Positioning a radiology practice can be quite a challenge. Almost all practices offer a quality of diagnostic technology that is more or less standard across the industry. Therefore, many practices position themselves based on professional credentials such as board certifications and fellowship-trained radiologists.
These characteristics are great, and in all reality, a necessity in today’s radiology industry. Nonetheless, as much as these qualifications seem to be differentiating factors, they will not be the characteristics that will persuade patients to visit or physicians to write referrals to a clinic.
Success in a radiology practice depends on efficient technological workflow as much as it depends on the value of streamlined brand. If a diagnostic center fails to be efficient with both its workflow and branding, the bottom line is that physicians and patients will look elsewhere to accommodate their imaging needs.
Tina Rudisill, the president of an advertising, marketing and public relations agency that specializes in radiology practice marketing, agreed that radiology practices must look elsewhere for characteristics that will position themselves competitively in the market. In the September issue of Imaging Economics, Rudisill said, “A number of factors could be at work behind a decrease in referrals. But differentiation is probably the key factor – there is some reason why doctors are referring elsewhere.”
A distinct and recognizable brand can compete with almost any size “gorilla” in the marketplace. In a practice that looks to differentiate itself, the personality of the company must align itself through customer service, print and advertising materials and public reputation. This unique, and streamlined, personality will ultimately reflect in the bottom line, in addition to great patient care.
“The concept isn’t new to marketing in general. Retail brands from Nordstrom to Harris Teeter have flourished by differentiation themselves in disruptive, transformational ways,” agreed Rudisill. “However, the concept is less diffused among healthcare practices, where there has historically been less need for marketing.”
Internal communication goals are also important for the success of a radiology practice. Rudisill points out that any disconnect between management and a lack of knowledge regarding long-term goals for the organization will be highlighted in the overall branding of an organization and weaken its overall value.
Establishing a consistent brand in the marketplace is a necessity for any sized radiology practice today. However, having a distinct and valuable brand is only the beginning. The investment made in streamlining the brand must be equally reflected in the efficiency of the customer experience.
Dr. Hans-Peter Busch, a radiologist who stresses the importance of “process optimization,” discussed how his department provides a great example of the value of the customer experience, in a recent DOTmed article titled, “5 Secrets of an Efficient Radiology Department.” In addition to timely and accurate results, the exam rooms enhance the experience by utilizing soothing aromas and lighting. These elements help calm the patient and improve their experience, regardless of the reason for the exam. “It’s important not only to have good visible parameters but also to create a good atmosphere in the room,” Busch said. “You must make the quality visible for patients.”
To understand what your patients want in an experience, you must communicate with them and gather feedback to make improvements. Consistency is also a must. It is imperative to constantly evaluate and revaluate, otherwise the information becomes outdated and you’re back to square one.
“Before optimization can truly start, you have to know what you’re working with through reliable measurements of utilization, downtime and other factors, such as average wait times for patients, or how long it takes to get contrast medium injections or sequences,” added Busch.
Brand & Efficiency Combined.
Streamlining a brand and technological workflow can be a challenge for some practices. In some instances, there is an additional disconnect between radiologists and technicians. In a recent article titled, Radiologist & Technologists: Building Effective Work Relationships in the September edition of Radiology Today, Beth Orenstein addressed significance of the relationship between radiology technologists and radiologists and how it can affect the overall efficiency of a radiology practice.
The technical efficiency of service, the customer experience and the encompassing brand all have to work together to produce a unified picture that will positively occupy a niche in the public’s mind. There is a significant amount of stress and attention on streamlining workflow in radiology practices and that is valuable information. However, with the sources of media changing dramatically within the last few years, differentiating a radiology practice based on customer service and differentiating a practice with a unified brand can have a significant influence on the efficiency of patient care and ultimately the bottom line.
“In the past, [radiologists] focused only on radiology, but they must sell their radiology to somebody, otherwise even with the best radiology they cannot succeed,” Busch said. “Although there may be some resistance to these ideas, radiologists can’t ignore marketing aspects of their profession.”