Think an Imaging Center is an Imaging Center? That's Like Thinking Candy is Candy.

Burlington County, NJ: February 2015

Area Medical Practice Encourages Consumers to Make Smarter Healthcare Choices by Applying the ‘Comparison Shopping’ Concept

How do consumers make healthcare choices? Are they evaluating the right information? Are they as systematic when deciding where to go for an MRI or mammogram as they are when buying a car, choosing a restaurant for a special celebration, or even selecting a brand of candy to give a loved one for Valentine’s Day?

There is one key reality of today’s healthcare climate that anyone who takes even a cursory look at news or research literature about the business of healthcare will probably understand: patients have more choices than ever about where to seek their care. Emergency room or urgent care center? Solo family practitioner or large multispecialty physician group? The radiology department at the hospital downtown or the independent outpatient imaging center around the corner?

One local healthcare practice—Larchmont Medical Imaging, Burlington County’s largest diagnostic imaging provider with locations in Mt. Laurel, Medford, Moorestown and Willingboro—is tackling these very questions as they apply to consumer decisions about where to go for a diagnostic exam.

“For so many different categories of products and services, people systematically think through comparisons based on factors like quality, expertise, and approach to customer service,” said Vincent Taormina, M.D., of Larchmont Medical Imaging. “We wanted to find a way to encourage them to apply the same kind of comparative thinking to healthcare decisions. Let’s say you need an MRI. Is an imaging center an imaging center? No. In evaluating imaging providers, there are several questions to ask. Are they using today’s technology? Do their physicians have specific expertise in the type of illness or injury being evaluated? And customer experience matters too, as it does when you’re choosing a restaurant or grocery store. Is the facility clean, comfortable, and appealing? Are the locations convenient? Are the staff members personable, dedicated, and attentive?”

A key component of the effort Larchmont Medical Imaging has made to clarify these points of differentiation has been a consumer awareness campaign. Beginning in 2014 and continuing into this year, they have deployed messages across a variety of media covering South Jersey and Greater Philadelphia, including newspapers, radio (both traditional broadcast and online streaming), and digital marketing.

Conceptually, the messages draw analogies between various types of consumer comparisons—high-performance race car vs. economy model, old-school landline handset vs. full-featured smartphone, fish-sticks and fries vs. elegant gourmet seafood dish, etc.—and the factors patients should consider when choosing where to go for a diagnostic imaging exam.

In other words, to say that an MRI is an MRI is just as misleading as it is to say candy you grab at the corner drug store is the same as imported gourmet dark chocolate.

“It’s even more important to consider the not-so-subtle differences when it’s a healthcare situation,” Dr. Taormina said.