Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations

Corner the Market on Breast MRI
ASTRO Supports Initiative to Raise Awareness of Cancer Survivorship
E-Mail Marketing: Making It Happen

Corner the Market on Breast MRI

by Cat Vasko

David Gruen, MD

There’s a lot of hype in the air about breast MRI since the American Cancer Society issued its now-famous recommendation on the modality earlier this year. Recommended as a supplement to the annual mammogram for women in certain high-risk categories for breast cancer, it shows enormous diagnostic potential with its high sensitivity—but false-positive hazards lie in wait as a result of its low specificity. How can you get up to speed in time to corner this valuable market?

Education, naturally. And what better incentive to participate in intensive case reviews and other forms of edification than CME credit? That’s why the International Center for Postgraduate Medical Education (ICPME) has teamed up with Confirma Inc, Bellevue, Wash, to offer an array of breast MRI courses with accompanying CME credit.

“Breast MRI is very intimidating because there’s no clear-cut group who owns it,” noted David Gruen, MD, a radiologist at the Norwalk Radiology Center, Norwalk, Conn, who has been working with breast MRI—and the Confirma CADstream product—for some time. “Breast imagers have not been MR imagers, so they don’t know about fat suppression, MIPS, and so on,” he said. “MRI people have reluctantly done breast MRI, but maybe they don’t know what DCIS is. There’s this knowledge void in both groups. We need to learn to put these two different fields together.”

The key, according to Gruen, is building an “internal repertoire” of knowledge based on specific case experience. That way the radiologist’s mind can take over where MRI’s low specificity leaves off. “You need to be comfortable ignoring things and passing on things,” he said. “You need to do enough of it to know when something is benign. Part of the education process is how you can get that volume set into your brain, so false positives can be reduced. You also need as many tools as you can get, and I think CADstream is a remarkable tool to work with the false-positive problem.”

Another issue faced by the radiologist offering breast MRI services for the first time is maximizing efficiency without sacrificing accuracy. Gruen said two major factors cut down on reading time: the use of CAD and experience. “CADstream cuts the time in half, in our experience,” he said. “And another way to maximize efficiency is simply to do a lot. I can read six BMRI studies in an hour. Someone who hasn’t done a lot will do two or three in an hour. You need experts, and that’s why it’s important to do a lot of breast MRI.”

The new CME courses being offered by ICPME incorporate both online case reviews and full-day courses of instruction complete with hands-on training. Registration is still open for the full-day courses in Los Angeles on January 17, 2008, and in Dallas on February 1, 2008; meanwhile, live online sessions are being conducted on an ongoing basis.

“Programs like this CME are perfect because in an hour, you can see someone review 20 cases,” Gruen said. “Anywhere you can go to see someone else do this is helpful. Having someone to mentor you is really a great thing. I think in the future we’ll see more visiting fellowships. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see it getting outsourced down the road. It’s ripe for exploitation.”

ASTRO Supports Initiative to Raise Awareness of Cancer Survivorship

by Nikos Valance

K. Kian Ang, MD, PhD

Research, scholarship, and education are typically the priority for professional medical societies. But all too often, scientific societies may seem out of touch with the real people who ultimately benefit from their work. This is clearly not the case with the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO). These days, ASTRO is doing more than research; the group is getting “real” about cancer patients.

ASTRO has announced that it is partnering with Vital Options International to raise awareness of cancer survivorship.

Vital Options, headquartered in Los Angeles, will work with ASTRO by participating in the Survivor Circle exhibit at the Society’s 49th Annual Meeting, October 28—November 1, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. They also will be airing The Group Room radio show on October 28, from the center.

The Survivor Circle was created to recognize those who are living with the diagnosis of cancer. It focuses on programs offered by local organizations to help patients and their families cope with treatments.

“Organizations like Vital Options International are an important tool in the fight against cancer as they give patients and their families support while they fight their disease,” said K. Kian Ang, MD, PhD, chair of ASTRO.

