The value of being a team physician
by Bill Champion
The time and commitment required to work with college and professional teams are significant. When considering the hours during the week and the weekends, in addition to the travel demands, it is commonplace for an acting team orthopedist and the supporting practice to question whether it is worth it.
For many, serving as team doctors and providing medical coverage is a way to remain close to athletics and for others, it is simply a professional passion. However, all this time away from your practice and your families begs the question: What is the value of this relationship? To assess the value, we need to acknowledge the investment of time and commitment, as well as the potential upside to your clinical practice.
The fundamental value of a team physician relationship is that it is a differentiator. There are few elements an orthopedist or orthopedic group has that differentiate them in a way that is truly meaningful to the market. Even in the eyes of most primary care providers, one board-certified orthopedic surgeon is rarely viewed any differently than another. Subspecialty practices and, in some cases, select procedures have created market niches; however, orthopedists and their practices are more often than not viewed as a commodity vs. a unique brand.
What a college or professional affiliation provides an orthopedist and his or her practice is an attachment to a larger consumer brand that is more visible, more likable, and more influential within your market area. It is the same reason companies, like Gatorade and shoe companies, attach themselves to larger and more engaging brands like the NBA, NFL and the Olympics. However, the value of this attachment is contingent upon several variables, starting with how the team is thought of in your market’s eyes. Is the team respected, followed and viewed positively in the market? Additionally, what level of exposure is your relationship generating with the market? Does the market know of your involvement? Do your referral sources or patients know? It is not uncommon to find some team physicians who are completely devoid of any exposure. Some of this is intentional and based on the contractual relationship and in some cases, it is simply due to not knowing the right steps to take.
If you are a team physician at any level, there is value in your affiliation, even at a high school level. This value is either enhanced positively or negatively based on a combination of relationships and communications with the athletic trainers, coaches and administration and, at the high school level, the booster club.
To ensure your greatest value, focus on the needs of the team and its athletes. Secondly, any communications promoting your relationship should be coordinated and executed by someone other than you. You should not be personally tooting your horn. It has to be someone else, whether that be an external voice or a member of your staff. Lastly, align your message with a combination of what you can say that competitors can’t and what will be most meaningful to the market. Communicating your team-physician status isn’t enough — the objective is to share how receiving care from you and your practice is different because of it.
Bill Champion is the president and CEO of Venel, a marketing communication firm focused exclusively for orthopedic practices. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Champion reports he is president and CEO of Venel.