Improve Your Marketing: Talk to Your Patients

June 6, 2018

What they tell you can make the difference between success and failure.

Rare is the patient who comes to the hospital today and doesn’t undergo some type of diagnostic imaging. And, their presence marks more than an opportunity for you to provide quality patient care.

Their hospital stay-or even their outpatient visit-gives you the opportunity to market yourself as their home for future radiology needs, said Frank Lexa, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology’s Commission on Leadership & Practice Development at this year’s American Society of Neuroradiology annual meeting in Vancouver. It’s also a chance for you to glean their input on how you can make your practice better.

You should also gather critiques from all the audiences you serve, he said, including referring physicians, other radiologists, technologists, hospitals, and other facilities.

“It’s important to understand that all of these entities stand alone,” he said. “We must ask them what they want from us, what we can do better, and what we aren’t already doing well.”

Some of the best information comes from patients, though, he said.

While disseminating and collecting surveys can be an effective way to gather this data, nothing is as effective as a face-to-face, two-way conversation, Lexa said. Simply talking to your audiences is a strong starting point for them to understand who you are as a radiologist and what value you bring to the healthcare chain.

In addition, it’s equally important for practices to gather together to share their experiences. It’s an opportunity for radiologists to share successes and challenges in the endeavor to improve patient care.

“The smartest example of value creation in radiology is for radiologists to look for ways to collaborate and find ways to create more value,” he said.

Doing so can eventually help you set your practice apart from your competitors.

The information you collect can touch a wide variety of topics for your practice. Patients frequently share feedback about parking at your facility, as well as how easy it was to obtain a convenient appointment. They can also alert you to how they prefer to receive their imaging results-they might have a preference between you or their referring provider.

Most importantly, patient input can also alert you to how your staff behaves when you aren’t around. Patients frequently report whether staff is particularly kind and helpful, but they can identify employees who might not be reflecting the level of patient care and respect you require.

Although taking on these patient conversations instead of relying on your hospital or other governing body to handle your marketing needs will take time, it’s an imperative endeavor, Lexa said. In most instances, a hospital or other large facility’s marketing efforts tend to be generalized, very rarely concentrating on what radiology can do for patients. This can be particularly important if you’ve identified ways to improve patient care for specific patient groups, such as cancer or multiple sclerosis patients.

In some cases, the information you gather from patients can inform your decisions for making big capital purchases that can keep your practice as technologically updated as possible. In others, though, their feedback can help you tweak the practice, right down to whether you have complimentary coffee available for your patients in the waiting room.

“You must listen to the people you’re serving and try to incorporate the useful material that comes out of those conversations into your practice to constantly try to improve your practice,” he said. “Sometimes you focus on the big things, such as buying new equipment, but a lot of time, this means focusing on the little things.”