Still Shopping For Spare Parts (Or, Physician: Market Thyself)

A knee replacement at 55? Get in line. We hear a lot about the rising popularity of “spare parts,” namely joint replacements, among Boomers. Indeed, as this generation ages and the national obesity rate reaches a whopping 33%, the number of joint-replacement surgeries is growing fast, and certain to keep growing.

Knee replacements, for example, are expected to jump by more than 600% by 2030, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the greatest uptick in surgeries will be seen for patients younger than 60. And although the number of knee and hip replacements now tops one million, less common procedures like shoulder and ankle replacements are also increasing at a rapid rate because of the aging population and advances in technology. Improvements in surgical techniques and personalized implants have also attracted younger patients, who have come to expect that they can continue their favorite activities — free of pain — indefinitely.

On the marketing front, technology has helped Boomers become much more empowered, informed and educated (some surgeons even report patients asking questions regarding sex after joint replacements). Call it “healthcare consumerism.” It’s no surprise, then, that they’re more engrossed than ever in managing their own health, and are likely to consult a network of friends, family, peers and others who have experienced the same situation for informed opinions on diagnoses and treatments.

For those weighing a joint replacement, that means finding a doctor, comparing educational materials, understanding their options, and learning what to expect from their surgery. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around, and self-diagnosis is becoming all too common.

Now that these procedures are considered commonplace, joint replacement has almost become a commodity, opening up a world of possibilities for surgeons, practices, hospitals, or medical device companies wanting to stand out in the crowd.

Healthcare leadership is constantly juggling urgent, important needs, and there simply isn’t enough time in the day. From an operational and marketing perspective, it’s one thing to be aware of demographic trends, and it’s quite another to have proactive plans and strategies in place to respond to those trends.

That being said, there are many options besides the standard brochures, informative seminars and product samples. For healthcare professionals, we recommend utilizing social media programs to interact with current and potential patients, developing online learning tools or mobile content, and stocking waiting rooms with information-packed iPads. Medical device companies could also be encouraged to create smartphone or tablet apps that not only get the doctors on board before consumers are targeted, but also focus on Boomers and their concerns.

The result? Boomer clients will have renewed confidence in your surgical skills, the product or service they’ll receive, and/or your facility. Best of all, they’ll feel empowered because they’ve had an informed part in their “new addition.”

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