Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations

Cancer Center Markets to Men
Second Life Grants First Look at Future Hospital
700 Take the Pledge to Image Gently

Chicago Prostate Cancer Center will offer videos and Web reviews to draw patients.

Cancer Center Markets to Men

Uses Both New and Tried-and-True Methods

Nowadays, before a traveler books a vacation, the individual reads reviews online, browses forums, and views photos of the destination. After all, a person wants to get an idea about what to expect.

Understanding this about human nature, the staff at the Chicago Prostate Cancer Center is in the process of developing videos and revamping its Web site to address the needs of its current and prospective information-seeking patients.

“It’s always important to keep current,” said Michelle Braccioforte, director of research and education. “Everyday there is a new study out with new information. When [patients] come into counsel, they don’t come in not knowing about their diagnosis—they did a lot of reading, visited chat rooms, and researched forums. We really want to keep up to date on that.”

The Illinois-based cancer center, which specializes in prostate brachytherapy, has been in the community for 10 years. Two years ago, it moved its operations from a rented office space into an entirely new freestanding facility, designed specifically for the needs of radiation seed implantation. Just as the cancer center has thrived, so too have the popularity and awareness of the clinical benefits of the procedure as a primary therapy.

More and more patients are realizing that the minimally invasive procedure produces survival statistics that are essentially equal to those of surgery. Braccioforte explains that with earlier detection, screening, and diagnosis, younger men who work full time are finding that the one-time, outpatient procedure is convenient compared to other treatment options that feature longer durations. These include radical prostatectomy, 3D conformal radiation therapy, and intensity modulated radiation therapy. As a result of its success, Chicago Prostate Cancer Center is able to refer to itself as “the busiest implant center in the world,” and as reported by Braccioforte, it has easily doubled its caseload since it opened a decade ago.

And to what do they attribute this success? According to Jennifer Cichon, administrative director, it’s location, location, location. “Our new facility is its own marketing tool,” Cichon said, adding that with its centralized position, accessible from all major highways and located between the Windy City’s two major airports, the cancer center gets a lot of exposure. Commuters driving by even notice the building and come in for more information. Also, the building’s two-floor design is appealing to patients, who do not need to ambulate from different rooms to different halls. Rather, all equipment and medical personnel are centralized and easily accessible to patients before surgery and post recovery.

To keep the momentum going, the center is in the planning stages of two videos, one that will be sent out to those inquiring about the facility and another that will be given to primary physicians, whom many patients turn to for information on their diagnosis and the procedure. The videos will include patient testimonials and basic information. Nothing too in depth, Braccioforte pointed out—just enough to get people through the door and start asking questions.

The new Web site to be launched later this spring,, will feature more updated information, including a virtual tour of the facility. It will also contain a myth section, intended to debunk inaccuracies about the procedure. For example, one such myth is that patients who are young should have surgery, when, in fact, Braccioforte said, there is no scientific basis for this conclusion.

“It is a procedure that has benefited from the technologic/digital evolution that has occurred over the past two decades,” according to the center’s Web site. “Without a doubt, we perform better implants now than 15 years ago, simply because of technological advances. Therefore, one should expect the already excellent results achieved with brachytherapy only to improve in the future.”

Lastly, both Braccioforte and Cichon point out that while location and promotional tools can help, the best way to reach out to the community is the tried-and-true method: word of mouth. “Our biggest referral source is our patients,” Cichon said. The cancer center holds monthly support groups, which allow up to 100 attendees, consisting of former and potential patients, to gather and talk about their personal experiences. Each patient is treated like family, Braccioforte and Cichon said, and as a result, the family keeps growing. “Just do good work. Care about what you do. Be there for your patients,” said the team.

—Elaine Sanchez

Palomar Pomerado Health is gathering feedback on its planned medical campus through a virtual preview.

Second Life Grants First Look at Future Hospital

In February, network management firm Cisco and California health care delivery system Palomar Pomerado Health cut the ribbon on an all-new, state-of-the-art hospital—a virtual ribbon, that is.

The virtual hospital, a simulation of the real-world Palomar West Medical campus slated to open in 2011, was built in an online virtual world called “Second Life,” a three-dimensional, multiuser real-time gaming environment. Showcasing an assortment of design and technology innovations planned for the real San Diego hospital, the online version will be used to gather feedback on how to enhance the delivery of quality care. At the same time, it’s a marketing tool that gives future patients a sneak peek at what to expect from the future hospital.

“We’re the first hospital in the United States that’s done this,” said Orlando Portale, chief innovation officer. “We are providing thought leadership on how to leverage technology in health care.”

Palomar approached Cisco with the idea for a collaborative project and encouraged them to show how their technology could be used as an enabler to improve the patient experience, Portale said. Together, the companies could demonstrate how to move forward as an industry in an innovative way, he continued.

At the end of 2007, there had been about 900 million square meters of land acquired in Second Life, a separate world with even its own microcurrency. Palomar purchased an island in the space for the relatively inexpensive price of $1,695, Portale said. With help from Millions of Us, a startup videogame development company based in Sausalito, Calif, architectural renderings of the actual facility were reproduced in the virtual community.

From a launch point at, users are teleported to a location that allows them to experience the Connected Hospital technologies that will be delivered in the real hospital by Cisco. “Welcome to the hospital of the future,” greets a virtual receptionist who appears via Cisco TelePresence, a new technology that employs high-definition video and spatial audio to create unique “in person” experiences via the network.

After receiving RFID bracelets, visitors can tour the facility and view the design of individual patient rooms, consisting of same-handed, acuity-adaptable rooms and cross-discipline interventional procedure rooms. As a patient’s condition changes, the acuity-adaptable rooms can be transformed, eliminating the need for patients to be transported from unit to unit. Catering to patient comfort and privacy, every room is single occupancy and identical in layout and design, which also yields maximized efficiency and minimized medical errors. The fully electronic environment ensures that patient EHRs are always available on a flat screen in the room.

For more than a year, nurses worked with architects to design a room with useful features, all of which is slated to be included in the real-life $811-million, 775,000-square-foot, 360-bed Palomar West. Temperature and lighting can be adjusted through a bedside display. Families can come in and surf the net. Patients can order meals electronically and order videos on demand. Nursing stations are located immediately outside the room.

Additionally, Palomar West was designed to provide a healing environment though a constant connection with nature. Features of the campus, which are displayed in Second Life, include dining areas, a pedestrian path, and gardens.

Another concept Palomar includes in its virtual model is a mobile, remote-controlled, 3D holographic whole-body multimodality medical imager. “This technology doesn’t exist today,” Portale said. “But we’re talking about it now because the idea that we want to explore is that we don’t want to move the patient around. There will have to be advancements in imaging technology in order to do that.”

—E. Sanchez

700 Take the Pledge to Image Gently

Since it kicked off on January 22, the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging’s “Image Gently” campaign has inspired more than 700 imaging providers to take a pledge to reduce radiation dose estimate when performing CT scans on children.

Representing more than 500 facilities around the country, the providers have taken part in 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 ( offers 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 said 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.

—E. Sanchez and Cat Vasko