Monitor Referrals, Marketing with Customer Relations Software

August 9, 2012

Radiology practices are turning to customer relations management (CRM) software to gather data and improve their referrals and marketing efforts.

Think for a moment. Can you immediately identify the physician or practice that sends you the most referrals? Do you really know how your marketers are spending their time to attract new business? If you don’t know these answers, your bottom line might not be as healthy as it could be.

Many radiology practices are turning to customer relations management (CRM) software to help gather the data that will shed light on these questions. This tool can track where your business comes from and where opportunities for new relationships might exist. And, in a competitive environment, knowing how to maximize your workload is crucial, according to many in the industry.

“Oversight for cultivating relationships with referring offices and physicians is critical,” said Gail Schwartz, healthcare category manager at Marketing Works, which makes Tracking Works CRM for radiology. “Many marketers keep notes from a visit in Excel sheets or on the back of business cards, and there’s no way of tracking what anyone is doing. With a CRM, you have a robust repository to input data, share it, and demonstrate the impact of marketing efforts.”

CRMs, priced roughly between $14,000 and $84,000 plus any monthly fees, are also growing in popularity. In 2008, global information technology and advisory company Gartner Inc. estimated North American spending on CRM software across all industries would balloon from $4.3 billion in 2007 to $7.6 billion in 2012. Schwartz confirmed there’s an increased interest in healthcare. Both hospitals and practices are investigating and implementing CRMs, even though many still don’t know how to best implement it for their own needs.

What CRM Software Does

On average, a typical imaging center can have between 700 to 900 referring physicians, and keeping track of all client contacts and past marketing efforts is difficult, said Glenn Weintraub, marketing and business development director for IDS, maker of AbbaDox CRM for radiology. Housing this information in a central location can tell you whether your referring physicians are satisfied with your services, where you can improve, and even where you rank amongst your peers in turn-around time, he said.

According to Weintraub, AbbaDox - a cloud-based CRM tool - meets these needs through an interactive dashboard that allows you to key in pertinent information regarding specific organizational processes, such as how many marketing calls or visits are made daily and how far in advance visits are scheduled. With this data in place, you can run a variety of reports on the types of cases referring physicians send over, draw trend analyses, and identify clusters of referring doctors.

“We can break down data by physician group to see which provider is the dominant referrer,” he said. “Through our various reporting processes, we identify what marketing efforts work to grow a business.”

In addition to running reports, Tracking Works CRM also allows you to categorize your referring physicians, Schwartz said. By dividing these doctors into groups, such as those who routinely refer and those who could refer more, you can best target your marketing efforts. Knowing where your growth opportunities are makes it easier to invest sales time with practices that aren’t yet sending you the maximum amount of referrals.

By helping you be proactive in your business relationships, CRMs can also pinpoint the reason behind any referral drop-offs, Schwartz said. For example, if you know a physician is on an extended vacation because you’ve stored data on those visits, you know not to exert any unnecessary marketing efforts.

Both AbbaDox and Tracking Works - two options among more than a dozen CRM systems - import at least a year’s worth of marketing data so practices don’t have to start from scratch with the software. They also offer training sessions that teach you how to use the tools in the mobile and office-based formats. The more you understand about your CRM tool, the less involvement you’ll need from your information technology staff, Weintraub said, freeing them up to focus on maintaining your PACS and RIS systems.

What Practices Should Consider

While CRM software can help you streamline your marketing efforts and improve the services you provide to your referring physicians, it isn’t a magic bullet, Weintraub said.
“I warn everyone to temper their expectations,” he said. “There are a lot of things that play into what marketers have to do.”

Although it’s important to tell physicians about any new machines or technologies you have, doctors are more interested in how you treat their patients, what your turn-around time is, and how patients perceive your practice. Addressing these issues helps build the relationships and friendships that lead office staffers to refer their patients to you for imaging, he said.

It’s also a good idea to outline how your marketers are organized geographically and by specialty. Doing so makes it easier for your staff to plan their efforts strategically, Schwartz said.

Getting your marketing staff on board with a CRM can be a challenge. Many view it as an intrusion to their work. “There’s always pushback from markets whenever there’s an oversight mechanism put in place,” Weintraub said. “CRMs look over their shoulders. It’s there to make sure the work gets done. It’s recorded, and the administration can get on top of understanding what marketers do with their time.”

Marketers also balk at using CRM software because of the time required to enter data about each office visit, Schwarz said.

One Client’s Experience

Seattle-based diagnostic imaging center Radia recently implemented Tracking Works to solve a long-standing marketing problem, said Janinne Walker, Radia’s sales and marketing manager. Although each customer service representative tracked his or her own activities, no centralized method existed to access or analyze that data.

“If someone left, all of their client information left with them,” she said. “There was no way for me to see who was doing what, and, in turn, I couldn’t give our operations team access so they could see what was going on.”

Since implementing Tracking Works, Walker has been able to pull data from the CRM weekly to show each marketer a log of who they’ve visited, what issues physicians have raised, and what was discussed during each meeting. The system now keeps her marketers updated so they don’t repeat their efforts, she said.

Although all CRM tools are designed to help you track and manage your marketing and referrals, Walker advised you to choose a software tool specifically designed for radiology because it is outfitted to specifically address issues unique to the industry.

Regardless of the product you choose or your reasons for selecting it, investing in a strong CRM software tool can make a significant, positive long-term impact on your practice, Weintraub said.
“You’re never going to know if a shift has occurred in referring volume unless you invest time to look into it,” he said. “CRM software identifies how things are going right now so you can understand where your studies are coming from and why they’re coming to you.”