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  • 1. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comLESS IS BECOMING MORE: Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery ForDegenerative Disc Disease (DDD)Treating severe back pain with spinal fusion surgery once meant significant post-operative pain andscarring, several days in the hospital and a long recovery.Now minimally invasive techniques that are used for other surgeries, including knees to gallbladders arenow being increasingly used on the spine. Surgeons at your hospital have taken an old operation, spinalfusion surgery, and made it new. The more than 400,000 people who have spinal fusion surgery eachyear in the U.S. now have a minimally invasive option that can result in less post-operative pain, lessscarring and quicker recovery.This is an important story to tell because only about 5 percent of spinal fusion surgery is done usingminimally invasive techniques! This is changing and surgeons at your hospital are helping to usher in anew era of back and spine surgery.Materials for media outreach are provided in template form so that you can customize the pieces toreflect the unique perspectives and experiences of your surgeons and patients.The following components are included: • Telling and building the minimally invasive spine surgery story • Customizable press release, pitch letter, media advisory • Minimally invasive spine surgery and back pain fact sheets • Suggested reporter questions • List of back pain medical organizations and glossary • B-Roll; PhotosThe minimally invasive spine surgery story has yet to be told. Here are the tools to help you tell it! -1-
  • 2. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comTELLING THE MINIMALLY INVASIVE BACK SURGERY STORYMany institutions, companies and individuals constantly battle for media attention. Some will get it, mostwill not. So, how do you get your story about minimally invasive spine surgery to spark the interest of areporter who has hundreds of medical stories to choose from each month? How do you tell the story in away that provides accurate and responsible information? How do you tailor the story to the reporter’sneeds?This section discusses ways to approach local media about the minimally invasive spine surgery story.From making initial contact to preparing for an interview and follow-up, it explores ways to work with themedia to obtain coverage.Discussion topics include: • The Media Sensibility • Media Selection • Selecting Spokespersons • Preparing for Media Interviews • Pitching the Media • Media Follow Up -2-
  • 3. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comTHE MEDIA SENSIBILITYThe media is always looking for great stories. However, there are several story elements they typicallylook for prior to deciding on whether to cover your story. When pitching the media about minimallyinvasive spine surgery, the following fundamental questions will always come up:Is it new?The minimally invasive surgery revolution has finally come to the back and spine! While minimallyinvasive surgery is used frequently in surgeries such as knees and gallbladders, only 5 percent of backsurgery is performed using minimally invasive techniques. Advances in technology and technique havenow made minimally invasive spine surgery more available than ever before and as a result patients areexperiencing less post-operative pain and getting back on their feet much quicker.What makes it compelling? Why is it important?Several factors make this story compelling, including: • Back surgery is not what it used to be; the back and spine are now part of the minimally invasive surgery revolution and pioneering surgeons (yours!) are ushering in a new era of back and spine surgery • Minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery patients typically experience less post-operative pain, less scarring and recover more quickly from surgery that traditional spine surgery patients • More than 400,000 back pain sufferers in the U.S. have spinal fusion surgery every year • The differences between minimally invasive spine surgery and traditional surgery arcan be dramatic • More than 65 million Americans experience low back pain every year • Your surgeons are leaders in spine surgery and have patients with dramatic stories of life before and after back pain and minimally invasive spine surgeryWhy cover it now?The media in your area should cover it now because your institution considers severe back pain to be asignificant health issue in the community and most people have no idea what’s involved in back surgeryor have misconceptions. They also need to know that they have surgeons in their community who are atthe forefront of the minimally invasive spine surgery revolution.Who else is doing it?Be aware of other institutions in your area performing minimally invasive spine surgery. However, beable to differentiate what your hospital or practice uniquely brings to the field and what you can uniquelyoffer the news media.Has this story been covered before? -3-
  • 4. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comPlease review past media coverage to determine if media in your area has covered this story before. Ifthey have, you need to figure out an angle of the story that they haven’t covered. If they have not, youhave a great story to tell them. -4-
