Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations

Helping Seniors Help Themselves
Imaging Abroad: DR in Zambia, Breast MRI in Italy
Proof of Worth

by Cat Vasko

Helping Seniors Help Themselves

Memory Week 2006 focused on Alzheimer’s imaging and education
When Oregon Advanced Imaging (OAI), Medford, Ore, built a new facility featuring PET/CT, it needed a way to promote its services while sim-ultaneously raising awareness of the technology’s diagnostic power. The large senior citizen population in southern Oregon needed the Alzheimer’s imaging capabilities of PET/CT, but many did not understand its potential. That’s when OAI set out to educate the public about both the importance of early diagnosis and the role imaging plays.

Business manager Jeanette McCartney and marketing director Vicki Chamberlain were faced with the same problem as many imaging centers: making the best of powerful new technology. “We were building this new facility, a bit away from the medical community, and my concern was, how do we introduce this to the public and providers, and make it well known?” McCartney said.

“We have a lot of retirement communities here,” added Chamberlain, “so PET/CT is definitely needed, but not understood.”

Luckily, McCartney received some inspiration from a Florida doctor she met on vacation, who explained that his new facility had held a big fund-raiser when it first opened, garnering a lot of recognition from the community. “I came home with that idea in mind: what could we do for the community, and at the same time bring people to our facility?”

From that notion, Memory Week 2006 was born. Ultimately the nugget-of-an-idea grew to encompass 6 days of public awareness events, community education talks, and free screenings, along with a gala attended by more than 200 physicians and community members.

“It was of huge interest to the community,” recalled Chamberlain. “With Baby Boomers now at the age when their parents are having this issue, or they themselves are having early onset symptoms, there’s a trend. Baby Boomers don’t want to get old. And in Medford, we learned there was such a need that had to be fulfilled. We have a huge senior population, but because of reimbursement issues, we don’t have a lot of geriatric physicians. We have no physicians who are experts in diagnosing Alzheimer’s.”

OAI paired with the Alzheimer’s Association’s Southern Oregon chapter, and the event continued to grow. A Clear Channel radio sponsorship enabled five local radio stations to run brain health tips, riddles, and educational information; three morning talk shows were dedicated to the topic of Alzheimer’s, and included live interviews with OAI radiologists. “People could call in and ask them questions,” said Chamberlain. “And when Dr Mega [Michael Mega, MD, PhD, director of the AD/Dementia Program at Providence Medical Center, Portland] came to town, one of the TV stations did a half-hour special on him—what’s important about early detection, what are the symptoms, and so on.”

“The response we got from the community was amazing,” McCartney said.

Mega also spoke to referring physicians and to the community. “It was meant to be education for the public,” Chamberlain said. “We gave them tools: this is what you should be asking your primary care physician. And the sooner you find out, the faster you get on the drugs, and the longer and better they work. We really tried to stress to people that you’d do this for cancer. You need to do it for Alzheimer’s as well.”

In the end, OAI received more than $36,000 in sponsorships and donations, and gave $21,300 to the Alzheimer’s Association. Its web traffic showed a 15% increase during and after the week’s events, and a recent physician survey showed that there is demand for even more AD-related PET/CT physician education.

“We saw an increase in our referrals. People knew where our new facility was, and knew we had PET/CT, which was important for us to advertise,” McCartney said. ” It really worked out well, and we felt good about being able to provide the information and education to the community. People still talk about how wonderful it was.”

Imaging Abroad: DR in Zambia, Breast MRI in Italy

Delft Imaging Systems BV, Veenendaal, The Netherlands, recently announced the first African installation of its Odelca-DR digital screening solution. The Occupational Health Management Board in Kitwe, Zambia, chose the system for its flexibility, increased patient throughput, image quality, and dose reduction capabilities.

Delft’s Odelca-DR digital screening solution debuts in Africa.

The system was installed complete with software designed by Delft to enable the transfer of large images over unreliable Internet connections.

“The introduction of this system in combination with special software, also developed by our company, which enables transfer of images over a low bandwidth connection, will have a major positive impact on the health care infrastructure in many African countries,” said Guido Geerts, president and CEO of Delft.

This is the first installation of Delft’s digital thorax screening system in Africa, but three analog Odelca systems have been operating in Kitwe for more than 30 years.

