Fig. 2 AAOS public service announcements are available as posters and postcards at no cost to members.


Published 12/1/2014
Alan S. Hilibrand, MD

Jump-Start Your Public Relations in the New Year

Enhance patient interactions and your communications skills

As 2014 draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect on the past year and think about areas that we, as orthopaedic surgeons, can improve upon when it comes to delivering the highest quality care to patients. What we communicate and how we interact with our patients are just as important as the overall treatment we provide.

Communication skills—verbal as well as nonverbal—are important in the patient/physician relationship for both understanding and building trust. Improved patient and physician satisfaction, better adherence to treatments, and improved clinical outcomes have all been reported with better communication.

Here are five ways you can enhance your communication and public relations efforts, using free member benefits and opportunities from the AAOS.

Real-life viewpoints
Patients always appreciate the opportunity to connect with other patients when it comes to making a decision about orthopaedic care and treatment. Encourage at least one patient to visit to read about some real patients who had a variety of surgical and nonsurgical orthopaedic treatments. With nearly 700 patient stories, the site is a resource for patients who are searching for real-life perspectives. If you have a computer in your office, you and the patient can walk through the website together.

While you are on the A Nation in Motion® website, don’t forget to share any Ortho-pinions you’ve written and to show patients your own SurgeonStory. They will appreciate learning more about you and your dedication to orthopaedics.

On Twitter, the pound sign (# or hash) turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. Encourage patients to share their orthopaedic experiences using the hashtag #SecondFirst

Why #SecondFirst? Because the first time your patients can get back to doing the things they love—biking after a femur fracture or weight lifting after rotator cuff repair, for example—it’s a big milestone, something we’re calling a “Second First.”

A Second First can be any activity a patient can do again after orthopaedic care. Maybe it’s a teenage athlete who can get back on the field after an ACL repair and play in the big game. Or it could be the grandmother who can pick up her grandchild again after successful treatment to alleviate her shoulder pain. Stories like these are emotional, monumental, meaningful, and inspiring.

We all have treated these patients, and we can encourage them to can use their experience to help others. Social media is a great way for patients to share their experiences. Encourage these patients to use the hashtag #SecondFirst and talk about what they can do now that they couldn’t do before. This can empower others who also might be fighting for their mobility.

Muscle Molly and Boney Ben
Plan a visit to a nearby elementary school and talk with the students about the human skeletal frame and the importance of bone and joint health. Point out various bones and muscles that make up the body, and talk about how important it is to build strong bones in childhood. Suggest they make frequent ‘deposits’ of calcium and vitamin D to their bone banks. AAOS has postcards (
Fig. 1) or posters you can use in this presentation or as leave-behinds for the group.

More free materials
Each year, the Academy creates and distributes positive messages about bone and joint health through its public service advertising campaign (Fig. 2). These ads are placed in high-traffic areas, such as airports, bus shelters, billboards, and shopping malls across the country. This past year, our print ads focused on distracted driving, falls prevention, patient safety, and scoliosis awareness.

In addition, the AAOS reproduces these images as posters and postcards and makes them available to members at no cost. If you would like free posters and postcards for your office walls, reception area, or other patient zones, please email before Jan. 1, 2015. We soon will be revealing next year’s campaign and taking orders for the 2015 campaign, so stay tuned.

Submit your opinion and ideas
As you look to the New Year, please be our eyes and ears for orthopaedic news. What is trending with your patients? What injuries do you see, and might you have an opinion to share with the general public? Submit bone and joint health topics that can be used in proposing stories for the media or social media discussions. Email with your ideas, or submit an Ortho-pinion at

I challenge each AAOS member to select and improve at least one area of communication in 2015. It might be public speaking or patient education, media relations or public awareness. If each of us becomes a better communicator, then collectively, we not only will shed light on our profession and help our present and future patients make healthcare decisions, but also highlight the value that we as orthopaedic surgeons bring to society.

Alan S. Hilibrand, MD, chairs the AAOS Communications Cabinet.