  • 5. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comMEDIA SELECTION: TV, RADIO OR PRINT?While the media generally welcomes health and medical story ideas, television, radio and print reportershave different approaches and perspectives that make the story right or wrong for them and theiraudiences.TELEVISIONWhat are the visual elements to the minimally invasive spine surgery story?Here are a few: • Back pain sufferers whose professional, home and social life is limited by their pain • The ways back pain sufferers deal with their pain from physical therapy to chiropractics to prescription medications and steroids • The actual minimally invasive spine surgery and traditional spine surgery procedures • The physical activity of patients who have had surgery and recovered; images of playing golf, tennis and family life, depending on the patient • Animation of minimally invasive surgery • A model of the spineWhen pitching a television reporter, vividly describe the kinds of pictures that can be made available tohim or her.For instance, you can make special arrangements for a reporter to bring a video camera inside theoperating room during a spinal fusion surgery. Of course, patient permission and hospital clearancesmust be obtained prior to surgery.TV REPORTER IN THE OR FOR SURGERYIf permission is granted, brief the reporter on what they can and cannot do in the operating room,including the limited or non-use of lights, not showing the patient’s face and staying outside the sterilefield. In addition, describe what the reporter and crew can expect to see during the operation so theyare mentally prepared for viewing surgical incisions, blood and the operating room environment.Arrange a time before the surgery for the reporter to talk to the surgeon. During an interview, yoursurgeon can provide a description of how the surgery will be performed and identify key moments in thesurgery. Additionally, an interview prior will help establish a rapport between the surgeon and thereporter so things run smoothly once inside the operating room.Also arrange for the reporter to talk to a patient who has already had a minimally invasive spine surgeryprocedure. This patient can provide real-life insights about their own experience and provide context to areporter who may underestimate the severity of back pain and what drove the patient’s decision to haveminimally invasive surgery. If agreeable to the patient, a television crew can interview the patient at his/her home or at the hospital. -5-
  • 6. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comAnother option for a reporter is to follow a patient before, during and after surgery. The patient must bewilling to allow a camera crew to follow them through their daily activities and struggles with back painand then for several weeks after the surgery.Offer television reporters B-Roll. We have provided B-Roll for your use. It contains broadcastquality video and animation of how minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery is performed and x-rayimages of people with degenerative disc disease (DDD). This tape can supplement what the reportershoots or in some cases, replace it, if the reporter cannot go into the operating room.PRINTPrint reporters generally cover health stories in more depth than radio and television reporters. Providethem with comprehensive information and references about minimally invasive spine – most of which isincluded in this guide. You may also want to provide them with studies about minimally invasive spinesurgery that your surgeon may have.RADIOMost radio stations throughout the country do not have a reporter dedicated exclusively to medicalstories. In many cases however, there are opportunities to get medical stories covered through othermeans. If you can get the news director or assignment editor interested in the story, he or she willassign it to a general assignment reporter.Additionally, many radio stations have public affairs and community service programs that welcome guestexperts like your doctor. You need to convince the station that your doctor can maintain a listener’sinterest for the length of the program and is well-spoken and articulate who can not only discussminimally invasive spinal fusion surgery but other back pain related issues such as avoiding back pain orwhat to do if your back hurts.Provide the station with the list of suggested reporter questions to show the range of questions theycan pose to the doctor and patient. -6-
  • 7. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comSELECTING SPOKESPERSONS – INVOLVING THE SURGEON &PATIENTThe surgeon spokesperson chosen for the media relations campaign will become the “face” of yourinstitution. The surgeon should be comfortable speaking to the media in layman’s terms and should bereminded to use non-technical, patient-friendly language, as they would with patients and their families.It is important to conduct your own interview with the surgeon to hear how they discuss the topic. To bemost effective, the surgeon should deliver a focused and balanced message about issues related tosevere back pain and minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery and how and why this surgery is starting toemerge in back surgery.To ensure a great interview with the surgeon, consider the following: • Has the surgeon carefully reviewed the information you have provided to the reporter and are their views consistent with the material? • Are you in agreement on the key messages of the story? • Is the surgeon familiar with key statistics regarding back pain and its conditions? • Is the surgeon familiar with how you characterize the hospital and expertise to the community? • Have the surgeon done media interviews before? • Does the surgeon know what to expect from media interviews? • How doe he/she feel about the media? • Does he/she need media training? -7-
