Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations

SPECT for Small Cardio Practices Can Build Business
Building Image for Imaging!

SPECT for Small Cardio Practices Can Build Business

Marketing mavens call it a “USP” or “unique selling proposition.” It is a benefit or service that sets your organization apart from the competitors. If you run a small cardiology practice, your USP just might be an in-office SPECT machine for your practice.

In July, CardiArc Ltd, Lubbock, Tex, announced the first clinical installation of its new cardiac SPECT imaging device at Emory University Hospital, Atlanta. The CardiArc SPECT system features rapid scanning time and high-resolution images; it also boasts a footprint so compact it can fit in a standard exam room, making it ideal for cardiology practices.

“The device has been optimized for small practices,” said Jack Juni, MD, founder and CTO of CardiArc and designer of the SPECT system. “It seems clear to me that the movement is for cardiologists to be doing cardiac imaging in their offices in all modalities, and certainly nuclear. In terms of economics, the payors are clearly encouraging this. They pay half as much for a scan done by an unaffiliated private cardiologist than for a scan done in a hospital.”

But even as imaging moves to small practices, most small practices find it difficult to install and implement advanced imaging technology, for a multitude of reasons. One major issue is siting, Juni says. “The average cardiology practice has 2.3 cardiologists, which translates into five or six exam rooms,” he said. “To meet the safety requirements for most of the gamma cameras on the market, you have to join three standard exam rooms. Now you’ve made it really difficult to see patients, which is what cardiologists are there for in the first place.”

CardiArc’s SPECT system solves this problem in three ways. First, its footprint is small enough that it can pass through a 30-inch door and fit comfortably in a standard 8- x 9-foot exam room. Second, unlike most SPECT devices, its camera heads don’t swing outside the parameters of its footprint. “You can push it right up against the wall,” Juni said.

Finally, the CardiArc device contains built-in lead shielding that allows the tech to remain in the room with the patient without exposing them to radiation. “With most gamma cameras, techs are faced with a real problem,” Juni said. “Do they go out in the hall, where they’re unable to see and talk to the patient? That’s not a good alternative.” That’s why the CardiArc SPECT system completely protects the person in the operator’s position from radiation, exposing only the patient’s head. “It’s necessary if you’re going to protect the tech while still practicing good medicine,” Juni said.

Another unique issue facing small practices is power. Advanced imaging equipment not only draws an enormous amount of power, it usually requires industrial-strength air-conditioning to keep it from overheating. Not so with CardiArc’s design, said Juni.

“CardiArc uses less voltage per hour than a reading lamp,” he said. “In standard operating mode, it’s using only 12 watts; the rest of the power is the laptop computer. So you can plug it right into a regular wall outlet.” The system also has no ventilation holes, he noted; it doesn’t even get warm to the touch.

The secret is solid-state CZT (cadmium zinc telluride) technology, which enables faster scan times (3 to 5 minutes) and higher image resolution. “You really have to change things a lot to make a camera work in a small setting,” said Juni. “But it’s worth it. That’s where the practice is evolving.”

—Cat Vasko

Building Image for Imaging!

Remember The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit? And today, there is Mad Men. Advertising has always been sexy, but it’s sensible, too. Advertising has the power to educate and influence. And the medical imaging community is waking up to that important fact.

Beginning June 5, the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance (MITA), Arlington, Va, ran ads inside the Washington Beltway with the intention of educating lawmakers on the value of medical imaging to patient care. The ads had the endorsement of 13 patient advocacy groups, including the Colon Cancer Alliance, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The campaign comprises television, radio, and print advertisements targeted specifically to the market of Capitol Hill decision-makers and their aides. “We’re in publications like Roll Call and CQ—things that policy wonks and Washington insiders read,” said Tim Ryan, general manager at Sawyer Miller Advertising, Washington, DC. “We’re very focused on the public policy community, and these ads were developed with that audience in mind.”

Andrew Whitman, vice president of MITA, says the ads are intended to emphasize imaging’s impact on the patient. “Our larger campaign is trying to show the importance of medical imaging and how integral it is in terms of the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and making life better for patients,” he said. That’s particularly important right now, as both imaging reimbursement and medical device manufacturing are in the regulatory crosshairs. We’ve never advertised to this extent before,” Whitman said. “Our activities have increased significantly in the past few months.”

“There are finite resources that the government has to pay for anything that it covers,” noted Ryan. “Public policy decisions made here will have a great impact. Our campaign is simply reminding these key audiences of the value that the medical imaging industry provides every day.”

In addition to targeted print ads, MITA has placed television ads on NBC inside the Beltway and is running radio ads on National Public Radio during commuting hours. MITA’s patient advocacy partners support all. “We want to show that it’s not just MITA that supports this,” said Ryan. “We’re showing that those who advocate on behalf of patients also see the value that medical imaging is playing in terms of improved patient care and better health outcomes.”

Ryan says the ads aim to engage their target audience on an emotional level—a goal certainly achieved by a print ad that depicts a happy family with the caption, “You can’t tell who had the MRI that caught her breast cancer; the coronary angioplasty that helped treat his heart disease; the ultrasound scan that diagnosed his aortic aneurysm; the imaging agent that helped determine if she had Alzheimer’s; or the PET scan that showed her leukemia in remission. But you can see the results.”

The impact of the ads is already evident, Ryan says. “We’ve certainly had offices call and inquire about information, and I believe we’ve seen traffic from the Hill on a consistent basis throughout the campaign,” he said. But that doesn’t mean his work is finished. “These audiences are very busy,” he said. “You can’t just do one ad once. You need reach and frequency.”

Whitman said that when it comes to affecting regulatory change, ads are a crucial piece of a big puzzle. “This is a key component in a larger educational effort about imaging and the importance of imaging,” he said. “It’s a very good way to educate lawmakers.”

—C. Vasko