Most people will research their condition and treatment options before visiting a surgeon. Centers can educate potential patients about their medical issue and attract them to learn more through video marketing. “Typically, what serves best in the video is a patient’s story,” says Cheryl Zapata, chief development officer for Texas Back Institute in Plano, TX. “They are not testimonials.”

According to Zapata, patient testimonials focus on the surgeon or center. These include lavish praise about the experience. Patient stories focus on an experience with debilitating pain or disease before transitioning into the surgical solution.

“These videos are compelling for another patient who may have the same condition or need that same kind of treatment,” Zapata offers. “It helps encourage [potential patients] and helps them understand that where they are today, that they can get some help.”

The video lengths average around 3.5 minutes, with none running longer than 4.5 minutes. There is one patient story per video.

“We want people to see somebody who has a compelling story,” Zapata explains. “This could be anything from ‘I couldn’t lift my children in the past, but now I can,’ to ‘I used to ride horses, and then I couldn’t, and now I can.’”

One recent patient story video featured a man who struggled with day-to-day moving around his ranch. He told his story, with the ranch in the background, and spoke about how surgery changed his life, returning him to regular daily activities.

Zapata reports Texas Back Institute typically does not have to scout for stories because patients come to the institute about sharing. These patients say they are eager to encourage others to seek help.

The facility employs an in-house videographer who helps with creating videos and ensuring they receive views online. At first, the videographer filmed people at the clinic or hospital. Now, the videographer asks patients if the home or another meaningful place can serve as a filming background, such as the patient on his ranch.

After the video is edited and ready to be viewed, it is posted on YouTube and shared through social media, primarily Facebook. “We post videos on our website and sometimes send links out to patients, depending on what the video is about and who we are targeting,” Zapata says.

Everything posted on YouTube or Facebook is organic, and the organization does not pay to boost searches. “We have gotten very good at understanding what key words to use and how to change them,” Zapata says. “If we’re talking about low back pain, we say ‘back pain,’ ‘pain in the low back.’”

When someone creates a video to market their surgery center, they also should remember that people search for information differently when it is on a desktop computer vs. a mobile phone.

“When people are at their desktop, they search most for web pages about conditions and treatment,” Zapata says. “On the mobile device, they’re looking for a spine surgeon near them, and they usually speak their search request.” For example, a person will ask his or her phone to find a spine surgeon near their current location or to find a surgeon who handles a certain condition.

“The way you speak is very different than the way you type. When we’re doing something that is on mobile devices, we use long-term key words,” Zapata says.

On a desktop computer, a person will type the name of their problem and try to find information about it. These require two different ways of marketing. One is to put key words in a mobile search context that emphasize location for various types of surgeons. For desktop search, the key words would emphasize the disease, problem, or pain and potential surgical solutions and treatments.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Back released a safety video to help patients understand the facility. The video included information about safety precautions and how serious surgeons are about protecting patients’ health and wellness.

“We’ve decided to be more lighthearted about it because people were getting overloaded ... our chief executive officer, who is leading the safety video, and another [staff member], show everything we’re doing for safety,” Zapata says. “We get out the message that we’re here to take care of you, and it’s been well-received.”