  • 8. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comENGAGE THE PATIENTChoose patient-spokespersons carefully. The patient is being asked to discuss his/her personalexperience suffering from back pain, their treatment and recovery. Determine if the patient iscomfortable relating his/her story and that he/she remembers important details of the experience. If yousense the patient is reluctant in any way, identify another patient. If the patient is nervous or awkwardtalking to you about his/her experience, chances are he/she will be even more uncomfortable with areporter.To ensure a great interview with the patient, consider the following: • Can he/she clearly articulate the kind of surgery he/she had? • Can he/she clearly discuss the back pain they experienced prior to surgery? • What types of non-surgical treatments were tried prior to surgery? • What led to the decision to have minimally invasive spine surgery? • How did he/she find out they had an option to traditional spinal fusion? • Was the back pain resolved after the procedure? Is he/she satisfied with the procedure? • What was recovery like? How long before he/she returned to normal activities? • Was it a positive experience with the hospital overall? • Did the patient have problems with insurance or payment? • Is the patient comfortable allowing a television crew to videotape them at home or at work? • Is he/she comfortable with the public knowing about the surgery? • What advice would he/she give other patients? • How does this person feel about the media? • Why is he/she motivated to tell his/her story to the media?Note: Once a patient-spokesperson is chosen, he or she should sign a release from, enabling any footageor quotes to be used by the media. -8-
  • 9. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comPREPARING FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWSOnce spokespersons are selected, prepare them for media interviews. Keep the following in mind prior tothe interview: • Prior to the interview, get as much information from the reporter as possible. The reporter may be willing to share some of his/her questions with you. • What angle will the reporter take? • How much time do they anticipate is needed from the physician and the patient? • Where will the interview take place and in what kind of setting? • What medical stories has the reporter covered in the past? • Has the reporter interviewed other doctors at your institution? • Is the reporter interviewing anyone else for the story?Knowing these details in advance will help you prepare your spokespersons appropriately. -9-
  • 10. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comPITCHING THE MEDIAThe Initial Telephone PitchMost reporters will decide if they want to cover the minimally invasive spine surgery story within the firstminute or so. You must be able to articulate the essence of your story within the first minute of the call.If you can get them interested in less than a minute, they will listen further or schedule time later to getmore information.Grab Them with Key Points! • Back surgery isn’t what it used to be • The minimally invasive surgery revolution has hit the back – less is more • Patients are experiencing less pain, less scarring, quicker recovery • Back pain is a huge issue in America and in your city (supplement the material in this guide with statistics from your community) • Briefly describe your patient (before and after surgery)Follow up with a pitch letter or media alert and reference your telephone discussion. Also, include thepress release and fact sheets in your correspondence for additional background. However, be carefulnot to overwhelm the reporter. Base the information you send them on your telephone conversation.The discussion on the phone increases the likelihood that the reporter will be receptive to the informationyou send. If you have not heard back from the reporter in a few days, call them back to follow up andkeep the story top of mind.Maintain Contact: Minimally invasive spine surgery is not necessarily a “breaking news story” so youmay not be able to get reporters to do the story on the first, second or even third phone call. However,keep in contact with them on an intermittent basis to maintain a good working relationship and to keepthe story a priority. -10-
  • 11. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comMEDIA FOLLOW UPFollow up with the reporter after the interview to get a sense of where the reporter is going with thestory and to clarify any issues. Discuss the story further and provide any additional information.Reiterate the key messages to further ensure the reporter took away from the interviews what you hopethey did. Get a sense of timing as to when the story will appear so you can alert spokespersons andhospital staff to be prepared for inquiries from the public.Once the story airs or is published, review it for fairness and accuracy. Analyze the story to determine ifappropriate expectations for the procedure were set, if any information or key points were missing and ifthe story accomplished your public health goals. If there are any deficiencies or factual errors with thestory, contact the reporter and offer clarification. If the story was done fairly and accurately, commendthe reporter for his/her work. Over time, you may also inform the reporter of the impact their story hadon patients. ### -11-
