Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations

Marketing Q&A with Raymond Damadian of FONAR
Image Gently Campaign Aims to Educate
Sinking Facilities Learn How to Swim

Marketing Q&A with Raymond Damadian of FONAR

Professor Raymond Damadian, MD

Back in 1977, Professor Raymond Damadian, MD, and postdoctoral assistants Lawrence Minkoff and Michael Goldsmith unveiled the very first whole-body MR scanner. About 30 years later, Damadian, president and founder of FONAR Corporation, is receiving kudos for his company’s UPRIGHT Multi-Position MRI. Axis Imaging News spoke with him about what makes his scanner so special and how he is sending that message to prospective customers.

IE: Your company’s unique UPRIGHT MRI invention has received praise from the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation, The Wall Street Journal, and Frost & Sullivan, and it drew crowds at this year’s RSNA meeting. Why does this product generate so much buzz?

Damadian: Since the days of the world’s first commercial MRI, which FONAR installed in 1980, the patient has been in the recumbent position. I think that we have created this buzz because, with the UPRIGHT Multi-Position MRI, FONAR has essentially reinvented the MRI. For the first time in history, physicians can see the body in its natural dynamic behavior—in the position in which the problem occurs with the spine fully loaded with the weight of the body and with all the soft-tissue detail MRI provides. Of course, the UPRIGHT also scans people in the usual recumbent position.

IE: How does this innovation improve on traditional approaches to MR imaging?

Damadian: People live in motion and experience pain in motion. In other words, human physiology is greatly impacted by position and gravity. This is especially true of the weight-loaded spine. Since approximately half of all the MRI scans done on the planet are of the spine, the UPRIGHT MRI offers invaluable diagnostic advantages. Most importantly, the improved diagnoses lead to changes in surgical protocols and improved surgical outcomes.

IE: After the process of development, companies must embark on marketing campaigns to educate potential customers on the products’ desirability. Who is your target market, and what efforts have been made to spread the word?

Damadian: Our target market is physicians. Our promotional literature features radiologists and surgeons, talking about the unique advantages of the FONAR UPRIGHT MRI and how it leads to improved diagnoses and better surgical outcomes. We feel the UPRIGHT MRI has the sort of advantages that are very compelling for physicians. We’re seeing a strong response as the marketplace becomes increasingly aware of the ability of the FONAR UPRIGHT Multi-Position MRI to visualize the anatomy responsible for the patient’s back pain, which the lie-down MRI that removes the body weight generating the patient’s pain frequently cannot.

IE: What message do you hope to relay to prospective clients?

Damadian: As one of our surgeon friends told us, “If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it. The most important image is the one that is able to see the patient’s problem.” The UPRIGHT MRI lets radiologists and surgeons see the problem more accurately than recumbent-only, static MRI scanners. I like to compare the two as electric lights versus gas lights. The electric light provided the illumination needed for satisfactory visibility that the gaslight could not. Likewise, the FONAR UPRIGHT MRI provides the illumination needed to explicitly see the source of the patient’s back pain where the “illumination” of the recumbent MRI is inadequate to reliably do so.

We also have excellent image quality, and it’s due to the unique direction of our magnetic field. It is horizontal-transverse. The usual open MRI is vertical, while a 1.5 or 3T has a horizontal magnetic field in the same direction as the body axis (horizontal co-axial) when the patient is lying down for a scan. The direction of the field and the fact that it is horizontal-transaxial enable us to use the same spinal coil as a 1.5 or 3T machine, which the usual open MRI cannot use.

—Elaine Sanchez

Image Gently Campaign Aims to Educate

The Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging launched its new Image Gently Campaign in January, a movement designed to improve understanding of and access to protocols for pediatric imaging. Image Gently will initially focus on CT imaging; the number of pediatric CT scans performed in the United States has increased substantially in the past 5 years, and the campaign is intended to help medical protocols keep pace with advancing technology.

The Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging was formed by the Society for Pediatric Radiology (SPR), the American College of Radiology (ACR), the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM). Explained Marilyn Goske, MD, chair of the Alliance and board chair of the SPR, “Many pieces of CT equipment do not have automated protocols, so the technologist has to enter the scan parameters manually, and it’s easy to scan using an adult dose. This was an issue behind much research in the SPR, and we felt it was important to get the message out as part of an education campaign.”

The message is, quite simply, that CT is an extremely valuable technology that helps save children’s lives, but it should be performed in appropriate circumstances, using the correct protocols. In order to make this information easier to access, the Image Gently Web site ( will include protocols for pediatric CT, along with information on dosing, links to scientific articles and other resources, and pointers on spreading the message to both referring physicians and parents.

“We hope the Web site will be an ongoing, very dynamic education resource for radiology professionals,” said Goske. “We all want to do the right thing, but if you’re a busy radiologist in practice, time is always a factor. This is a resource that has it all in one place. We want radiologists to contact their medical physicists and work with them and their technologists to implement these changes.”

