Zoom Imaging Radiographs Barbie and Ken—and Wins Referrals
Spreading the PET/CT Word

Zoom Imaging Radiographs Barbie and Ken—and Wins Referrals

By Cat Vasko

In the 1¼ years that Zoom Imaging, Bethlehem, Pa, has served the Lehigh Valley area, its employees have found some unconventional uses for its x-ray system and 64-slice CT scanner. Some centers might think it a waste of time and money to use cutting-edge technology to image a pumpkin or a barrel full of candy. But Zoom turns those amusing diversions into profit through whimsical marketing directed toward both patients and physicians.

It started even before the center saw its first patient. Theresa Fink, director of operations at Zoom, knew it was crucial to get area physicians’ attention, so the facility hosted a “Take a Look Inside” event a few days prior to opening its doors. “We were trying to find a way to capture [physicians’] attention and leave them wanting to know more about what our facility was all about,” Fink says. “We were trying to capture their attention with the invitation, so it wasn’t just another postcard.”

To meet this challenge, the Zoom team developed a product that won a platinum Quest award from the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA), Irvine, Calif, for best physician marketing. “It was done on an x-ray format,” Fink explains. “We even used an envelope that said, ‘Careful, photos inside,’ so some of the [physicians] thought it was going to be a patient’s film they’d requested. Of course, when they opened it up and saw that it was a celebration and an invitation to ‘take a look inside’ and see what we had to offer, we got a great response.” Zoom invited 1,100 area physicans, and Fink estimates turnout was around 200.

The x-ray invitation was clever, but it was only the beginning. For ongoing physician marketing, Fink explains that Zoom created a series of postcards. “It was five postcards that went directly to referring physicians, highlighting how we could make their lives easier,” she says. “We started with ‘How can we save you time?’ We x-rayed an alarm clock, and then laid it out on an oversized postcard. It was well-received because it was kind of a pickup from our other x-ray promotions, and people were excited to see that.”

On the center’s first anniversary, physicians were again sent an image: “We put a nice birthday cake in the CT scanner, and the scanner is so incredible that it looks like somebody took a picture of it. It’s that good,” Fink says. “So we used that image as a thank-you for the folks who had referred to us in the past year, and with it, we also took them a cake.”

Most physicians know what a CT or an x-ray can do; patients, on the other hand, often have no idea. At local health fairs, Zoom adapted its marketing concept for patients. “You’re out there with all these other medical facilities, so you want to try to capture the audience, have them stay with you a little bit longer,” Fink explains. “We took a huge barrel and filled it with candy and did a CT of it. When people walk by, we ask them to identify the different kinds of candy. We get their name and phone number by asking them to participate in the contest, and whoever can guess how many candy bars are in the barrel just from looking at the CT wins.”

At festivals for children, Zoom made imaging a little less intimidating by x-raying Matchbox cars, a Scooby-Doo doll, a spoon, a fork, and so on. “Kids come up, and we say, ‘Here’s an x-ray! Can you identify what this is?’ And of course they all get a big kick out of that,” Fink says. “They think of [getting] an x-ray [because] they’re sick or injured, so it’s a scary thing to them. But when you can say, ‘Look, we x-rayed Barbie and Ken,’ they get a little bit more comfortable.”

Because the concept is so enjoyable, the whole center pitches in. “All the staff helps in the process, too, which makes it a nice team thing,” Fink says. “It’s a nice environment to work in, because everyone’s always coming up with fun ideas. It’s fun to watch it come to fruition.”

Cat Vasko is associate editor of  Axis Imaging News. For more information, contact .

Spreading the PET/CT Word

4 tips for marketing a new or existing PET/CT service

By Dana Hinesly

James W. Fletcher, MD

Although there is little debate that blending PET and CT technologies into a single unit brings great benefit to diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring, an article in a 2005 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR) concluded that the fused system would present unique marketing challenges for some time to come.1

The authors recommend that providers become “involved with all of the administrators, managers, referring and interpreting physicians, and the payor communities in their market.”