  • 12. Public Relations for MIS MINIMALLY INVASIVESPINE SURGERY PRESS MATERIALS Sample Press Release Sample Pitch Letter Sample Media Alert Fact Sheet Suggested Reporter Questions -12-
  • 13. Public Relations for MIS ON YOUR LETTERHEAD SAMPLE PRESS RELEASEFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (((PR CONTACT NAME))) (((PHONE NUMBER))) MINIMALLY INVASIVE TECHNIQUES CAN REDUCE PAIN AND QUICKEN RECOVERY AFTER BACK SURGERY(((INSERT NAME OF YOUR CITY))) – (((DATE))) – About 400,000 people undergospinal fusion surgery every year for severe back pain and for most of them that meanssignificant post-operative pain, days in the hospital, and several weeks or months ofrecovery. Surgeons at (((NAME OF INSTITUTION))) are trying to change that. They arenow bringing the techniques of minimally invasive surgery that have been used sosuccessfully in other surgeries like knees and gallbladders to the back and spine.Experience so far suggests that, as a result, patients are leaving the hospital sooner,experiencing less pain and scarring, and recovering more quickly compared totraditional open surgery. “Minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery is easier on the patient and seems tobe as effective in relieving back pain as traditional spinal fusion surgery,” said (((NAMEOF DOCTOR, TITLE))). “As more patients become familiar with the minimally invasiveoption, more are likely to get it done.” Currently, only about 5 percent of the spinal fusion surgeries in the U.S. areperformed using minimally invasive techniques. In minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery the entire operation is performedthrough three small incisions (a single 1½-inch on one side and two ½-inch incisions onthe other), rather than the single 4- to 6-inch incision made in the middle of the back intraditional surgery. “We are doing the same thing as in traditional spinal fusion surgery, but ratherthan make one large incision, we make three small ones which results in less trauma tothe back and surrounding muscles,” said Dr. (((LAST NAME))). “These smaller incisionscan lead to shorter hospital stays, less scarring and quicker recovery times.” -more- -13-
  • 14. Public Relations for MIS -2- Rather than cut muscle to get to the spine as in traditional surgery, surgeonsmove muscles aside and create a passageway for a tube through which the damageddisc(s) can be removed. A bone graft is then placed into the disc space through thetube and metal screws and rods are placed on each side of the graft to secure it. X-rays are used throughout the procedure to insure accurate placement. The incisionsare covered with an adhesive bandage. Over a period of weeks and months, the graftfuses with the surrounding vertebrae to provide structural support and stability torelieve pain. Patients who have traditional spinal fusion surgery are usually in the hospitalabout 3 to 4 days and may return to work within 4 to 6 weeks. Recovery from moreextensive surgery may take as long as 4 to 6 months. Minimally invasive spine surgerypatients usually recover more quickly. Dr. (((LAST NAME)))’s patient, (((NAME OF PATIENT, AGE))) recently hadminimally invasive spinal fusion surgery after years of trying to deal with (((HIS/HER)))back pain with prescription painkillers and physical therapy. (((CUSTOMIZE WITHACTUAL PATIENT INFORMATION))) “On a scale of 1 to10, my pain was a 9 or 10 every day, still, I was scared tohave spinal fusion surgery because I thought it would be painful and take a long time torecover from,” said (((SAMPLE QUOTE FROM NAME OF PATIENT))). (((HE/SHE))) had minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery on a Wednesday, wasout of the hospital on Friday and was walking around within a week (((INSERT ACTUALPATIENT INFORMATION))). The spinal fusion alleviated (((HIS/HER))) pain and now(((HE/SHE))) has returned to work and is enjoying an active life. Spinal fusion surgery is not for everyone. The risks associated with spinal fusionsurgery vary depending on age, health status, diagnosis and type of procedure. Risksinclude pain, failure to fuse, blood clots, nerve injury and infection. Patientsconsidering surgery should weigh the risks and benefits of the procedure with theirsurgeon. About 65 million Americans suffer from low back pain every year, according tothe American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). Americans spend about$50 billion each year on low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disabilityand lost work days. More than 12 million people have degenerative disc disease (DDD). -more- -14-
  • 16. Public Relations for MIS ON YOUR LETTERHEAD SAMPLE PITCH LETTER(((DATE)))(((TITLE)))(((MEDIA OUTLET)))(((ADDRESS)))(((CITY, STATE ZIP)))Dear (((INSERT NAME))):As we discussed today, minimally invasive surgery is now increasingly available for backproblems, including the most common, degenerative disc disease, the cause of debilitatingback pain.For more than 400,000 people in the U.S., the pain is so severe that they have spinal fusionsurgery to get some relief. Spinal fusion surgery does relieve the pain, but recovery from thesurgery itself can be painful, leading to scarring, several days in the hospital and months ofrecovery.Fortunately, minimally invasive spine surgery has taken an old operation, spinal fusion, andmade it new. Surgeons at (((INSERT YOUR INSTITUTION))) are leading the way in (((NAMEOF CITY))) to take some of the pain and recovery time out of back surgery.(((INSERT NAME OF DOCTOR))), MD, is a leading (((SPINE/ORTHOPEDIC))) surgeon offeringminimally invasive spinal fusion. (((HE/SHE))) can explain:• Who is an appropriate candidate for spinal fusion surgery• Why only 5% of spinal fusion surgery is done using minimally invasive techniques• Benefits and risks of minimally invasive spine surgery compared to traditional surgery• What to do if a person thinks they may need surgery• How to prevent back pain• The latest in back surgery -16-
