Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations

How to Launch a New MRI Facility
Empowering Patients and Providers Post Cancer Treatment
Contest Spotlights Patient Safety

How to Launch a New MRI Facility

DMS Imaging launched its new MRI facility with a direct mail campaign to the medical community, presentations to the Chamber of Commerce, and an open house event complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

When DMS Imaging came to Sherman Oaks Hospital to open its first full-time MRI facility in California, Bockhi Park had some advice for the company. As the hospital’s administrator, Park said she told DMS that the key to drumming up new business was to reach out to the local medical groups, instead of just knocking on the door of every physician in the area.

DMS officials listened to that advice, and they came up with some ideas of their own for marketing the MRI facility that they opened January 2 at Sherman Oaks Hospital in Los Angeles. While the company acknowledges it still needs to attract more patients to meet its goals, its marketing approach has put it on track to make the facility a success.

“In Los Angeles, it’s very, very local, so if you’re in Studio City, the particular contacts that may be important there may be totally different than if you went over the hill to Hollywood, where it may be a totally different set of providers,” said Patrick Githens, regional vice president for DMS Imaging. “So you need to identify who the key people are and make contacts with them.”

In coming to Sherman Oaks Hospital, DMS replaced another company with an old MRI machine and an expired lease. DMS brought a new MRI machine to the hospital, which was an advantage, Park said.

Park said she advised DMS to contact the local medical groups, because they are the ones that authorize patient referrals to MRI centers. “I also told them go low, you’re new in town, so you cannot demand a high price, because you have to first penetrate the market,” she said.

Prepromotion and Open House

Githens said his company began spreading the word about its new facility a couple of months before opening it. DMS representatives made the rounds among a couple of hundred local physicians, by sending them direct mailers, visiting their offices, and bringing referral pads so those physicians could send patients to the new MRI center. But the company also reached out to the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, by attending meetings and telling chamber members about the new facility.

When DMS held an open house on March 25, officials from the Chamber of Commerce brought oversized scissors for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The open house had more than 60 attendees, with a mix of referring physicians, hospital directors, and chamber representatives, Githens said. The open house, with catered food, cost less than $5,000, he said.

As another investment in the success of its new MRI facility, DMS employs a business development specialist in charge of marketing the center, Githens said. Also, the technologist operating the MRI machine has more than 20 years of experience, which is another selling point, Githens said.

One thing the company has not done is to advertise directly to the general public.

“The percentage of the population that needs MRI services is relatively low, and so you probably wouldn’t throw out an advertisement saying, ‘Hey, come to our great MRI center whenever you have a need,'” Githens said.

Competition among MRI centers is fierce in the area around Sherman Oaks Hospital, with a dozen of them within a radius of about 3 miles, Githens said. In that competitive environment, DMS has to promise physicians that patients will get good customer service—because bad service reflects poorly on the physicians, he said.

As a next step, the company plans to attend community health fairs. Business is beginning to pick up, Githens said. “It is a little bit of a slower ramp-up time than I expected, but we are starting to get traction,” he said. “Every month we’ve experienced slow and steady growth.”

—Alex Dobuzinskis

Empowering Patients and Providers Post Cancer Treatment

After all the chemotherapy and radiation therapy are finished, cancer survivors leave their treatment centers and, along with that, an entire source of support. Exhaustion sets in, maybe even depression, and often they ask themselves, now what?

Varian Medical Systems Inc, of Palo Alto, Calif, and Cogent Health Solutions, of Vancouver, BC, have partnered to offer an answer. Last month, the companies began distribution of Cogent’s Equicare CS (cancer survivorship) case management software with Varian’s ARIA Oncology Information System for the management of cancer treatment centers.

Mark Thomson, Cogent chief operating officer, said radiation oncologists struggle with balancing their time between new patients and follow-up with existing ones. Cancer survivors, while markedly resourceful, are often unsure about when to return for a breast-imaging exam, lab tests, or counseling, he continued.

“Ideally, health providers want to retain those patients,” Thomson said. “There is a real advantage to the provider, who benefits from follow-up billings for services performed for survivors when they come back on site, notwithstanding improved clinical outcomes. These providers would experience incremental revenues that they wouldn’t see otherwise and achieve subsequent ROI using Equicare CS for survivor management.”

The Equicare CS system is a Web-based, patient-centric resource that aims to empower cancer survivors and their caregivers, in addition to helping their health care providers achieve improved clinical compliance and better patient outcomes following cancer treatment. The program assists doctors in generating a structured and forward-looking care plan that is based on best practices and established guidelines.

