OrthoCarolina is a renowned orthopedic hospital based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, OrthoCarolina, like many health care providers, has placed a greater focus on new programs, community involvement and content marketing.
Blair Primis, the vice president of marketing at OrthoCarolina, established The Exam Room, an insight community of 2,000 patients to help guide the business through unchartered territories. Primis has worked in the health care industry for seven years and has sat on many advisory boards, including the OrthoCarolina Foundation and Queens University of Charlotte College of Health.
When we spoke with Primis to get the inside scoop, he told us this shift in focus lead to greater brand awareness and unexpected revenue streams. Here’s his story.
OrthoCarolina has a mission that goes far beyond orthopedics. How come?
We provide excellent patient care, but we also want to be seen as a partner in making Charlotte, our home, a better place for the future. We’re committed to our local neighborhood, supporting many sports teams, athletes and local events. Sure, it’s the ultimate brand weapon to be everywhere, but we want to be an indispensable part of the community and its wellness.
"Sparq is super easy to use—I very rarely find myself wondering if people could do it better."
Charlotte is a major city in North Carolina. How do you know what people want?
The Exam Room gives us a direct link to our patients’ attitudes, thoughts, concerns, likes and dislikes. We can gather primary data and commentary that allows our organization to engage with our consumers in a way that resonates with them. Their feedback and insight drives operations and marketing improvements and helps us validate new business ideas. Plus, Sparq is super easy to use—I very rarely find myself wondering if people could do it better.
What was the new business idea?
We were interested in offering a new health care treatment program that involved alternative wellness medicine such as acupuncture. When we considered adding a PhD-trained acupuncturist to the team, many of our physicians pushed back. They were concerned that it wasn’t a complimentary service and patients would have to pay out of pocket (because insurance companies often don’t cover the cost).
"Within 18 months, we had an acupuncturist on staff and she's been fully booked since. She's helping us reach a new patient group and has established a new revenue stream."
How did you decide whether or not to move forward?
Our research team spearheaded the new wellness program by reaching out to our insight community members. We asked them whether they would use an acupuncturist, if they even knew what it was, if they thought it was a complimentary service and if they would be willing to pay for it. Our community overwhelmingly wanted the service, blowing away our original concerns. Within 18 months, we had an acupuncturist on staff and she’s been fully booked since. She’s helping us reach a new patient group and has established a new revenue stream.
You mentioned the ultimate brand weapon is to be everywhere—how do you do that?
We were challenged to stay top of mind. As an orthopedic practice, people often think of us only when they’re hurt. To create ongoing brand awareness, we use content marketing to promote wellness programs and grassroots marketing to engage our local community.
How do you know what content marketing to share?
Our insight community members told us they wanted to know more about healthy lifestyle choices and tips for staying fit. Now we have so much content on relevant topics like yoga, sports and healthy food choices that we had to restructure our website to act more as a content hub.
Again, our community members helped us by sharing what they wanted to see from the new website design. Now that it’s complete, our members say they’re happy with the new design because it’s easier to find, read and consume content. Today, 51 percent of our website visits are direct, meaning our brand awareness is starting to stick.
"Our business decisions are driven by their feedback. It's so important to show them how they're impacting our community—and their own wellness."
Do you think it’s important for your community to be involved in these decisions?
The community provides endless opportunity to ask questions on marketing, website redesign, new business offerings or customer service. We share our learnings back via email, saying thanks for taking the survey and here’s what we’ve done with your feedback. Our business decisions are driven by their feedback. It’s important to show them how they’re impacting our community—and their own wellness.
We’ve done patient satisfaction surveys with thousands of patients, but the difference is that our insight community members have opted in. They want to share and be a part of our future.