Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations

Marketing the CyberKnife … Coast to Coast
Marketing by Education

Marketing the CyberKnife … Coast to Coast

To James G. Schwade, MD, the Cyber-Knife, manufactured by Sunnyvale, Calif-based Accuray, is more marketable than other radiotherapy.

“People understand how it works by looking at it,” Schwade said. “It is high-tech, cutting-edge, image-guided robotic radiosurgery that is very effective for patients who meet its treatment criteria and those who are deemed inoperable and have already had other treatments.”

Accuray’s CyberKnife provides a state-of-the-art, image-guided robotic radiosurgery option for a variety of tumors.

And he should know. After all, the radiation oncologist serves as executive director of two established CyberKnife centers in southern Florida: one in Miami and one in Palm Beach. This past summer, the opening of a third facility, the CyberKnife Center of Tampa Bay, marked the technology’s expansion into the state’s southwest region.

“A number of radiation oncologists in Tampa and surrounding areas realized that the Miami and Palm Beach ‘shared facility’ model worked for this type of niche technology,” Schwade said. “They approached us for assistance and leadership in bringing the technology to the southwest Florida area of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Lake, Polk, Citrus, and Sarasota counties.”

The CyberKnife solution is the first and only robotic radiosurgery system developed to treat tumors anywhere in the body, said Eric Lindquist, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Accuray. Delivering high-dose radiation with precision, the system aims to minimize damage to surrounding healthy tissue or critical structures, treating tumors in the head, neck, spine, pelvis, and brain, among others. In fact, it has the ability to target the dose to an area as tiny as 0.95 ML. Image guidance technology and computer-controlled robotics enable the system to continually track, detect, and correct for tumor and patient movement throughout the entire treatment.

Lindquist also mentioned that because of its precision, the CyberKnife system does not require invasive head or body frames to stabilize patient movement. This serves to increase the CyberKnife’s flexibility and enhances patient comfort, he said.

Under robotic radiosurgery practice facilitator Morse LLC, of Miami, the three Florida centers will be united in a mission to provide CyberKnife radiosurgery to all cancer patients and make it accessible to the broadest number of physicians.

“Since we are in the high-tech health care field, we also utilize the most innovative high-tech marketing techniques, such as Internet marketing and search engine optimization with our Web site, www.morsecyberknife.com,” Schwade said. “We have created a localized trifold brochure, which is a takeaway for presentations and patient education, and a marketing tool as well. Lastly, we are utilizing media relations locally, statewide, and industry-wide.”

Targeting a Population

All the way on the other coast, the CyberKnife Centers of San Diego Inc is also in marketing mode, though its San Diego marketing is largely complete. Instead, it has a plan to reach beyond its immediate surroundings. Primarily Web-based, the new campaign is targeted toward the Hispanic community, according to Donald B. Fuller, MD, radiation oncologist at the center. This will entail converting Web site information and print materials into Spanish.

When the facility first acquired a CyberKnife system in June 2006, it embarked upon an extensive initial marketing campaign, Fuller said. The initiative involved newspaper, TV, and radio advertisements, as well as billboards and direct mail literature. Additionally, the center created a local surgeon-training program and made sure to keep in direct contact with physicians.

Furthermore, the center launched an interactive Web site, www.sdcyberknife.com. Themed in orange and blue, the site contains a wealth of information, providing detail about the types of tumors and lesions and offering a variety of diagrams, illustrations, charts, and case studies.

“We hoped to bring a paradigm-shifting, leading-edge treatment to San Diego,” said. “By expanding indications beyond standard radiation therapy, we strived to increase our referral base.”

Marketing by Education

Some imaging facilities call themselves “breast centers,” which, to Glenn Hersh, is a misnomer. Rather, they should call themselves “breast imaging centers,” according to the chief operating officer of the Montclair Breast Center in Montclair, NJ.

Advertisements aim to educate women about breast cancer and various modalities.

His center, on the other hand, is a true breast center, he says, a mini-hospital that focuses on informing patients throughout the entire cycle of care. This emphasis on education is precisely the theme of the facility’s marketing campaign.

“Better educated patients are always a good thing,” said Hersh, who designed and built the center. “A well-informed patient can make very educated decisions and participate more effectively in the decision-making process with regard to her own care. Since we feel like we’re providing the absolute best breast care that you can get anywhere, we certainly advocate for our patients to be well educated in the area.”

For instance, the breast center’s new 16-page brochure, “Montclair Breast Center: Where you will find peace of mind,” is as much a marketing tool as it is an educational resource, Hersh said. In page after page, readers can see the reassuring smiles of the center’s three breast imagers, three breast surgeons, and other staff. At the same time, they can also learn about the differences between digital mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, breast biopsy, breast surgery, and other services, such as genetic counseling—all of which are available at the center.

Offering the full gamut of services is, in a way, another marketing point for the fee-for-service facility, something in which it takes pride. “It’s extraordinarily effective for patient care in a multidisciplinary center, where all the physicians involved in the patients’ care are in constant communication with each other,” Hersh said.

“When you leave the building, you know what’s happening. You know what your status is. You sat down with the imager and discussed your physical exam, if the imager passes you on to the breast surgeon while you are here,” he continued. “We try to take the anxiety that comes from waiting for the results out of the process.”

Like the brochure, the facility’s Web site was designed for both promotional and educational value. Visitors to the site can view numerous pictures of the center, and they can read about the different exams. Hersh, who manages the site, strives to keep it updated with the latest journal articles.

Moreover, Montclair Breast Center advertises in numerous print publications within the tristate area, including local New Jersey newspapers and consumer magazines. Ads that describe the facility’s cutting-edge equipment (provided almost entirely by GE) and renowned dedicated breast imagers appear in such popular publications as Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker. One of these advertisements states an impressive statistic: “Women who come to Montclair Breast Center for regular examinations have a 94% chance of detecting breast cancer at stage zero or stage I.”

Another ad features a checklist for those with increased risk of breast cancer, and it urges readers to be more proactive and schedule a consultation with an expert at the center. With a ubiquitous floral motif and photographs of smiling on-staff physicians, each ad maintains a consistency of look. “We are a small organization and we can’t afford big advertising budgets, so I feel like it’s important to maintain constancy in the look so there is some familiarity when the reader sees our ad,” Hersh explained.

The center even spreads its awareness through talks and presentations at various local colleges and events, such as church groups or bookstore discussions. Just recently, its physicians gave a talk at a packed Barnes and Noble with the all-important aim to educate. These talks frequently turn into question-and-answer sessions, in which the presenters are more than happy to take part, Hersh said. It’s a win-win experience for all, he explained. Physicians get a sense of satisfaction from being able to correct common misconceptions, and patients get their questions answered by the experts.

“It’s educating our regional populace,” Hersh said. “The more people understand and know about breast cancer, the better equipped they are to participate in their care, and the better for the patient and the care facility.”