski slopes, instead of having them pushed up on your forehead, keep them in the goggle pocket in your jacket. Fog-free goggles means a clearer view of what’s in sight, and less chance for injury. You could also wrap goggles in a tissue before stashing them in your pocket to absorb excess moisture.

Referral Partner and Other Opportunities

Besides concussions being a top winter sports injury, ACL injuries, torn meniscus, dislocated shoulder and fractures are some of the more common injuries winter athletes experience. Take this as an opportunity to get your staff back in the classroom to brush up on the most common x-ray and ultrasound exams conducted for these types of injuries. 

In addition to giving you own staff a refresher, consider educating EDs, urgent care clinics, and primary care offices in your area about how you handle winter-specific injuries, including fractures. Does your office treat concussions if a patient falls and hits his or her head on ice? If you do not treat concussion-related injuries, inform them where you recommend they send those patients. Also, if you’re comfortable, providing your direct cell number to let referring providers text you about non-emergent injuries can help build relationships with them, increase trust, and open the funnel to more referrals.

             

Does a staff member in your office need a refresher on casting and splinting? Use Konica Minolta’s exclusive discount code KONICA for AAOE’s Casting and Splinting Program: http://www.aaoe.net/page/casting.