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8th Combined Meeting Of Orthopaedic Research Societies (CORS)


Summary Statement

The purpose is to evaluate the effects of internet usage on new patient referral patterns to identify optimal patient recruitment and communication. Overall, social networking and internet may be an effective way for surgeons to recruit a wider patient population.


Prior studies in other medical specialties have shown that social networking and internet usage has become an increasingly important means of patient communication and referral. However, this information is lacking in the orthopaedics literature. In this study, we evaluate the means by which new patients arrive at orthopaedic clinics in a major academic center. The purpose is to evaluate the effects of internet or social media usage on new patient referral patterns to identify avenues to optimise patient recruitment and communication.

Patients and Methods

New patients were recruited in a major academic orthopaedic clinic to complete a 15-item questionnaire with demographic information, social media use/networking and referral method. Data was collected for all orthopaedic sub-specialties and analyzed accordingly. Statistical analysis was performed.


Of the 752 responses, there were 66% female and 34% male responses. Responses were obtained from hand (142), sports medicine (303), foot and ankle (129), joints/tumor (95) and trauma (83) services. Overall, 51% report using social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Of the patients that report not using social network sites, 92% are over the age of 40. Joints/tumor patients most commonly had seen another orthopaedic surgeon prior to their visit (59%) and had prior surgery (42%). Most patients traveled under 60 miles and were referred by their primary care physicians. Between 18–26% of all patients used a physician review website before consultation. The majority of the patients prefer communicating with their physician via the phone(68%) compared to email(32%). Independent associations found that sports medicine patients tend to be higher social networking users (35.9%) relative to other services (9.8–17.9%) and was statistically higher when compared to the joints/tumor service (P<.0001). The multivariate logistic regression model showed that the sports service was generally more likely to have social networking users with the exception of the foot/ankle service), however these differences were not statistically significant. The biggest indicator predicting social media usage in the orthopaedic population was age. The older the patient population, the less likely patients will use social networking sites. Non-doctorate patients were more likely to be social media users compared to doctorate level individuals, but was not statistically significant. Patients that lived from 120 to 180 miles from the hospital were significantly more likely to be social media users, as were patients that did research on their condition prior to their new patient appointment.

Discussion and Conclusion

Orthopaedic patients who use social media are more likely to be younger, research their condition prior to their appointment and undergo an average day's travel (120–180 miles) to see a physician. Up to 26% of all patients have seen or used a physician review site prior to their visit. Despite the increased social media usage, most orthopaedic patients still prefer telephone communication with their physicians. Overall, social networking and internet may be an effective way for surgeons to recruit a wider patient population. In an increasingly competitive market, surgeons with younger patient populations (Sports Medicine) will need to utilise social networking and the internet to capture new patient referrals.