Marketing tactics for imaging departments

July 08, 2022
By Brenda Debastiani

It is no secret that the healthcare scene is constantly changing, and that pertains to diagnostic imaging as well! To keep your business ahead of other local facilities, it is important to remember that marketing your department is key for success. What exactly does marketing mean in the radiology department? One common misconception is that marketing is about advertising, creating a logo, or placing an article in the newspaper. While those tactics are helpful, it is important to remember that marketing is about customer relationships, not simply transactions.

While immediate results are not always seen, relationship building requires a long-term commitment that is consistently applied. How do you do that? First, it is important to recognize that healthcare consumers have become much more involved in choosing where they receive their care. Second, if multiple sites provide similar services in close proximity, it is crucial that your facility has distinguished itself. Patients assume that everyone gives quality imaging, so exactly what can you offer that the other facilities cannot (friendly care, cheaper pricing, etc.)? Third, if relationships are built, patients will return for their care, which builds market share. If patients are not returning, then you must focus on bringing new patients into your practice by attracting them away from other providers. Fourth, by meeting consumer needs and providing education, the marketing process can be elevated to influence a patient’s decision about which procedure to have and where to have that exam performed. Targeting referring physicians, for example, can lead them to influence their patients to come to your facility. Do you have a physician liaison who provides personalized attention to your targeted referring physicians? If not, that is a great place to start in building relationships and increasing your market share. Fifth, it is essential that you attract high-quality medical staff and employees. With increasing competition, it is essential to communicate how working for your facility will meet the employees’ needs and bring long-term benefits to both the employees and your organization.

All of this is complicated, difficult, and time-consuming since there are so many moving and changing parts. Every little movement that you make forward toward building relationships will pay off down the road. Where do you start in building a relationship? Provide training for your employees to provide great patient care and to perform immediate customer service recovery! If there is a “miss” (long wait times, error made, etc.), your employees must be prepared to immediately address it with the involved patient and families. Giving a blameless apology is the most important step to prevent upset patients from becoming disgruntled. Use role-playing and competencies with your teams to ensure understanding and competence.

Social media is where many healthcare consumers go to educate themselves about procedures or to find a platform to share negative reviews. Be present on social media sites to provide educational clips, to provide a contact name for patients to ask questions or voice concerns, and to immediately address complaints. Healthcare is second only to hotels and restaurants as the industry with the most-read online reviews. Now do you get why your employees must be prepared to address upset patients on the spot? One of the fastest and most effective ways to market an imaging center is to have excellent reviews that reveal community trust and a great reputation. Encourage patients to share their positive reviews on social media. Some of your most loyal patients are those who had issues that were immediately resolved by the frontline caregiver.

Focus your marketing attention on your local areas. Provide community support to your local areas so that people know you and know that you care about them. Share your personality with your community so that they see faces and kind actions that represent your brand. Share patient, provider, and employee stories, which will help the community connect with you and show what great things you are doing! 80% of your referrals come from 20% of your providers. Keep your top referring physicians and their patients happy!

Ask your referring providers what improvements are needed from your facility. What changes are the providers seeing that you need to be aware of? What are the providers’ biggest issues right now? Focus on building relationships and working as a team to improve problem areas. Come up with solutions together to show that you care, not only for their patients but also for them. (This is where that physician liaison will really shine and build relationships!)

Brenda Debastiani
Have you done a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis recently? If not, do one! Ask the hard questions and then follow through with action plans to make improvements. Work with your referring physicians, your marketing department, your employees. In simple terms, the marketing plan should answer this question, “If this is where we are now and that is where we want to be, what will it take to get there?” Your marketing plan should be operationalized with goals and objectives.

Since healthcare is constantly changing, your marketing plan will need to be adjusted frequently. Keep close tabs on your patients, employees, and providers to identify problem areas and new trends. Adjust your focus when needed. Remember, building great relationships is key in positioning your facility as the market leader.

About the author: Brenda DeBastiani is the director of imaging at Mon Health Medical Center in West Virginia.