“When a patient receives treatment, follow-up activity is captured in real time and can be accessed by any stakeholder from any location,” Thomson said. “This is a rich environment that provides a well-defined pathway for the patient’s treatment and subsequent follow-up care. It greatly enhances the stakeholder’s awareness of the patient’s clinical state, and also drives better clinical excellence.”

Thomson explained that the Equicare system is comprised of an essential component known as Knowledge Base, which can be viewed in clinical terms by professionals and in lay terms by survivors and their caregivers. Survivors and their families can access information about their condition, view summaries of their treatment data, request a visit, and make comments on their medications. Through the Varian interface, health providers can access all relevant patient data and view the information within the medical record.

This “vital link between patient and provider” will help to foster stronger relationships, positively shaping a treatment center’s reputation and rank in patient services, Thomson said.

“If facilities can demonstrate this kind of patient retention, it will contribute to better outcomes as a reporting institution,” he said. “When you add Equicare into the equation, it helps answer all those questions for them: how to balance time, facilitate active follow-up, measure outcomes, drive revenues.”

Although the major societies, such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO), have placed survivorship management front and center in their mandates, Thomson said only now is the area getting attention. There are currently no other survivorship players in the market, and Equicare is receiving “tremendous attention from health providers for active survivor management,” said Thomson.

“Our early market position, comprehensive survivorship solution, and strong relationship with Varian suggest we are well positioned to offer an extremely valuable and comprehensive solution,” Thomson said.

—Elaine Sanchez

Contest Spotlights Patient Safety

At just about any MRI facility, staff members double and triple check patients to ensure none of them have metal in their body that could jeopardize their safety.

Following safety rules can keep an organization out of the headlines and out of the courtroom. Most importantly, it keeps patients from being injured or worse.

Now a new contest being run by Precision Dynamics Corp (PDC) is giving health care organizations another reason to highlight patient safety. “We cannot deny the news that has been coming out lately on medical errors and how that affects people’s lives,” said Adrienne Lamm, spokeswoman for PDC.

“So traditionally, hospitals have been quick to place the blame on the individual caregiver who committed the mistake,” she said. “But now, through a more advanced approach, they’re focusing on systematic changes and using automated technologies to prevent medical errors.”

Based in San Fernando, Calif, PDC makes wristbands and ID systems for hospitals and other clients. The company’s contest is open to all hospitals, including radiology departments within hospitals.

PDC is calling the contest a “Partner in Patient Safety Campaign,” and it will award $10,000 in free wristband products to the institution that submits the best patient safety success story. The three runners-up will each receive $1,000 in products.

Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare magazine is helping to organize the contest.

The judging committee includes: Gary Hutchinson, PDC president & CEO; Susan Carr, editor of Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare; Tamara R. Chandler, director of patient safety at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill; and Maggie Lohnes, administrator of clinical information management at MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, Wash.

In selecting the winners, the contest’s organizers will especially be on the lookout for ways clinicians use products and processes to prevent medical errors and improve patient safety, according to PDC.”Everyone has a level playing field,” Lamm said. “It’s not big hospital versus small hospital, big MRI center versus small MRI center. It’s just about patient safety.”

In judging entrants, contest organizers will rely on the nine safety solution categories as defined by the World Healthcare Organization (WHO), according to PDC. One of those categories is communication during patient handovers, which is crucial at MRI facilities, where different staff members may screen a patient for metal three times on the way to the MRI machine. Other patient safety categories from the WHO include the performance of the correct procedure at the correct body site and single use of injection devices.

Despite the safety measures that health centers have implemented over the years, mistakes often result in malpractice lawsuits, which drive up the cost of health care and hurt the reputations of hospitals.

With the important role of safety in radiology, the contest could give radiology facilities the chance to put a spotlight on unique ways that they are addressing safety issues.

“Instead of these bad stories, people will say, look, here are hospitals that are making efforts in patient safety … and they’re just not getting the focus that the other hospitals are,” Lamm said. “We’re giving hospitals and medical centers the ability to toot their own horn.”

In addition to receiving products, the winner and the honorees will also be highlighted in a PDC press release campaign, the winners’ patient safety success stories will be posted on the PDC Web site, and they will receive “certificates of excellence in patient safety,” according to PDC.

The contest began on March 2 and ends on August 4. The winning patient safety story, along with three runner-up honorees, will be announced on November 10. “This is the first year that we’re doing this, and so we are hoping to get as many [entrants] as possible,” Lamm said. More information and a contest form are available at www.pdcorp.com/patientsafety, or by calling PDC at (818) 897-1111, ext 1330.

—A. Dobuzinskis