Imaging Marketing Strategy

Lessons from Progressive Centers on Securing Share

Learn to avoid a “marketing death spiral” in imaging.

Executive Summary

The imperative to protect and grow imaging marketing share is perhaps best demonstrated by the service line’s outsized financial importance to hospitals. With over $24 billion in outpatient contribution profit, defined as revenue less direct costs, imaging is the most valuable hospital outpatient service, exceeding the next-best service, cardiology, by a factor of three.

Given that imaging generates greater than one-third of total outpatient contribution, it is no surprise that hospitals prioritize this business in allocating capital budgets. Among nonprofit hospitals, diagnostic equipment ranked as the highest spending priority in 2007 with three imaging modalities—CT/PET-CT, MRI, and general imaging represented in the top five technology investments.

Notwithstanding imaging's dominant financial position, the competitive position of hospital-based radiology is seriously threatened by freestanding, investor-owned imaging centers. Indeed, the number of such centers grew by 54 percent between 2001 and 2007 versus less than one percent for hospitals. Moreover, the absolute number of imaging centers eclipsed hospitals in 2002, and the delta continues to widen. It follows that most radiology administrators identified physician-owned imaging centers as their greatest competitive threat based on the Partnership's 2008 imaging marketing survey.

The overwhelming presence, and subsequent convenience, of freestanding centers presents a formidable challenge to hospitals; however, even more disconcerting is their disproportionate volume and market share growth. The Partnership forecasts this trend to continue across the five-year horizon with non-hospital imaging competitors predicted to realize volume growth of nine, eight, and six percent for CT, MRI, and nuclear studies between 2007 and 2012, respectively, while hospitals are expected to see growth of just four, five, and three percent, respectively, for these modalities. These differential growth rates translate to an estimated incremental contribution profit advantage of nearly one billion dollars for freestanding competitors in 2012.

Translating the hospital imaging departments’ value propositions into financial gains requires the creation of a robust marketing blueprint. In support of this effort, the remainder of this report is dedicated to investigating six components of effective imaging marketing. Organized in a step-wise progression, including program self-assessment, internal staff alignment, physician and prospective patient targeting, ROI assessment, and a special report on website-based marketing, this study provides an implicit marketing plan for Partnership members. Each section will highlight case studies from progressive institutions and provide auditing tools with the goal of offering practical guidance.

Imaging is the most valuable hospital outpatient service, but it is woefully under-marketed. By failing to prioritize radiology and imaging marketing, hospitals underexpose and therefore underutilize one of their best and most lucrative resources. After reading this study, members will be able to avoid the so-called “marketing death spiral” by:

  • Building relationships with staff
  • Establishing physician liaisons
  • Increasing referrals
  • Creating brand awareness

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