“We’re experiencing a radiology marketing arms race,” laments Princeton (N.J.) Radiology Associates Chief Operating Officer Marc Rothenberg, MS. This arms race—characterized by escalating marketing budgets, expanding media options, greater emphasis on data and dwindling returns on imaging—is being waged in nearly every corner of the U.S. Winning the battle by maintaining or growing market share is a tall order. Though there is no guaranteed formula for success, five strategies can help practices stay atop the competition.
1. Don’t go it alone
Rothenberg’s three-decade career as an imaging administrator has criss-crossed multiple U.S. markets. Princeton Radiology marks his first foray into a partnership with a marketing firm. Similarly, 52-bed Witham Memorial Hospital in suburban Indiana, turned to a marketing firm to help beat back competition from all sides. The suburban hospital’s foes includes large, one-stop hospital systems; low-cost imaging centers; an expanding multi-specialty physician practice and insurers, which have attempted to re-direct patients to other providers.
A marketing firm can help refine traditional techniques and offer expertise in new areas. Although traditional tactics such as sending field representatives to visit referring physicians no longer suffice to maintain market share, these methods can’t be overlooked. Princeton Radiology’s marketing firm introduced it to customer-relationship management (CRM) software, which has translated into more effective prospecting for new physicians and more informed pre-call planning to referrers' offices by streamlining tracking and management.
Witham’s firm helped the small hospital stretch its commercial budget and suggested animation paired with voice-overs for physicians in its television commercials. The approach cut through the clutter and cookie-cutter style of competing Indianapolis hospitals, says Tammy Rabe, director of marketing and communications at Witham.
2. Think big
In 2009, Witham launched a three-part marketing campaign focused on the tagline Small Hospital, Big Medicine. Although the big medicine component of the campaign leaned heavily on radiology infrastructure, such as a 256-slice CT system, high-field open MRI and state-of-the-art cath lab, radiologists were markedly absent from the campaign.
Instead, the campaign highlighted the top four users of imaging services—the emergency department, primary care, orthopedics and obstetrics/gynecology. “By elevating those services and growing their businesses, we saw a 6 percent downstream growth in radiology services,” says Rabe.
Jason Scott, director of imaging services and cardiac diagnostics at Witham, recommends radiologists remain engaged in these enterprise campaigns and communicate the role of imaging to their colleagues.
At the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, Philip Costello, MD, chair of radiology, embraces marketing duties 24x7. Nearly four years ago, he accepted the position of president of the physician practice plan and has parlayed the position into a public relations platform. “It’s a unique opportunity to network with surgeons and specialists and raise the profile of radiologists.”
In addition to sharing details about the benefits and costs of various imaging exams, Costello has learned more about the pressures that his clinical colleagues face. The ensuing teamwork and collaborative approach to resource management should benefit the radiology department, he says.
3. Become a data mogul
One conundrum of radiology marketing 2.0 is the tremendous range of marketing avenues. Determining the most effective approaches and quantifying their effects has become the new mantra. Princeton Radiology uses its CRM system to track physician contacts and measure the results of marketing representatives’ visits.
However, the CRM is not the ultimate source of data. The practice has charged schedulers with collecting data when patients first contact the practice. When a patient calls to make an appointment, schedulers ask how the patient heard about the practice, information that can be used to estimate the impact of different marketing initiatives.
Princeton Radiology also spearheaded a data mining project to quantify the gateway effect of screening mammography. Specifically, many imaging providers characterize breast imaging as a gateway service and assume that women influence the rest of the family to use their breast imaging provider for other imaging services.