|From left, Eric Brooks, CEO, Brooks Properties, Ken Carpenter, CEO, Body Profiles, and Linda Peluso, controller.|
Before New England real-estate developer Harold Brooks lost his wife Mary Jo to cancer in October 2001, she urged him to remember her by making a difference in the world. Brooks’ first step in doing so was to found the M.J. Brooks Foundation in her name, dedicating the charitable organization to cancer patients with limited funds. When Brooks began looking for his next project, the concept of full-body CT screening caught his eye. Not only did retail centers providing this service make sense from an investment standpoint, they also reflected Brooks’ belief that early detection is one of the primary weapons in the fight against cancer.
Brooks’ mission to make a difference coalesced in the form of Body Profiles, Salem, NH, a chain of full-body CT scanning centers that he plans to open across the United States over the next few years. The M.J. Brooks Foundation will receive a portion of the profits from all Body Profiles centers, which Brooks and his CEO Ken Carpenter believe represents a departure in terms of business strategy. Unlike other full-body screening centers, Body Profiles will use existing resources, creating immediate access to skilled technologists and radiologists while also keeping costs in check.
“For these types of ventures to survive, they need to have strong physician and medical-facility partners,” Carpenter says. Body Profiles’ marketing is based on “preventive health care through full-body scanning,” and Carpenter describes its business strategy as simple. “We partner with a leading radiologist or a company that has a direct relationship with a hospital,” he says. “By building this relationship, we have immediate access to administrative infrastructure, trained technologists, and a staff of radiologists. All this accelerates our growth and dramatically lowers costs, and we can ramp up the project quickly because our supporting entities are already in place. “We do not plan to be in the referral or diagnosis business,” Carpenter continues. “We are in the information business.”
CUTTING COSTS, NOT CORNERS
The cost of deploying this latest development in the information business is not low. For each location, Carpenter projects a price tag of $2 million, which will cover securing a location, buying equipment, and conducting the proper sales and marketing activities. In some locations, however, that cost will be cut because Brooks already owns several high-visibility buildings in New England. In fact, the first clinic will be located in a building that Brooks owns that is located on a major highway in Methuen, Mass. “We have an inherent audience there because tens of thousands of cars go by daily,” Carpenter says. “Our visibility value in that location is enormous.”
The target date for opening the flagship center in Methuen is December 1, 2002, with a second center in the Boston area expected to open in February 2003. Body Profiles plans to open multiple centers in the next 2 to 2.5 years, with all of them to be driven by strong hospital and physician partners. In New England, Salem Radiology, Salem, NH, is Body Profiles’ operational partner; the head of the CT-scanning company will be Robert Hannon, MD, chief of radiology at Methuen’s Holy Family Hospital. In other areas of the United States, Carpenter reports, Body Profiles is negotiating with several organizations similar to Salem Radiology, and it anticipates announcing those new relationships soon. The relationship is attractive to other facilities because Body Profiles plans to refer clients who need medical care (but lack specialists) to their hospital sponsors. “The primary interest of hospitals is providing care for patients, and our sponsoring hospitals will have competent physicians covering every medical discipline,” Carpenter says.
The expansion of Body Profiles nationwide will be based on demographic studies; Carpenter notes that these describe the typical full-body CT screening client as someone who believes in preventive health care and has the discretionary income necessary to afford $1,000 to 1,500 for a screening. “There is a lot of dissatisfaction with managed health care today,” Carpenter says in explaining the level of client interest in this expensive form of preventive health screening. “I am personally unhappy because I want to know everything, and I have a right to that information. If I am a candidate for a heart attack, I want to control that information. Our research shows that more than 20% of clients scanned will have abnormalities significant enough to require medical attention.”
MAKING MARKETING A PRIORITY
Marketing is the key to this business, according to Carpenter, who says that he and Brooks are determined to make Body Profiles anything but “just another scanning company. There are a lot of smart people in this field who have done a lot of good things, but I feel that you have to take a programmatic approach to full-body CT scanning,” he says. “Many places advertise from the buy one, get one free’ angle, or employ scare tactics to motivate clients. I object to that. It is shortsighted, and scare tactics do not work in business or advertising. That is not the way that we are choosing to go.”
Instead, the approach used will position the company in terms of its long-term value in preventive health care. “We will have a decided focus on empowering people with knowledge about their own health,” Carpenter says. “Since one of the greatest difficulties in marketing is transmitting the message, Body Profiles is planning to use numerous sources to do that. We will be creating an interactive web site, doing direct mail, and advertising on the radio and in upscale magazines. “In addition, we will be creating a lengthy infomercial that will allow us time to tell our story,” Carpenter continues. “We plan to focus on a testimonial perspective, and the amount of time that we’ll have in that format will give us ample opportunity to show why our Siemens technology is better for full-body CT screening.”
THE SIEMENS ADVANTAGE
The decision to use Siemens’ Somatom Sensation 16, an ultra-fast full-body scanner, was made early in the planning process. “Siemens is currently the only company that makes a 16-slice CT scanner, which produces the most accurate images, more quickly, while delivering less radiation to the person who is undergoing the scan,” Carpenter says. “From a feature and functionality standpoint, Siemens offers the single-best equipment on the market today. In fact, I cannot imagine a better technological partner to have in this venture. Their technology is ahead of the nearest competitor’s by 18 months, minimum.” The technology also fits in with Body Images’ desire to reach operational status quickly, as it only takes a few weeks from the time the equipment is delivered to get it ready and to train the staff. That can be done either at a Siemens center or on-site.
Siemens is also well positioned to support Body Profiles’ future business plans, which include taking all the client informationincluding that generated by optional, comprehensive blood analysisand placing it on a secure web site.
“Siemens has sophisticated software that will implement all this, so that we can post a client’s scan information, blood-analysis results, and entire medical history,” Carpenter says. “That way, our clients can access their histories at any time, anywhere.”
Siemens offered more than its competitors, Carpenter notes: a high level of service and support from the sales staff, a complete warranty for the first year, the ability to monitor all the equipment remotely, equipment and software upgrades that are part of the service/maintenance contract, and an interest in how its buyers would be marketing their new venture. “If this were less easy than Siemens makes it, we would not be so eager to roll out 20 to 30 of these systems,” Carpenter says. “Siemens is interested in seeing its buyers succeed, and has provided support on everything from the facility design to the engineering documents to the marketing collateral.”
Having a successful full-body CT-screening business, Carpenter adds, involves finding a whole solution rather than putting disparate pieces together. He says, “It is simple to throw together equipment and people, but getting it all to merge can be a challenge that can sink even the best radiologist-based practice. If anything, Siemens has gone overboard in helping us make the difference and fulfill the Brooks’ dream, which is ultimately the motivation for this business.”
Elizabeth Finch is a contributing writer for Decisions in Axis Imaging News.