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Advanced Imaging as a Marketing Tool: Do You Really Need All Those Extra Slices?

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, June 17, 2009

If there were a 2,264 slice CT, would you buy it? Your answer to that question would likely depend on a number of factors. Will those extra 4,000 slices deliver a big enough clinical improvement to justify the cost? Do your competitors have one? Could being the first in your market to have the new technology be a differentiator that would bring in significant new volume?

But there are more important questions to ask when you're considering an upgrade—whether or not physicians and patients care that you have the latest and greatest piece of imaging equipment.

For physicians, the answer is a qualified yes. Yes, they want to work at or refer patients to hospitals that have advanced technology. No, they won't necessarily decide to work or refer patients to a hospital because it has a 264-slice CT instead of a 64-slice CT. On the other hand, having the more advanced equipment could give you a slight edge over a competitor that does not.

"I don't think it assures the organization of getting the best and the brightest, but certainly does help to clinch the deal. To capture these highly-desired physicians many elements need to be in place to achieve their personal and professional needs. But if all other professional offerings are market-attractive and it comes down to the choice of one organization that has and one that has not it could be the deal maker," says physician recruitment specialist Allison McCarthy, principal of the Barlow/McCarthy consulting firm.

As far as referrals go, if an organization is a tertiary or quaternary center, physicians will have higher expectations. At a community hospital, physicians will likely be satisfied with the more modest imaging alternative, she adds.

For patients, the answer is a yes . . . and a no. It shouldn't come as a surprise that more advanced imaging technology is a selling point for women's health services. It's hard to stay competitive without digital mammograms and ultrasounds, especially.

Chester County Hospital, in West Chester, PA, learned that when it conducted focus groups of women and discovered that they were well aware of which hospitals offer digital mammography—and which ones don't. "Women shop technology. They're savvy shoppers," says Colleen Leonard Leyden, director of corporate marketing and public relations at the 220-bed hospital. "And they do select their provider based on that."

Chester's direct mail and print campaigns that either cross-sold or focused on radiology and other diagnostic capabilities created a spike in volume, she adds. "It did inspire a lot of women to pick up the phone and ask for information about scheduling their mammography."

On the other hand, direct-to-consumer ads that tout high-tech equipment in other areas aren't always the best selling point, since many consumers probably don't know the difference between a 64-slice and a 264-slice CT. If the difference were 2,000 slices, they might get it. But (so far at least), the 2,264-slice CT isn't on the market.

Read more about incorporating imaging into your marketing, recruitment, and referral strategies in this month's HealthLeaders magazine marketing article, Imaging Wars.


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