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Why you should be promoting national eye health observation holidays


Julie Gough-Nelson gives her advice on celebrating national health observances in your practice.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this debut blog by Julie Gough-Nelson, marketing director at Shepherd Eye Center in Las Vegas, NV. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of  Ophthalmology Times or UBM Advanstar.


National left-handers day and hot dog appreciation day, do you know when these are recognized? A quick Internet search and you’ll have a plethora of webpages at your fingertips devoted to the recognition of health, lifestyle, and even food observances.

Julie Gough-NelsonWith such readily available lists, it’s worth stepping back and taking a look at what you are doing in your practice to leverage health observances in your strategic marketing plan:

 1. Where can I find help?

There are many different avenues for obtaining listings of health observances. Health care companies (for-profit and nonprofit), insurance companies, government agencies, and blogs often make listings or calendars available on their websites. Check out healthline.com and cdc.gov, for example, for inclusive listings across the healthcare industry.

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For a more detailed look at implementing a health observance in your practice check out the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, healthfinder.gov, where you can access the “Tips for Promoting a National Health Observance” page that can guide your marketing plan.

Within this guide, HHS draws attention to the fact that National Health Observances or (NHO’s), “present an opportunity to educate the public, energize co-workers and community members, and promote healthy behaviors.” This approach points to the multi-faceted nature of promoting NHO’s. It is not enough to simply promote to your patients or potential patients, but you must also look for opportunities to get buy-in from all staff, while looking for ways to engage and partner with community organizations with common goals.

For more eye-specific health observances, the American Academy of Ophthalmology provides its’ own of list of health observances. Keywords within the list that are highlighted provide links to more information about these terms on AAO’s getsmart.org website.

Next: 2. Don't forget to set a budget


2. Don’t forget to set a budget

We all wish we had more money and resources in order to execute our marketing plans. But the truth is, we all operate with finite means wherewith to spread the message. Take the time to sit down and re-evaluate the budget. Perhaps something that you are already spending money on, or a cause you are contributing to, can be used to also further the NHO.

Pearls for a successful start to your ophthalmic career

Look for opportunities that give you the best value for the money. For example, we are always looking for ways to increase the referral business for our pediatric ophthalmologist. Early in the spring, we made a charitable donation to the local YMCA. The money was to be used as scholarship money for children wanting to attend summer camp. The funds also paid for logo space on the camp T-shirt and a banner was raised at our choice of YMCA in the area. The practice was also given free booth space at a youth programs fair on a Saturday. Additionally, after a media opportunity fell through due to a scheduling conflict, we found ourselves with two television interview spots to fill. What better way to fill one of those than to highlight the pediatric ophthalmologist by having him highlight Children’s Eye Health/Safety Month and the importance of back to school eye exams to local television viewers.

Next: 3. How do I spread the word?


3. How do I spread the word?

Once you’ve identified the observances you wish to draw attention to, and the budget constraints, the next step is to decide where you will be sharing the message.

While you want widespread attention on the NHO, you want to make sure that the correct audience is seeing your message. Some channels may lend themselves more to one observance than another. Some channels may have an audience more familiar with and with more loyalty to the observance than another.

Make sure and do your homework about the demographics of your audience for any message channel you are exploring.

Next: 4. Social media as a tool


4. Social media as a tool

Social media has increased our ability to reach our target market faster and with more personalized messages.

Many of you would probably agree that you cannot go a day on a social media channel without seeing some mention of an NHO. With such a captive audience of social media users perusing the latest information, it makes sense as health marketers to capitalize on the trend and use it for the benefit of your ophthalmology practice.

Combatting UPP at the source

Again, look for ways to use plans and campaigns you have already implemented in order to spread the word about the NHO. For example, maybe you already have “Thank you Thursday.” This day might be a perfect opportunity for you to highlight a positive patient comment about your pediatric ophthalmologist from a happy mom’s perspective.

If one day is devoted to Q&A, let that be the guide for sharing information about common childhood eye conditions that will tie back in to children’s eye health month.

Don’t forget the power of mentioning the sources of your information, other organizations with interest in the observance, or keywords that potential viewers might be searching for within your posts and shares. You never know when a company or individual might share your information with their sphere of influence and gain your practice an even larger following. 

Next: 5. Internal marketing efforts


5. Internal marketing efforts

Initiatives don’t have to be exclusive to social media. Look for opportunities inside the office. Create interesting flyers that will elicit questions from patients about the health observation month and place them in throughout the waiting areas. Make sure that all employees are aware of the observance so they are ready to answer questions that may arise. Standardize the answers, and of course, make sure they have some call to action at the end of the answer, for example, “For more information you can go to our website and read all about this condition.”

Spreading the message throughout various office display areas will also ensure multiple exposures to the message throughout a patient’s visit.

Next: Traditional media


6. Traditional media

Not to be overlooked is traditional external media communication. It can be a challenge to get a foot in the door for free interview space on television or radio. But making sure your pitch is timely can help.

News entities will always want to know “why now?” “Why are you pitching me that story now?”  Tie the health observation month into something newsworthy with the practice. Suddenly, the practice has become a potential expert on the health topic that can lend credibility to a news segment. Chances are, as word of the practice’s expertise travels within the community, the media will come to the practice asking for an expert to weigh in on whatever health topic they are looking to cover in a news story.

You won’t have to look for opportunities to share your message, but your memorable television or radio interview, or compelling story on social media, will have the media seeking you when a health observation is pitched for a story, and patients will be better educated by having seen the message across multiple channels. 

National Health Observances provide a way to draw attention to common eye health issues while allowing the practice to showcase its expertise in the health care field while also promoting awareness. Whether it’s internal marketing, traditional media advertising or an online social media presence, your practice can benefit by having a multi-faceted approach to promoting NHO’s within the strategic marketing plan.


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