Laboratory and radiology clients with a hospital base are increasingly interested in expanding their outpatient business. TechnoClin separates these businesses into hospital-based and community-based laboratory and radiology services. Hospital-based services are a “captive” component of other hospital functions and are integrally tied to the patient being at the hospital (or one of its freestanding facilities). Community-based services operate at risk in a competitive market in which the decision to use a laboratory or radiology facility is made by patients, physicians, employers, and third party payors. Hospital-based departments operate in both markets and often struggle with the competitive aspects of a community-based service. Independent laboratories and imaging facilities typically operate only in the community-based arena.

Marketing is essential for hospital-based services, even though customers are “captive”. Failure to consider such patients and their physicians as customers is often at the core of many of TechnoClin’s organizational/operational engagements. Quality and service are the hallmarks of marketing in this segment.

Marketing for community-based services requires a careful and disciplined evaluation of market segments, competition, strengths and weaknesses, pricing/payment constraints, location, product mix, and profitability. Customers need to be questioned about their needs and levels of satisfaction. Good data on sources of demand by type of procedure is essential. And it is very important to understand the billings/collections process since revenue quality is as important as cost in improving profitability.

Client 1

A hospital operated a fairly successful and slowly expanding reference laboratory, based in the hospital laboratory. Its success was largely focused on oncology since the pathologists had developed specialized clinical and technical expertise. TechnoClin assisted the leadership develop a coherent strategy for a broader based marketing effort that succeeded in significantly expanding market share and profitability. Key elements included providing a profitability perspective; development of a marketing data base of current and potential clients; redefining job responsibilities between marketing, sales, and customer service; requiring improved reporting from the outside billing service; and improving cost accounting in order to establish better prices. TechnoClin also conducted two strategic planning/marketing retreats for laboratory leadership in order to develop a better understanding of the local market, customer needs, and laboratory requirements.

Client 2

A hospital radiology department also operated an outpatient facility in an adjacent medical office building. However, community-based patients had to go to the hospital for certain types of procedures not performed in the office building, and there was significant duplication of services between the two locations. A survey was conducted among referring physicians during which it was determined that the set-up was confusing and not customer friendly. As part of a larger study, a plan was developed to better rationalize services between the two sites, to create a common face to the market, and to improve customer service in the hospital setting for all types of patients

Client 3

A hospital was given the opportunity to purchase a freestanding diagnostic center which provided laboratory, radiology, mammography, and EKG services in the community. The owner was nearing retirement, and many physician clients were on the hospital’s active staff. A thorough analysis of the center’s customers, competitors, and strengths and weaknesses was performed. Alternative plans for operating the center as an independent entity or as an integrated element of the hospital were developed from a market and financial perspective. The hospital determined that the center would provide a good return on investment, at the right price. However, the market potential did not support the price that the owner was asking, and thus the transaction was not consummated. Rather, the hospital built upon the market planning and expanded its own community-based services delivered from the hospital.