Donald Frush, MD, chair of the ACR’s Pediatric Commission, also notes that a Web-based campaign is the most far-reaching approach possible. “This isn’t just a conference that some general radiologists might go to, or an article that some people might read,” he said. “It’s a campaign with a broad mandate and a number of specialty organizations providing expertise. We’re presenting information in a way that radiology personnel will be able to use easily.”

Frush says that the section of the site dealing with how to address parents could be particularly helpful to both referring physicians and radiologists. “People aren’t frightened by hearing information,” he said. “They just want to know that you know the risks and can advise them about the right thing to do. When a doctor says that, at most, the radiation risk from a single CT is very small, and that the radiology practice he’s referring a patient to has expertise in pediatric CT radiation dose management, parents feel good about that. They’re more trusting as long as you keep them informed.”

Goske also notes that the protocols on the Web site were developed based on protocols used in ACR accreditation for CT imaging of adults. “You get your parameters right for the adults by going through ACR certification, and the Image Gently protocols work from that to lower the dose based on body weight,” she explained. “I would encourage imaging centers to go for that certification. That’s the type of quality you want for your patients.” The protocols were developed by Keith Strauss, a medical physicist from Boston Children’s Hospital, and vetted through the SPR, ACR, and Society of Computed Body Tomography and Magnetic Resonance.

In the next waves of the campaign, referring physicians will be targeted, followed by the public. Additionally, members of the Alliance composed a rebuttal letter to the recent New England Journal of Medicine article on cancer risk from CT radiation in children.

“We emphasize that it’s not simply an issue of saying, ‘This is bad technology,'” said Goske. “It’s wonderful technology, but we can’t be complacent about it. We want the public to know that we take these concerns very seriously.” To learn more, visit

—Cat Vasko

Sinking Facilities Learn How to Swim

Outside expertise can held build referral business

In the 1990s, with financial backing, even a bartender with no knowledge of the medical market could run an imaging center that flourished. But nowadays, facilities and their administrators are sinking, going out of business, and left wondering, what am I doing wrong?

That’s where Martin J. Farrell and his marketing team at Epic Management LLC come in. The firm, based in Long Island, NY, sends its staffers directly into the mix, setting up shop at the actual facility and turning a critical eye on everything from the front desk to the equipment that is used.

“I think what happens is, in the service industry that we’re in, it’s never really marketing and sales that is the problem,” said Farrell, the company’s CEO and COO. “The majority of what we found when we got in there is that we’d need to evaluate how the center is run.”

Farrell explained that in the old days, technology did not really come into play when operating a successful facility. Rather, what mattered most was the background and mission statement of the company. Physicians attained referrals based on their reputations. In today’s world, administrators must make sure they invest in the right equipment and also the right insurance contract. Patients especially take note of the convenience factor—whether the front desk is easy to deal with, whether they could access online reports.

Epic Management LLC was established in 2003 with the goal to lend a hand to outpatient imaging centers in the development of their site. At the time, Farrell already had 10 years under his belt working for FONAR, the manufacturer that, under founder and MR pioneer Raymond Damadian, MD, produced the first commercial MR scanner. With his knowledge of the industry, Farrell formed Epic and set out to help clients by running a site from start to finish. But soon he discovered that, without the authority to make certain decisions, the process was complicated and time-consuming.

When a friend approached him with a request to manage his marketing operations, Farrell admitted he was slightly hesitant. After all, he founded the company in order to develop entire sites, not specifically their community outreach efforts. Nevertheless, he accepted the deal and took on the challenge, to tremendous success. Within 6 months, his company was able to increase referrals for the doctor by 67%. “You start with a game plan, and things start to modify as you go along,” he said of his company’s evolution. “Going to help these clients with marketing efforts—I enjoy it. To me, that’s where we have the most fun.”

Farrell said the biggest reason for his company’s success in generating an increased referral base for customers is that his marketers are not the practice’s employees. Instead, they are hired on a contract basis, a buffer zone that allows them to concentrate on the job at hand.

“They don’t care about office politics,” Farrell said of his trained marketers, who are scattered around the country. “Their only focus is to get more revenue for our clients.”

To accomplish this feat, marketers peruse entire referral bases, checking to see how often a certain doctor refers his patients to the practice and figure out why that number is increasing or dwindling. They’ll even meet with the doctor and ask them directly what is good or bad about the facility. Epic’s staffers assess the business’ operational procedures and check to see whether it is operating under outdated technology. Once the evaluation period is over, marketers discuss their findings with the client and offer a customized solution.

In addition to assessments, Epic Management Group develops marketing materials and events, as well as assists in the development of Web sites. For example, one of Epic’s seven clients, based in Denver, didn’t want to spend much money on advertising and opted to use a fluorescent yellow Microsoft Word document as its flier. When Epic offered its marketing expertise, it got rid of the unappealing materials, redesigned the practice’s script pads, and helped with a brochure. In its marketing events, Epic strives to showcase the heart of a facility not only through open houses but through leisure activities like wine tastings.

“In the local market, physicians have to know who the doctors are out there, and they need to get a gauge of what business is in the area,” Farrell said.

That’s the biggest piece of advice Farrell can give to facilities that find themselves failing in today’s health care market. “Research, research, research,” Farrell emphasized.

—E. Sanchez