President's Perspective September 2015
"What We've Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate."
Cool Hand Luke
Richard Derner, DPM, FACFAS
Every three years, ACFAS sends out two comprehensive surveys, one on our overall membership priorities and services and one on practice economics. From this data, the ACFAS Board of Directors reviews the results and adjusts both our Strategic and Business Plans to best meet your needs for the next three years. (In between, we conduct a significant survey on our CME priorities and programs, plus a variety of single-topic surveys as the needs arise.)
Contrary to many medical associations, we get a 30 percent response rate, which is enormous—and the survey data correlates almost perfectly with our entire membership. The data from all of these surveys is critical in determining several things.
In addition to the quantitative data, we also review the thousands of responses to written open-ended questions. Since the survey responses are anonymous, we cannot respond to specific questions or complaints, but I can assure you that we DO read all of the comments and also use this input to adjust our future plans.
One of the recurring themes I’ve noted from these surveys over the years is that ACFAS members have a perpetual thirst for us to educate the public, media, referring physicians/healthcare practitioners, and government on how we’re different from the non-surgical podiatrist and why our education, training and certification also differentiate us from general orthopaedic surgeons. Although ACFAS works diligently on its second highest strategic initiative, “Promoting the Profession,” with a plethora of PR programs, consumer education services, a dedicated consumer website, Marketing Toolbox and much more, our membership is asking for more—and we hear you!
That’s why in 2016 we will significantly increase our promotional efforts to educate not only the general public and media, but also MDs, APNs and other healthcare practitioners, on who we are, why they should see a foot and ankle surgeon and why other providers should refer their patients to ACFAS members. Even still, it made me wonder: Are we not communicating enough what the College does—even to its own members? I was surprised at how few members were even aware of FootHealthFacts.org, our iPad app for JFAS.org, our credit union or many other services despite our best efforts to promote the services and programs we offer. But, the lack of awareness about our work in “Promoting the Profession” surprised me the most.
I’ve been in practice for more than 25 years, and I also hear many of the same comments you hear, such as, “I didn’t know you did that,” or “You fix broken bones?” It seems that our audiences aren’t fully hearing us on what we do and who we are as foot and ankle surgeons. And even though very costly, I believe it is time to further step up to the plate and voice to the public who we are and what we do.
While I personally feel this is also one of APMA’s primary missions to educate the public, we can’t just point fingers at them and their failing efforts or rely solely on ACFAS. We all must do a better job in marketing our profession and how important we are in the healthcare world. This means you and me, on a doctor-by-doctor, neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Our efforts can, and will, help complement ACFAS’ PR pushes and build grassroots efforts to strengthen awareness.
Let’s all commit to speaking at local business groups, conducting pro bono foot care clinics at marathons or other public events and lecturing at meetings of other healthcare professions to educate all these audiences about who we are and what we do—better than anyone else. We all can take advantage of the free tools ACFAS offers in the Marketing Toolbox at acfas.org/marketing to help us promote ourselves and our profession. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done!