Many imaging facility leaders measure their success in terms of efficiencies. Renegotiating an equipment lease is a cause for celebration. Settling on a vendor to take over your billing and provide you with a net savings requires a champagne toast, and the power audit that reduces your electricity bill triggers bonuses.
All of these efficiencies are important and if they are achieved, you should be pleased.
Too often, however, these milestones come at the expense of the more important task of increasing profitable scan volume. The irony is unavoidable; While you are patting yourself on the back for finding a cheaper source for scrubs, your top referrers are wondering why they no longer hear from you. In time, you become irrelevant to them and all the bottom-line savings you’ve created serve only to forestall your demise.
That may read like a stark or unrealistic scenario, but it’s happening to a former client.
The tipping point comes when partners or senior management see consecutive quarters of reduced scan volume and immediately step on the brakes. The first people to go are members of the sales and marketing staff, most often because decision-makers have not established systems of accountability to help determine the amount of revenue the staff is generating.
The case in point is the east coast hospital imaging department that employed three outside liaisons (aka reps) to attract more referrals. When I arrived on the scene, there was no system in place to determine where they had been, whom they had seen or the referral potential.
Without that data, it makes reducing the marketing department budget an easy decision.
Contrast that to the aforementioned power audit. A consultant comes in, shows you where to save money on electricity and the next month, your power bill is lower.
Cutting is the easy way to navigate tough times. The hard way, but also the way that has the tremendous benefit of creating long-term sustainability, is to increase market share. In fact, a chief reason more imaging facilities don’t aggressively market themselves is because it’s hard. Creating marketing campaigns, schmoozing referrers and showing appreciation are activities that pull most radiologists out of their comfort zones. As a result, they perform these tasks when the numbers are down and they are in a weaker position, instead of when times are good and success is contagious.
Too often, medical imaging is focused on the wrong things. With some notable exceptions, we continue to try to cut and save when we should be looking for expansion opportunities. Market share trumps all.
If you’re achieving efficiency through cutbacks as well as continuing with a full marketing program, congratulations – you are in the sweet spot. But if you continue to focus on efficiency at the expense of market share, you may one day find yourself becoming the most efficient business that used to be.
To summarize and paraphrase a classic statement from former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca: If you’re concerned about overhead, close your facility and you will reduce it 100 percent.
With over 25 years of marketing experience — nine years as a former Vice President of Marketing for a leading health care marketing company — Steve Smith has consistently developed effective strategies to help fuel the growth of countless health care enterprises. Since 2007, he has specialized as a marketing and business development consultant to medical imaging facilities nationwide. Mr. Smith has been a featured speaker at imaging conferences and is a former member of the marketing subcommittee of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA). He has contributed marketing articles to numerous health care publications, including Physician’s Money Digest, Radiology Business Journal and more. Mr. Smith is the creator of “Ten Seconds to Great Customer Service™,” a medical imaging training program that provides easy-to-use tactical customer service support to staff.