  • 17. Public Relations for MIS www.spinepracticetoolbox.comAdditionally, we have many patients who suffered with back pain for years before deciding tohave surgery. They can share their experiences with the pain and minimally invasive spinesurgery.We can provide B-roll containing surgery footage and animation of the procedure.(((FOR BROADCAST MEDIA ONLY)))I will call you in a few days to discuss your interest in pursuing this story. Or, feel freeto call me at (((INSERT PR CONTACT PHONE NUMBER))).Sincerely,(((NAME OF PR CONTACT, PHONE NUMBER))) -17-
  • 18. Public Relations for MIS ON YOUR LETTERHEAD SAMPLE MEDIA ALERT THE NEW BACK SURGERY – PATIENTS ON THEIR FEET QUICKER, FEELING LESS PAIN AFTER MINIMALLY INVASIVE OPERATIONTHE STORY: Treating severe back pain with traditional surgery once meant significant post-operative pain and scarring, several days in the hospital, and a lengthy recovery Now minimally invasive techniques that are used in surgeries like knees and gallbladders are now being increasingly used on the spine. Rather than make the 4 – 6-inch incision required in traditional surgery, surgeons make three small skin incisions in the back to relieve pain from damaged spinal discs. The result can be – less post-operative pain, less scarring and quicker recovery. Recovery from traditional surgery can take months. With minimally invasive surgery, people typically recover in weeksWHY: More than 400,000 spinal fusion operations performed each year in the U.S. Currently, only 5 percent are done using minimally invasive techniques back pain is one of the most common health problems facing AmericansWHO: (((INSERT NAME OF DOCTOR)) and (((XX)))-year-old back pain sufferer who had minimally invasive surgeryWHERE: (((INSERT NAME OF INSTITUTION))) (((ADDRESS)))SPECIAL: B-Roll is available; possible to observe/tape a live procedureCONTACT: (((INSERT PR CONTACT INFO))) ### -18-
  • 19. Public Relations for MIS ON YOUR LETTERHEAD CONTACT:FACT SHEET MINIMALLY INVASIVE SPINAL FUSION SURGERYOverview • Less invasive method to attach two or more vertebrae to help stabilize the spine and reduce back pain • More than 400,000 traditional spinal fusion surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year; only 5 percent are done using minimally invasive techniques • Used to treat painful degenerative disc disease and to help stabilize the spineMinimally Invasive Spine Surgery: How Performed• Surgeons create three small incisions (a single 1½-inch on one side of the back and two ½-inch incisions on the other) to insert a tube and surgical instruments• The tube creates a passageway to the damaged disc(s) for its removal and replacement with bone graft• Surgeons place metal screws and rods on each side of the graft to provide stability• After procedure is completed, incisions are covered with adhesive bandage• Graft promotes fusion with the surrounding vertebrae to form one bone• Back pain is alleviated for most patientsBenefits • Minimally invasive alternative to traditional spinal fusion surgery that can result in less post-operative pain, scarring, hospitalization and recovery • Requires only three small incisions versus a long 4- to 6-inch incision as in traditional surgery • Patient recovery is generally quicker than that associated with traditional spinal fusion surgery ### -19-
  • 20. Public Relations for MIS ON YOUR LETTERHEAD CONTACT: (((HOSPITAL PR CONTACT))) (((PHONE NUMBER))) SUGGESTED REPORTER QUESTIONS MINIMALLY INVASIVE SPINE SURGERYFOR DOCTOR • What causes severe back pain? • What are the treatment options for back pain? • How can you prevent back pain? • At what point should someone start considering surgery for their back pain? • What is traditional spinal fusion surgery? What is minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery? How do the two compare in terms of risk and benefits? • On average, how do hospitalization and recovery times of minimally invasive surgery compare to traditional? What about scarring and pain afterwards? • How do you determine if someone is an appropriate candidate for spinal fusion surgery? How does a doctor and patient decide between traditional and minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery • How effective is spinal fusion surgery in treating severe back pain? • What are the other surgical options for treating back pain? • How can patients find out more about minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery?FOR PATIENT • How long did you suffer with back pain? • What types of physical limitations did your back pain cause? • What activities did you give up? -20-
  • 21. Public Relations for MIS• Describe your back pain. How painful was it on a scale of 1 to 10?• What other types of treatments did you try prior to having spinal fusion surgery?• Why did you decide to have minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery rather than traditional surgery?• How effective was the procedure in treating your back pain? How long did you stay in the hospital?• How long was your recovery? Did you experience any pain, scarring?• How long before you returned to work?• What if any limitations do you have now after the surgery?• What advice would you give other patients with severe back pain? -21-