Don’t look now, but there may be an ad agency in your scanner

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 - Star Valley Medical Center
Star Valley Medical Center, Afton, Wyoming

Today every forward-thinking radiology practice realizes that, in these times of falling reimbursement, rising regulatory oversight and cascading calls for transparency, it’s not enough to be great at what you do. You have to do a little selling too. For that reason, Hitachi Medical Systems America has been expanding its custom marketing services into what it calls its advanced marketing program, or AMP.

The company pioneered post-sale support for its provider partners around 20 years ago. Its initial aim was to help radiology centers and departments explain the appeal of then-new open MRI to their claustrophobic or otherwise skittish patients. With AMP now up and running at full capacity, 2015 finds Hitachi offering an array of professional creative services to rival those found at many an established ad agency.

Now, as at the program’s nascence, these services are available free of charge to every site with an installed Hitachi under warranty or service contract.

Raymond Wtulich, Hitachi’s Manager of Marketing Communications and AMP’s de facto creative director, says one of the best parts of his job is seeing “radiology people” light up when they recognize that marketing is well worth their while—and can be fun, to boot. 

“Many of our clients get their first taste of this through Hitachi’s base-line marketing support, which lays the groundwork for AMP yet is actually quite robust in its own right,” he says.

The basic support to which he refers includes a marketing planner with all sorts of materials geared to the local community, patients, and their doctors. It’s got brochures, press releases, commercial scripts, modality fact sheets and referrer guides. Everything is branded with the radiology practice’s logo and can be further customized by the practice.

“What’s more, we don’t just drop this mountain of materials on the client’s doorstep and then drive away,” says Wtulich. “Our creative specialists work closely with each customer one-to-one, just like ad-agency account managers and creative directors. They help create, conduct and measure successful campaigns.”

A show of brands

AMP takes all of this to a considerably higher level of customization and sophistication, Wtulich explains, adding that the process begins with market research. “We engage the client in an initial consultation during which we set out to understand the customer’s brand and the characteristics of its marketplace,” he says. “With those insights in hand, and further informed by our years of national and international experience, we determine whether the client would do better to build off an existing brand or forge an entirely new one.”

At that point Hitachi AMP begins crafting the finely tuned messaging. How finely tuned? “We’ve done everything from daring Texas cowboys to be ‘tough enough to get an MRI’ to deploying potatoes, one to represent each of the three human body types, to promote a bariatric campaign in New York.”

As for placement, the program’s portfolio includes print-ready billboards, print ads, mailers, website banners, downloads, scripts and B roll for commercials and, crucially, specialty-specific materials aimed at referring physicians.  

“Best of all in the eyes of many of our clients, we send original artwork files with everything we create in AMP,” says Wtulich. “Most ad agencies send clients PDFs but not original artwork, so when the client wants to update or revise a piece, they have to pay the agency to make the change. With the original files in hand, they can update and tweak all they like.”

Winning in Wyoming

One person who vocally appreciates the many facets of AMP is Terry Lemon, radiology director at Star Valley Medical Center in rural Afton, Wyo. In early 2014, the 24-bed critical access hospital installed a Hitachi Oval MRI. Lemon tells ImagingBiz that the program has not only increased business but also built community spirit.

For example, he points out how, a few weeks after the installation, the county held its annual health fair at the high school gymnasium. In advance of the event, Hitachi shipped out a life-size, 3-D Oval display for the hospital’s booth. As Lemon tells it, the visual aid all but stole the show. “People would walk in, see what looked like an actual MRI and walk over to get a good look,” he says. “Everyone found it really eye-catching, and it led to a busy day for our booth and some good questions for our MRI technologist.”

Lemon also has good things to say about a print ad Hitachi AMP put