AHRA: Best practices in breast imaging marketing
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Financial success is a by-product of doing the right thing in the right way, offered Bonnie Rush, president of Breast Imaging Specialists, a practice management company, while speaking at the Association for Medical Imaging Management (AHRA) fall conference in Savannah, Ga. from Oct. 19 to 21.

Rush reminded the attendees that any increase in screening services leads to the downstream revenues that allow the breast imaging program to grow and the organization to thrive. Additionally, as women are the major healthcare decision makers, targeting women also helps to engage the family’s imaging business, said Rush.

During the session, Rush outlined a number of effective marketing strategies. One overarching strategy leverages first-person recommendations from other women or community leaders. Rush suggested building partnerships with community organizations to develop support for local breast imaging programs.

Smart programs are micro as well as macro in nature and must include culturally-appropriate marketing efforts. Thus, effective programs rely on messages crafted for particular groups, said Rush, and sites should share information with focus groups to determine if they are ‘on target’ before releasing them to the public.

Centers that have successfully marketed to Hispanics have utilized clergy and church coordinators. Supporting Hispanic community and athletic events also can garner recognition in the Hispanic community.

Church-based programs can be successful with other groups as well. One group boosted screening compliance 26 percent in six months among African-American women via church-based witness projects and health fairs, shared Rush.

She suggested similar demographic strategies when working with the media and the importance of utilizing the internet to boost marketing efforts to help the potential and current customer base to connect with the organization:
  • Keep fresh, current and clear;
  • Use stories, narratives and anecdotes to personalize risk(s); and
  • Use images and videos to create a link with women.

Other critical stakeholder groups include referring physicians and their employees. Rush recommended engaging referring physicians by asking them to provide input on ways to fundamentally change care delivery and using the physician agenda to address the internal organizational agenda.

She suggested a multi-pronged strategy to enhance the relationship that includes CME dinners, utilization of the website to provide important clinical and technological updates, the formation of advisory boards to explore support for new programs and the importance of identifying physician champions to aid in the successful launching of new programs such as a high-risk MRI screening program. “Never forget to involve physicians’ own internal team members,” cautioned Rush in an interview. One means to partner with staff is through lunch and learn programs.

Rush also recommended facilities consider the competitive advantage of designation as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence (BICOE) through the American College of Radiology (ACR). ACR accreditation as a BICOE “demonstrates a commitment to quality care and patient safety and sets your practice apart from the pack,” offered Rush.

Centers can further differentiate through technological advances such as breast MRI, ultrasound elastography and molecular imaging such as positron emission mammography. But Rush reminded attendees that pre-engagement education and buy-in to referrers will make or break advanced modality programs.

On the IT side, teleimaging can boost market share and enhance revenue while meeting needs in under-served communities and reducing backlogs. Similarly, mobile mammography programs can be marketed to area employers or businesses to increase visibility and service and improve market share. Ultimately, outreach efforts for screening mammography services will bring higher reimbursed imaging studies and biopsies along with the necessary surgery and oncological services when a woman is diagnosed with a cancer, offered Rush.

A final consideration, she said, is offering same-day service. She cited Rochester, N.Y.-based Elizabeth Wende Breast Center, which has garnered 94 percent patient loyalty, partially because of a same-day service program that gives women the option of scheduling a screening study followed by any needed diagnostic workups.

Same-day service requires diligent planning. The Lynn Cancer Institute at Boca Raton Community Hospital in Fla., mapped out workflow issues and the impact for each department from scheduling to billing prior to launching its same-day service option. The pre-authorization component was successfully detailed by sharing its decision support tool with buy-in from all but two payors. The program drove efficiency improvements in the 25 percent range by cutting out time-consuming follow-ups with referring physicians and staff and reducing patient recalls. Plus, patient, provider and staff satisfaction now stand at more than 90 percent.

She suggested practices complete the marketing cycle with a personal commitment to patients that includes soliciting feedback and providing reminders about the importance of annual screening.

Ultimately, said Rush, facilities have to know their practices and their goals and then be seen as a community engaged with knowledge of their demographics. They also need to understand what drives the referral base and gain its respect. The final piece is establishing a reputation as a leader with a commitment to a superior early detection program. The end result will be thriving—not just surviving, summed Rush.