By: David Fox, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Baxter Regional Medical Center
Pillar #5: Competition
Competition is healthy for business. It will force you as an Imaging leader to innovate and stay ahead of those you’re competing with; however, that rivalry can be intimidating. Your drive and inner competitive spirit won’t back down; perhaps you’re unsure how to combat competition. Imaging leaders are in the business of healthcare, in a significant niche of diagnostic and therapeutic medicine, playing an invaluable role in delivering high-quality care for patients and exceptional diagnostic quality for the physicians, aiding diagnosis and treatment all centered on the patient. More so, imaging leaders are responsible for selecting talent, leading people, managing projects, marketing their services offered while at the same time delivering high-quality care and ensuring a balanced budget and profitability to sustain the organizational needs of their institution.
As a Leader, You are a Competitor
By virtue of the many responsibilities of the role, Imaging leaders are driven to succeed, not solely by the bottom-line, but what is innately essential, making a difference for those we serve. Imaging leaders staying abreast of the newest advancements in technology also lead and compete. Leadership matters, and I believe Imaging leaders are competitors. Regardless of how you arrived as an Imaging leader, you have competed for the role and responsibility you have achieved, the duty to which you have been given and excelled in demonstrating your ability to lead people, achieve goals, manage projects, budgets, and or others. As a leader, you are also a competitor, and competition drives us all to excel.
Competition in healthcare has been a topic of discussion for many years, and it ripples deep into the well of imaging. Most hospitals and providers are confounded and constantly struggle to find ways to beat the competition. Every business deals with this problem, and what success comes down to is developing a plan that helps you better serve your patients. While various initiatives continue to search for a practical blueprint for change, competition is fierce. In the world of imaging, market share and volume are king, and growth is always expected.
The healthcare industry and the competitive landscape for providers are undergoing a seismic change as payment reform drives changes in marketplace referral patterns. The expected benefit of lower costs is not particularly apparent. However, in due time, we will see the impact of changing payer mixes, such as population health and accountable care organizations contracts, impacting imaging contributions margins to the organization’s bottom line. Ultimately leading to consolidations, mergers, and other factors produce more informed and demanding consumers, highlighting the very element of competition, particularly with imaging.
On a more global scale, competition among health systems, hospitals, medical groups, and providers is normal but intense. Being relatively new, the marketing and advertising plans for health care delivery systems continue to evolve. Imaging departments and imaging center leaders should have a seat at the table to influence these marketing strategies for continued growth. The organizations and individuals who are successfully stepping ahead of the competition:
- Accept that potential risk precedes prospective gains
- Devise proactive strategies, tactics, and goals for growth
- Recognize change as a constant marketing factor
- Depart from old-school business patterns
- Embrace risks while appealing to the consumers (patients) directly
Beating the Competition: Fundamental Tips & Techniques
As mentioned, payer strategies are evolving, and the old school, the fee-for-service system, gives way to more substantial consumer expectations in positive outcomes and patient satisfaction. The traditional provider-centric arrangement is morphing into a patient-centric, retail-minded approach. Yesterday’s patient is now an empowered and informed healthcare consumer. Here are some of the best ways to “Be” and beat the competition in the redefined marketplace:
- Be different from (and better than) the competition. I call it the “Better & Different” approach in healthcare, the cornerstone of success is differentiation. Communicate precisely how your imaging services are superior to any other option. What sets you apart and ahead of the competition? Determine what the target audience needs or wants and how you answer it. Provide a unique way to satisfy this need—expressed in a way the competition claim. Success requires understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the competition as well as your own. What is the primary reason that they should schedule their imaging services with you before anyone else?
- Be proactive and meet your prospective patient online. Typically, “today’s patient journey” begins online. It is the primary channel for health and medical research by most patients. Consumers and patients actively research symptoms, medical conditions, and treatment options. More than 80% of American consumers look online for healthcare information. Nearly half (47%) search for doctors/providers, and 38% search for hospitals. [Pew Research]
- Be creative, digital marketing is primary. In many marketing sectors, digital channels lead traditional avenues, and healthcare consumer marketing is a leader. Recent surveys reveal that three-quarters of patients use search engines before making an appointment; for hospital traffic, the search leads all other referral sites dramatically. An integrated plan that delivers a strong internet presence should include:
- Conversion-Focused Website
- Online (PPC) Advertising
- Reputation Management
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing
- Be mobile/responsive design and local/convenient priorities. The most intense competitive battlefield is not far. People use their smartphone or mobile device for immediate (near real-time) answers. Hospital websites must instantly detect the type of device. What is more, people want to find relevant answers to their geographically close and convenient needs.
- Be engaged in the patient’s remarkable experience, consistently deliver exceptional patient care every time. Of course, people want a favorable clinical outcome and high-quality imaging. In their mind, ‘that’s what healthcare providers do,’ and imaging departments or clinics are no different. However, it is patient experience, engagement, and satisfaction that makes your services remarkable. That inspires positive physician ratings, referrals, and recommendations, repeat or future business. That which is ” remarkable” makes people feel special and compels them to share with others proactively.
- Be free-thinking, feel free to break the conventional mold… What would you do if the page were blank and could reinvent a patient’s imaging experience or healthcare delivery from the patient’s perspective? The providers, practices, and hospitals that successfully break down patient service barriers emerge as leaders. Beating the competition is success with each patient encounter, and growth will ‘be’ inevitable with your competitive drive leading the way.
As Imaging leaders, we compete in different ways to lead, improve, and grow our responsibility areas. Healthcare, particularly the imaging markets, are evolving, with outside pressures for new payer reform. At the same time, patients as consumers are empowered by information readily available in the palm of their hands through the internet. We lead our teams and our people by planning our strategies, patient-centered in high-quality technology, and the exceptional care we provide to every patient. Of all the recommendations I have suggested for you to ‘be’ to improve your competitiveness in imaging as a leader, be open to learning more, and adaptable to providing the services your patients desire, if nothing else.
Asset Management, Competition, Information Source, Productivity, Staffing, Training and Advising
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