HFMA Magazine: How to Revitalize Radiology Revenue

Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) has published an article from MedQuest’s Bruce Elder about ways to improve radiology revenue and profitability.


Using Assessments to Increase Sales and Marketing Effectiveness

By Bruce Elder

As hospitals, physician practices and imaging centers face rising price competition and shrinking reimbursement for imaging, performing an in-depth assessment of your market, as well as your sales and marketing activities, offers a cost-effective means of achieving a more profitable and better positioned imaging operation. A periodic analysis of your market environment can dovetail with a data-driven assessment of sales and marketing functions to identify gaps and opportunities; it also often serves to reinvigorate outreach efforts.

Performing a Market Assessment

Gathering market data is integral to developing and executing effective sales and marketing strategies. A market assessment identifies opportunities and challenges that are unique to your marketplace. Identifying geographic and demographic demand for imaging services not only reveals current strengths and weaknesses within the marketplace, but it can also indicate the potential viability of new locations and/or acquisition opportunities.

An effective market assessment includes an in-depth examination of the competitive environment. In addition to assessing competitors on a range of key criteria, this may include meeting with a wide range of physicians to determine what influences referral patterns, receptivity to the organization’s offerings, perceptions of the organization’s customer service levels and how competitive facilities are viewed.

Assessments also offer an opportune time to examine pricing structures and identify demand for new clinical applications that offer potential revenue enhancement. Combining information on healthcare consumer trends and new clinical opportunities with your identified market gaps can result in new approaches that spur growth and profitability.

Evaluating Referral Trends

Another essential component of an effective assessment is a detailed review of physician referral patterns and scan volume potential. During this process, it’s important to update and review the total potential physician referral base, including determining the total number of referring physicians, those that are most active, and scan counts measured against forecasts. This process also identifies dwindling referrals from a particular source, allowing immediate resolution of any issues to re-establish a positive relationship.

Using this market intelligence, it is possible to create a results-oriented sales and marketing plan that identifies and targets areas of potential volume growth, establishes core messages based on provider needs and sets expectations based on measurable goals.

The extensive amount of information gathered during an assessment presents an opportune time to institute a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system if there is not one already in place. Not only can the system be used to track and measure sales and marketing against goals, but it can also help in determining ROI from activities. This CRM system should seamlessly integrate with other IT systems and offer capabilities like dynamic call routing and real-time goal tracking and measurement.

Instituting Data-Driven Sales and Marketing

Applying results metrics to sales and marketing activities transforms what is often viewed as a “soft” area into a data-driven science with measurable contributions to the bottom line. Sales and marketing assessments that are data driven are not only more effective, but they also yield valuable insight into trends and forecasts while identifying areas of weakness in your sales and marketing program.

Assessing marketing and sales requires that measurable metrics be identified and/or instituted. Gathering information on current activities and results allows a benchmarking process to be put into place and supports the development of ongoing team and individual goals. As an adjunct to this process, it is also critical to have key performance metrics, such as scan volume by modality and cancellation rate, in place.

One of the most helpful components of a sales and marketing assessment is performing comparisons of your organization against industry standards. Using national standards, you can compare referral volumes, examine modality utilization and determine individual physician potential for revenue. This allows development of a measurement system that establishes accountability and provides forecasting based upon real-time referral trend data by modality and provider.

While an assessment is not intended to be punitive, it can quickly reveal problems, ranging from a lack of tools for accurate forecasting and measurement to the need for resource improvement. Difficulty with marshalling resources to conduct the assessment may be the initial signal that there are problems within the organization.

Employee Review and Training

In order for imaging operations to benefit from a focused sales and marketing initiative, it’s important to have the right people with the appropriate training using the best tools. The assessment process offers an opportunity to evaluate staffing levels and refine the focus of the sales team.

A typical busy hospital physician “liaison” covering multiple services lines will only be able to devote a small portion of his or her time to building relationships for imaging services with referring physicians. The addition of a full-time, imaging-only sales and marketing specialist should dramatically increase business volumes and top-line revenues. Instituting a system with measurable activities and results enhances the effectiveness of sales and marketing personnel and allows the organization to determine the ROI on investments in personnel marketing and sales initiatives.

The ultimate goal is to identify market opportunities and threats and what is needed to improve imaging sales and marketing (as well as what is working). While the process of conducting an assessment is labor-intensive, the information that is gathered, the insights that are revealed and the ability to identify and expand revenue sources makes the effort well worth the investment.

About the Author:

Bruce Elder is the Chief Development and Strategy Officer of MedQuest Radiology Management Associates, www.mqradiology.com.