AHRA: The Disney way builds patient loyalty

MINNEAPOLIS—Practices must take concrete steps to build patient loyalty because remaining content with the status quo with regard to marketing services can endanger their future, according to a July 28 presentation at the annual meeting of AHRA.

“The future of radiology is sound,” said Chad Calendine, MD, President of Premier Radiology in Nashville, Tenn. “There hasn’t been a physician trained in the last 20 years that is more reliant on their history and physical than they are on radiology studies. The future of radiology is sound, but the future of the business of radiology is not so certain, so that’s what we need to work on.”

No one can market radiology like radiologists, with their wealth of imaging knowledge and respect among peers. But that doesn’t mean the specialty can’t learn a thing or two from the brand loyalty gurus at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Calendine recommended If Disney Ran Your Hospital by Fred Lee as a guide that should be read by radiologists and administrators alike.

Calendine stressed the idea that courtesy is more important than efficiency, one of the lessons of the book. The patient experience—boosted by a touch of “theater” in the manner to which patients are catered—is as important as the actual service they receive in terms of winning loyalty. Calendine downplayed standard metrics of accuracy or report turnaround time, suggesting loyalty grows more out of caring and compassion.

The biggest hurdle to optimizing the patient experience and practice marketing is taking the first step, according to Calendine. A major overhaul of practice culture takes more than just knowing the right steps to take; it requires a lot of motivation, hard work and energy.

“That’s true in life,” he said. “Anybody that smokes knows they really shouldn’t be smoking, but going from knowing you shouldn’t be smoking to not smoking are very difficult things.”

Some good first steps to for radiology departments and practices to take would be to get involved with their marketing team and engage staff from the front desk to technologists to nurses. Taking another cue from Disney, Calendine suggested administrators “decentralize authority to say yes,” meaning all staff will have the ability to promote and provide added services or special touches to improve the patient experience.

During a question and answer period, Calendine was asked about achieving staff buy-in for what could be a major adjustment in practice culture. He responded by repeating the old common saying about how a frog dropped in a pot of boiling water will immediately jump out, but one in a pot of slowly warming water will remain until cooked. ”We boiled the frog over many months. We have gotten to where we are not because we went from a very traditional practice to the next day [having] unanonymized metrics, etc. But over time we certainly have gotten there.”