No small task, to be certain. But as any motivational speaker will tell you, it all starts with a first step.

1) Hire the Right People

Buying the latest technology was the right decision. Follow that instinct by bringing in the right people to spread the word about your latest investment.

“It’s important to employ individuals with specific talents and skills in marketing,” says James W. Fletcher, MD, professor of radiology and director of nuclear medicine in the Department of Radiology and director of the Clinical PET Imaging Center at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis. Just as vital is making sure they have the budget to make a real impact. “For it to be a success, facilities need to dedicate financial resources to their marketing plan,” he says.

Part of that budget also should be directed at researching and participating in the local business environment. The AJR article recommends understanding “individual payor business practices and [identifying] opportunities to educate and influence changes in payment and coverage policies.”

2) Ascertain the Target

“Identify individuals who should be targeted in the marketing efforts,” Fletcher advises. “That includes referring physicians, patients, allied health personnel, scheduling secretaries, and patient advocacy groups.” He also recommends spreading the word about the scanner to local medical students, residents, and nursing specialists in area academic centers.

Exactly how you deliver the message will vary based on which group you are talking to, but the basic concept is to detail the benefits that a PET/CT scanner provides.

“The two questions that referring physicians ask over and over are: ‘What type of equipment is being used to scan my patient—is it state-of-the-art?’ and ‘What are the qualifications of the physician who is reading/interpreting my patient’s scan? What type of training and experience does the physician have in PET/CT?’,” Fletcher explains. “Providing answers to these two questions in a straightforward manner will be the most important message that can be conveyed.”

The other half of the equation is the nonclinical population. PET/CT is patient-friendly: It is pain-free and relatively quick, and it can help patients avoid unnecessary procedures. Let patients know it. More and more individuals have some input into where they receive medical care, so arm them with the information that can direct them to the latest technology—which just happens to be at your facility.

3) Start Early

No matter how solid an investment in technology is, it is money wasted if the machine sits idle. Although it will inevitably take time for the business to ramp up to full speed, starting the marketing efforts well in advance of the system’s arrival will help guarantee that the first examination takes place on the first day of operation.

“Marketing should begin a minimum of 4 to 6 months prior to start-up,” Fletcher advises. He also suggests that the team hit the streets to raise awareness about the scanner and your facility. His best advice for getting the message out sounds like the real estate market’s location adage: “Personal contact, personal contact, personal contact.” Also, support face-to-face conversations with brochures, calendars, articles, and Web sites.

4) Follow Through

Some have said sports are a metaphor for life. If that is true, then marketing a new scanner is akin to a tennis swing: Success rests on the follow-through.

“Any marketing plan that is unable to follow up with credible services is doomed to failure,” Fletcher says. “Initial marketing also must establish a mechanism to portray the reliability and credibility of services if subsequent marketing efforts are to be successful.”

Initial efforts primarily should involve providing referring physicians with information about reimbursed indications and use of PET/CT. But it is critical that those first contacts are not the last. “Continuing education and contact with referrers in later efforts are important as well,” he says.

The marketing plan also should evolve as members of the community grow more familiar with the PET/CT technology. “As users become more sophisticated about the indications and use of PET/CT, the message must begin to incorporate more information about the value of PET/CT in specific clinical circumstances,” Fletcher notes. “Any center must be able to provide credible services that answer questions for referring physicians in an accurate and timely manner.”

It also is vital to adapt marketing strategies as the technology advances. Future devices will be focusing on higher sensitivity, better quality images, lower radiation doses, elimination of patient motion artifact, and faster scans and throughput. Once those innovations start rolling out—and rolling into your imaging suites—let the public know that it is available in their community.

Dana Hinesly is a contributing writer for Axis Imaging News. For more information, contact .


  1. Halliday S, Thrall JH. The business of PET/CT. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2005;184:S152–S155. Available at: www.ajronline.org/cgi/content/abstract/184/5_supp/S152. Accessed October 23, 2006.