Meanwhile, breast MRI is on tour in Europe, thanks to Aurora Imaging Technology Inc, North Andover, Mass. A mobile version of the company’s 1.5T dedicated breast MRI system is traveling throughout Italy, and so far has been used in Forli, Padova, Verona, Bari, and Genoa.

“Remarkably, with a mobile Aurora unit, in just 3 weeks we were able to perform more than 60 breast MRI scans on women who are either extremely high risk or are suspicious of having breast cancer,” said Massimo Calabrese, MD, a radiologist at University Hospital San Martino, Genoa. “Having access to the Aurora system completely mitigated our previously long MRI waiting list. Furthermore, utilizing Aurora’s biopsy targeting software, we have also successfully executed several MR-guided biopsies, thus providing the much needed critical information to aid in patient diagnosis.”

An active plan to add more units, enabling coverage of wider service areas, has been initiated.

Proof of Worth

by Renee Diiulio

Patients seek evidence of quality
In medicine, evidence isn’t quite everything, but it should be evincible. Just as physicians want proof of the effectiveness of new procedures and technologies, patients want proof of professional capabilities and facility quality. Professionals have degrees and certifications to prove their worth; facilities have accreditation.

“Accreditation is an expert assessment of image quality,” said Krista Bush, director of the Non-Breast Imaging Accreditation Program of the American College of Radiology (ACR), Reston, Va. The peer-reviewed, educationally focused evaluation of practice can validate good operation as well as document the need for new or dedicated equipment, continuing education, or qualified personnel. In addition to its usefulness in meeting the criteria of ACS, state or federal governments, or third-party payors, accreditation is also a marketing tool.

“Many facilities use it as a marketing tool to set their practice apart from the competition. Patients can be confident they are receiving quality care when they see the ACR certificate posted in the waiting room,” said Bush.

ACR accreditation assesses the qualifications of personnel, policies and procedures, equipment specifications, quality assurance activities, patient safety, and ultimately the quality of patient care. Physicians who supervise and interpret medical imaging must meet stringent education and training standards; the technologists administering tests should be appropriately certified; and imaging equipment must be surveyed regularly by qualified medical physicists to ensure proper function.

Specific accreditations available through ACR include breast ultrasound, CT, mammography, MRI, nuclear medicine and PET, radiation oncology, sterotactic breast biopsy, and ultrasound. Six new MRI modules will be available in the first quarter of 2008: body, head, angiography, spine, musculoskeletal, and cardiac. These will modify the current MRI accreditation from a program that evaluates only facilities that perform whole-body MRI to a modular one that can certify facilities with limited practices or those with multiple units, some of which specialize in specific examinations.

The new MRI program has been in development since 2006, when the ACR Council approved the redesign to meet the demands of a community with varying practice patterns. The scoring criteria will be determined by subcommittees and will incorporate the current accreditation requirement that every magnet at a facility pass. Other requirements vary according to the specialty (as do fees).

For instance, the CT Accreditation Program involves the acquisition of clinical and phantom images, dose measurements, and the submission of scanning protocols; the Ultrasound Accreditation Program includes the acquisition of clinical images, submission of relevant physician reports corresponding to clinical images submitted, and quality control documentation; the Stereotactic Breast Biopsy Accreditation Program requires the evaluation of image quality and breast dose data.

There are, however, some similarities. All sites seeking accreditation, whether new or renewed, must have active participation in a physician peer-review program; breast-focused imaging is excluded (Mammography, Stereotactic Breast Biopsy, and the Ultrasound-Guided Breast Biopsy module of the Breast Ultrasound Program).

Peer-review programs provide for the systematic review and evaluation of examinations to assure quality. Accuracy, appropriateness, and adverse events should all be monitored, analyzed, and reported. Some of the required program characteristics include double-readings, random reviews, exams, and summary data for each physician and facility by modality.

ACR has been offering accreditation services since 1963; the current programs were launched as a result of a successful mammography program implemented in 1987. More specifics are available on the organization’s web site, but facilities should weigh the benefits and requirements to determine if accreditation is right for them. The goal is to set quality standards for practices, provide guidance for continuous improvement, and offer proof of that value.