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Radiologists reach out for additional referrals

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Imagers must connect with managed careWith referrals from traditional sources dwindling, radiology practicesare diversifying their marketing strategies. Practices must increasinglytarget primary-care gatekeepers and managed-care organizationsin

Imagers must connect with managed care

With referrals from traditional sources dwindling, radiology practicesare diversifying their marketing strategies. Practices must increasinglytarget primary-care gatekeepers and managed-care organizationsin addition to orthopedic and neuro specialists.

Success for the radiologist depends on maintaining the loyaltyof traditional referring physicians while educating insurers aboutradiology's role in integrated health-care delivery.

Radiology groups that refuse to network and build contactswithin their region are doomed to fail, said Jim Grasley, medicalpractice advisory for Moss Adams, a Tacoma, WA, accounting firm.

Despite the emphasis on cost containment by insurers, referringphysicians continue to judge radiology practices by ease of accessand quality of service, he said.

Access encompasses not just patient convenience, but also radiologistavailability. Referrers rate radiologists highly when they taketime to discuss study results or to distinguish between imagingoptions for an individual case, Grasley said.

Accountability is as important to managed-care groups as serviceand access are to referring physicians. Success in a managed-caremarket means working with insurers as well as physician gatekeepers.

In a marketing session at the Radiological Society of NorthAmerica meeting in December, Grasley suggested the following approachto measuring and maintaining imaging service market share.

First, identify physicians within each modality that fall intothe following referral categories:** Group A: Loyalists -- thetop 10 referring physicians;** Group B: Splitters -- the next20 referring physicians;** Group C: Stragglers -- the remainingphysicians; and** Group D: Builders -- new practices targetedfor future contact.

Radiologists should then implement an ongoing system of trackingphysician referrals, Grasley said. One of the best ways to dothis is through the use of software programs that can track referralsby physician specialty and type of procedure. These can oftenbe piggybacked on existing billing and information systems.

Practices might also develop a referring-physician relationshipmanagement plan for each radiologist in the group, he said. Centralto this plan would be a list of physicians for whom each radiologistserves as the imaging services contact.

The relationship management plan would also include networkingassignments for each radiologist, such as attendance at localmedical society meetings, case-study luncheons and hospital departmentalfunctions, Grasley said.

Each quarter, practices should send brief surveys to referringphysicians in all groups, varying the format and questions foreach mailing, he said.

Also quarterly, radiologists should recognize and thank groupA physicians and office staff to let them know their businessis valued.

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