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Published 8/1/2010
Michael F. Schafer, MD

Make patient education a priority

Free materials from AAOS can help

An essential role of orthopaedic surgeons is to educate patients. As a recent study in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found, information available to patients on the Internet is highly variable, so it’s our job to help them separate fact from fiction. But since the time we have with patients in the office is limited, arming them with accurate, unbiased information before they arrive in the exam room is a benefit.

The AAOS has a wealth of free material that can be used for patient education. The following tips can help you educate patients—in your waiting room, online, or at home.

Before patients arrive
When patients call to make an appointment, you can provide health and injury prevention tips if they are ever asked to “please hold.”

You can work with an outside company and record your own phone message. The on-hold message vendor will often require a text script and will voice-over your message.

  • When writing the script, be sure to include your office hours and timely tips on injury prevention.
  • Mention your practice’s Web site address or specify the AAOS patient education Web site at orthoinfo.org so patients can research their conditions.
  • Change the message regularly. For example, during the fall, you may want to provide lawnmower safety tips or back-to-school sports injury prevention tips for football, cheerleading, or soccer.
  • Sample tips and background information on any orthopaedic topic for your audio script can be found at orthoinfo.org

Or you can post one of the Academy’s 60-second audio public service announcements on your phone system. Prerecorded announcements are available on a variety of subjects from fall prevention to osteoarthritis. You can download and save topics at www.aaos.org/prresources

In your office
Even in the best-run office, patients may have to wait before entering the exam room. Place free AAOS materials—including print ads, easel-backed posters, and bookmarks—around your office to educate and inform them about orthopaedic topics. This material can often be a springboard to further conversation between you and the patient.

Brochure and bookmarks—Current bookmarks include Osteoporosis Prevention for Adults and Children and Patient Safety is No Accident. The brochure, Orthopaedic Surgeons: Who Are They and What Do They Do?, and the bookmarks are great resources for your office and as pass-outs for speaking engagements and community health fairs.

Coffee-table books—Several publications are available for your reception areas and speaking engagements. Moving Stories: Seventy-five Years of Orthopaedic Surgery, eMotion Pictures: An Exhibition of Orthopaedics in Art, and Wounded in Action: An Art Exhibition of Orthopaedic Advancements are beautiful soft-cover, full-color books produced by the AAOS to honor the orthopaedic surgeons and specialty of orthopaedics.

Boney Ben and Muscle Molly—These two engaging images, available in both poster and postcard formats, were created in partnership with the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America to educate patients as well as elementary school-age children about their bones and muscles. If you treat children or plan to speak at an elementary school about bones and muscles, these are great hand-outs.

Prescription pads—These are good for more than just prescriptions. Patients can take notes while in the exam room with you. The pads have links to AAOS-sponsored patient education Web sites where patients can find accurate, unbiased, detailed information: orthoinfo.org and saveyourknees.org

Public service advertisements—The AAOS public service advertising (PSA) campaign is 10 years old. Each year, television, radio, print, and airport ads are distributed to media outlets and airports nationwide. Posters and postcards (many in Spanish) are available for your use. Radio CDs and television DVDs also are available. The following topics are among those covered: scoliosis, texting while driving, playground safety, falls prevention, joint replacement, osteoporosis prevention, sign your site, back pain, all-terrain vehicle safety, bone health, patient-physician communication, obesity and exercise, and youth sports safety.

Best of all, these materials are available for free…you pay only the shipping costs. Download an order form at www.aaos.org/prresources

Use them every day
Here are some ways to use the postcards, posters, or easel-backs in your practice:

  • Frame the posters and hang them in your patient reception area, pin them on bulletin boards, or hang them in exam rooms.
  • Distribute postcards at public events, your local library, veterans’ office, senior centers, schools, merchants, health clubs, day care centers, health fairs, or other community events.
  • Use the postcards as appointment reminders, direct mail pieces, or handouts to patients.
    Each card has space for your practice information. Add musculoskeletal-related tips from orthoinfo.org to make them even more informative.
  • Mail the postcards as thank-you notes or send them to media after an interview with a brief follow-up note.
  • Send the postcards or posters along with a personal note to your state legislators or local officials to educate them about issues relating to orthopaedics.
  • Distribute postcards to other healthcare providers at your clinic, hospital, or university.
  • Set up easel-backs in your waiting areas or on tables throughout your office.

How does it work for you?
We want to know how you are using AAOS public relations materials. Are you already finding success with PSAs, brochures, or prescription pads in your office? Do you have an idea for public education that the AAOS does not currently provide? Voice your opinion and tell your story to

Michael F. Schafer, MD, chairs the AAOS Communications Cabinet. He can be reached at mfschafer@nmff.org