Natalie Allio

In medical imaging and radiation therapy, the customer may need diagnostic images or therapeutic radiation; but what they want is confidence in the quality of the diagnosis and treatment. Effectively marketing quality services enables the facility to gain an advantage over the competition.

In the current competitive environment, marketing is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

The entire structure of commerce is undergoing massive changes and this includes competition in the health care market. Where the health care environment was once viewed as a marketplace of relatively equal-sized, local competitors, today’s marketplace is dominated by large, national entities that have significant resources with which to challenge competitors. A mere 20 years ago, the competition was the other hospital in town or perhaps another physician who specialized in the same procedure. Today, the competitor is likely to be a large national organization headquartered in another state with vast economic resources at its disposal; or it may be the physicians who have formed a larger group practice in order to compete in today’s market. The challenge is to find that key product or service that will set a practice apart and bring patients to the facility.

Health care providers today must be concerned not only with the needs and wants of their patients, but also with those of referring physicians, payors, employers, or purchasing coalitions for employers. Poor quality imaging or radiation therapy can result in the need for repeat examinations, misdiagnosis, additional unnecessary tests, improper treatment, and, ultimately, costly, unnecessary medical bills. The costs of substandard health care add up to thousands of dollars annually for employers. To reduce costs, employers and other purchasers of health care are urged to select and reward doctors and hospitals that focus on quality care. Customer focus is shifting to include quality as a way of managing cost. Many payors are examining ways to reduce costs by ensuring their subscribers receive quality health care.

Accreditation by the American College of Radiology (ACR) demonstrates that a facility is responding to its customers’ need and desire for quality care. The ACR-accredited facility certification mark tells the world that a facility has undergone a rigorous review process and meets nationally accepted standards of care. Accreditation demonstrates a commitment to quality care and patient safety through the use of qualified staff, appropriate equipment, and adherence to quality assurance and safety guidelines. The ACR offers accreditation programs in:

  • computed tomography,
  • breast imaging (including mammography, stereotactic breast
  • biopsy,
  • breast ultrasound, and ultrasound-guided breast
  • biopsy),
  • magnetic resonance imaging,
  • nuclear medicine,
  • general radiography and fluoroscopy,
  • ultrasound, and
  • radiation oncology.

While many facilities that perform quality imaging and radiation therapy acquire and maintain ACR accreditation, few take advantage of the marketing opportunities associated with this highly respected mark of quality care. The ACR offers marketing tools to help let customers know about the quality services provided at the accredited facility. The ACR Web site lists facilities that have achieved accreditation. Patients, referring physicians, and payors can search the list by state and accreditation type. It also is an invaluable source of patient information. If your facility has a Web page, add a link or an invitation for patients to visit to learn more about the examination or therapy they will be having at your facility. ACR accredited facilities receive a certificate that is suitable for framing. Hang this certificate where your patients will see it.

ACR also provides a free downloadable advertisement to all facilities that receive accreditation. Sample press releases are provided to accredited facilities for distribution to local media, and professional staff in the ACR media relations department can help explain how they are used. Most recently, the ACR has added a certification mark to the marketing tool kit. This mark is provided to accredited facilities as a decal, as well as in a format that can be added to letterhead and referrals. This will let the referring physicians, patients, and payors know a facility is accredited by the ACR. Also new is a patient education brochure, which is written to familiarize patients with diagnostic imaging modalities and radiation therapy and stresses the importance of using an ACR-accredited facility.

ACR accreditation enables a practice to set itself apart from the competition and offers the tools to let customers and the health care community know, through effective marketing, that quality health care that meets the needs of patients and the professional expectations of peers is provided. Let the ACR marketing tools work for you.

Natalie Allio, is program manager for American College of Radiology Accreditation and a registered diagnostic medical sonographer.