Selma Schimmel, CEO and founder of Vital Options International, host of The Group Room, and a three-time cancer survivor, noted the organization’s appreciation of ASTRO’s support. ” The Group Room broadcast from the ASTRO meeting and recognition of Vital Options’ work within the Survivor Circle is a progressive step on the part of ASTRO in their effort to enhance communication with the patient community and their commitment to advocacy,” said Schimmel.

ASTRO is the largest radiation oncology society in the world, with nearly 9,000 members who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies.

Vital Options was the first psychosocial and advocacy organization for young adults with cancer, before expanding into an international cancer communications organization with the launch of The Group Room in 1996.

The Group Room is heard live in select cities and on XM Satellite Radio’s Talk Radio XM 165, Inter-net simulcast and archived at, and podcast in iTunes and

E-Mail Marketing: Making It Happen

by C. Vasko

The benefits of e-mail marketing include relatively low costs and the ability to measure results.

In an August 29 article in Direct Marketing News, Terry Nugent of Medical Marketing Service Inc, Wood Dale, Ill, urged those in the health care business to embrace e-mail marketing. “As the marketplace and the industry focus on return on investment, and online information seeking becomes ubiquitous among health professionals and their patients, then measurability and cost-effectiveness of e-mail marketing emerge triumphant,” he wrote. “It is apparent that the future of health care direct marketing lies in e-mail and other online marketing methods.”

There is certainly a great many reasons to recommend e-mail marketing to the ambitious radiology practice. Overhead is low, distribution is as easy as the click of a mouse, and, in an industry where education truly has the power to drive referrals, e-mail constitutes the ideal medium for versatile text-based communication. Axis Imaging News checked in with 8-year e-mail marketing veteran Edward Soll, MD, of Doctors Imaging Services, Metairie, La, for some first-hand experience and helpful tips.

“In order to do this, you have to be able to build a list, and in order to build the list, you need the trust of the people you want to market to,” Soll said. “By law, you have to give them the opportunity to opt out. We’ve built our list over the years by asking doctors, would you like to be on our list? If they say no, the answer is no. We also use broadcast fax, snail mail, and other marketing tools; but e-mail is by far the least expensive to use.”

Doctors Imaging Services centers its e-mail marketing campaigns around education, both for patients and for referring physicians. “Sometimes it’ll be about a new piece of equipment, and I’ll insert a PDF for the referrers to open up so they can read the literature about that particular function,” Soll explained. “The information I transmit has to be appropriate not only by specialty, but by locale and zip code, by affiliations. The medical staff database gives you the ability to develop a database that helps you sort your doctors. You don’t want to send a doctor an inappropriate message.”

With e-mails directed toward patients, the focus is less on clinical and technical education and more on issues like the importance of screening via calcium scoring. “We’re having a calcium score campaign for the city,” Soll said. “We’re advertising a new record-breaking price, a price appropriate to a screening exam.” Included in the e-mail is a PDF coupon for an additional $25 price reduction.

Soll stresses that distribution is easy: for him, sending a message is as simple as sending an e-mail to 1,500 friends. “My overhead is low because I don’t pay for a blast system,” he noted. “I don’t need to. My market is 1,000 to 2,000 names.” In fact, Soll said, the primary expenditure involved with his e-mail marketing has more to do with the cost of list maintenance than the cost of distribution. “You have to have a good staff to maintain your list,” he said. “If you get a bounce-back, you have to research it.”

Soll boils down his advice for those attempting e-mail marketing for the first time into three main points:

  1. Never betray a trust. “Always remember to bcc, not cc. Never let anyone see your list.”
  2. Honor removals—quickly. “Have respect for those who resent too much e-mail. We all get too much e-mail.”
  3. Send the right material to the right person. “Don’t waste people’s time with things that might not be relevant to their practice.”

And he stresses that good marketing begins with a good business. “Have a good operation with credible results,” he said. “There are certain things a good old handshake is much better for than all the technology in the world.”