Arriving at the right marketing tactic for your hospital or health system's magnetic resonance imaging capabilities can be as simple as aligning your marketing message with the needs of your community.
When one of my friends got a concussion from an unfortunate fly ball at a softball game this summer, he declined to receive an MRI scan, against his doctor's advice.
Why? Because his work only offered a high-deductible health plan and he was worried that the cost of the scan would be a major blow to his bank account.
This decision surprised me for a couple of reasons; first, with all of the high profile cases regarding the dangers and consequences of concussions in the NFL and other sports, I'd have thought my friend would take his injury more seriously, regardless of cost.
Secondly, TV and radio stations statewide have recently been peppered with healthcare organizations advertising low-cost MRIs. When I asked my friend, who is typically a savvy consumer, if he looked into those options, he said he figured they'd still cost too much.
Thankfully, my friend is doing well and doesn't seem to have any remaining symptoms from his concussion. However, his experience did get me thinking about how hospitals and healthcare organizations approach MRI marketing, and whether those methods are effective.
Here's a look at the three most common MRI marketing strategies and the audience each one reaches.
Strategy 1: Low Cost
Promoting low-cost MRIs is a growing marketing trend, especially as media outlets hone in on price disparities across organizations.
Shields Health Care Group is one of the most prominent organizations blanketing Massachusetts airwaves with ads promoting its low-cost MRI scans. For the past few years, the organization has used former Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who famously had a mild stroke in 2005 that led him to sit out most of the season.
"I can tell you how to tackle the big and tough football players—it's hard," Bruschi says in a radio ad. "But if you want to tackle the high cost of healthcare—that's easy. Just go where I go: Shields MRI. The Shields family gives you a quality MRI at a sensible price. In fact, you could save up to $1,000 or more."
The radio and TV ads drive patients to the Shields website, where they can run a saving calculator tool to determine how much an MRI would cost.
Ads promoting low-cost MRIs most likely appeal to patients with non-life threatening conditions, as well as patients who are uninsured or underinsured. I suspect the trend of price transparency will continue to grow, with MRIs and other healthcare services.
Strategy 2: Advanced Technology
The most common MRI marketing strategy seems to be focused on an organization's advanced technology, and the precise diagnostics that come with it.
New York-state based Stony Brook Medicine focused on the technological element in its 2013 campaign, and with good reason—one of its professors won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work developing the MRI.
"The idea for the MRI was born here. Now we're taking it further," reads one of its ads. "Our invention of the MRI won the Nobel Prize, and changed medicine. Now we take imagining another step forward, as one of the first hospitals in the world to offer simultaneous PET/MRI scans for patients, giving doctors even more precise information."
Ads promoting the latest clinical technology most likely appeal to patients who have recently been diagnosed with a complex condition, as well as patients looking for a second opinion. They will also appeal to family members and caregivers of patients, whose first priority is a precise, accurate scan.
Strategy 3: High Comfort
As MRIs become more technologically advanced, they are also becoming more comfortable for patients, which many hospitals and health systems highlight in their marketing materials.
This summer, Carolinas Hospital System touted its use of the Ingenia 1.5T from Philips Healthcare, a digital broadband MRI. The scanner is said to improve the patient experience by reducing exam time and, thanks to a wide opening, can accommodate patients of varying ages, sizes, and physician conditions.
The large opening also makes the scan feel less confining than traditional MRIs, and most scans can be performed with the patient's head entirely outside of the machine, a consideration for patients who experience discomfort in confined spaces.
Ads promoting MRI comfort most likely appeal most to patients who associate the scan with fear, perhaps because of a negative past experience or through word of mouth. It will also appeal to parents, who want their child to be at ease during the scan.
Arriving at the right MRI marketing tactic can be as simple as aligning your hospital's message with its audience.
Marianne Aiello is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.