Marketing in imaging diagnostics

I recently talked about effective marketing practices in imaging diagnostics services. The starting point of the conversation was the conclusion that marketing tactics, which work well in the case of outpatient services, do not necessarily work for imaging diagnostics. So how do you get patients when you run an imaging center?

First of all, you offer a service, not a picture.

In imaging diagnostics, it is often difficult for a layman to see real quality differences in the service. A patient who is looking for a place where he or she can do the examination relies on:

  • testimonials from other patients
  • the instructions of the referrer for the examination,
  • the price – because he is able to compare it,
  • their conviction of differences in the effectiveness of the study,
  • their experience to date,
  • execution time,
  • convenience in using the service, e.g. location.

Effective marketing consists in appropriate action on all these aspects, differentiating the emphasis on individual elements, depending on the adopted strategy of the company. Of course, the customer must first hear about the service at all. However, the fact that hears it will not necessarily translate into a purchase if there is no need for it and well chosen arguments.

Who are your customers?

Before you start designing activities, check who your customers are. Your patient sources probably come from several of the following sources:

  • Patients who have arrived at the facility on the basis of the guidance of the attending physician,
  • current patients performing the examination again,
  • patients coming from relatives and friends who have used the services,
  • patients, “from the street”, who have found the facility on the Internet, social media, or people living or working in the immediate vicinity of your facility, or moving along a route that runs near your facility,
  • discount card holders or holders of medical subscriptions in your company,
  • employees or their families, acquaintances – employed: doctors, technicians, support staff, patient service staff, who are a valuable but highly underestimated source of patient acquisition,
  • If your facility is located in a hospital or other medical unit, employees and patients of the facility who are in close or further contact with you are also part of this group.

Who is your competition and how does it work?

Your practice does not work in the microcosm. Check your local competition, take into account your location and your patient’s average income. Check what happened in the previous 12 months? What obstacles did you encounter? Are there areas you can identify for improvement? Identify what distinguishes you from your competitors, e.g:

  • Do you offer tests that are not offered by other suppliers?
  • Do you have better equipment?
  • Do you offer longer working hours?
  • Do you offer the possibility of electronic receipt of survey results?

Before preparing a plan, collect and analyze data

The marketing plan that you create may or may not include strategies that satisfy all groups of your customers. To prepare it, you need to identify all groups, estimate which patients are the most and who they are.

Analyze available data – check the history of procedures, tests and payments. Make sure you include all sources of income in the analysis. Find out where most of your patients come from – this is an easy way to determine whether your marketing activities are effective. You can also use this tactic to start new marketing activities in areas where you are starting to grow.

It’s good to know where you can grow. Perhaps your practice has already been successful in some areas, has exhausted its potential and it’s time to focus your energy on aspects that may need to be improved.

For example, if your referral base is solid and well looked after, it may be time to focus on getting new patients from other sources. Even if you can’t make improvements in these areas right now, knowing where your challenges are, you’ll help steer operational and marketing activities for the future.

How to gain knowledge about the directions of action?

  • Ask staff about their experience. Not only will you gain knowledge about existing patients and find out what the strengths and weaknesses of your service are compared to your competitors, but you may also release their creative potential and gain ideas for improving communication or attracting new patients.
  • Ask patients how they came to you and then how they evaluate your service.
  • Analyse the market, especially new ideas, marketing and sales activities. Watch your competitors, but don’t copy their actions, because they don’t necessarily fit your model.
  • Watch for changes in the way patients reach you. If one of the streams dries out, you need to understand very quickly what’s behind it – especially if it’s the effect of competition.

Marketing challenges

  • Education. It is not enough to raise awareness that your organisation exists and is doing well. Even if you have a sales representative who will appear in the doctor’s office and leave leaflets, you will make the doctor aware that three streets away is the centre where you can do a diagnostic test, but you will not necessarily create a belief that it is worth directing a potential patient there.
  • Building perception. Information in a newspaper with a list of offered services, logo and telephone number will not make the reader want to do an advanced examination and will choose your facility.

What marketing areas are worthy of attention?

References of other patients

Many people will not come back for the next survey because they will not need it, but I can encourage family or friends to use the services, and they can leave a good reputation on social media. Make this recommendation easier for them by building up a good experience during the visit.

What happens when a patient gets a picture with a description? It’s hard for them to tell if the picture was taken correctly and the description is sufficiently comprehensive and legible. The quality may be pointed out to him by the doctor who referred him to the examination.

However, it is much more important for the patient to be convinced that the entire service is provided at the highest level, and the description received in the best way gives him a chance for a correct diagnosis.

  • During the visit to the facility and the service, a conviction should be built up that the facility is professional and effective. This can be done both in the medical layer (descriptions, comments, explanations, course of the examination), as well as in the non-medical layer (staff, decoration of the facility).
  • Friendly service is as important as the high quality images that the patient receives after the examination. You can offer good prices and great pictures with an accurate description, but a difficult or rude employee will have a negative impact on the evaluation of the visit.

Create a system of recommendations. Prepare satisfaction surveys after the survey in order to find out the opinions of customers. Ask your satisfied customers for recommendations.

Referral from a doctor

Often the main source of patients is the network of centres or referring doctors. Usually the 80/20 rule applies and most referrals come from these 20% of the most important centres or practices.

What can you do to increase referral by a doctor? There are many tools here – a few examples below.

  • Educate – help doctors to develop their practice by providing factual knowledge and teaching how diagnostic tests affect their specialization, which has recently changed. Promote your services by providing valuable content (e.g. newsletters, webinars, seminars).
  • Facilitate the use of the service – you can prepare a concierge service for your best partners, who often refer patients. A team of specialists who will answer your question, preferential terms, individual VIP patient caregiver – make the examination for their patients as simple and comfortable as possible.
  • Establish relationships. This is a relationship-based business, so visit your local facilities and introduce yourself. Find out if you can help them with anything. If you don’t have salespeople who regularly visit doctors, do it in person. Are you looking for an excuse for such a contact? It can be: information about the purchase of new hardware or software updates, or a regular satisfaction survey with the cooperation. You can also leave educational materials for patients.
  • Show how your services increase the effectiveness of their work and the chances for a correct diagnosis of the patient. Maybe you have pictures of very high quality, or excellent specialists describing the examination – use professionalism to convince the doctor that thanks to the examination in your institution, diagnosis will be easier.