Paul Holmes 06 May 2005 // 11:00PM GMT
Our constant hunger for better health care has spurred dramatic growth in the area of medical technology. The race to deliver imaging technologies that enable doctors to see inside our bodies without ever puncturing our skin is won on improvements in image clarity and speed. Computed Tomography (CT) is one such technology. In 2004, worldwide sales of CT scanners are expected to reach $2.95 billion. Philips, General Electric, Siemens and Toshiba are locked in a fierce battle to deliver the fastest, clearest scanners.
When a CT scanner images part of the body, it acquires a set of data which is referred to as a “slice.” Philips has a track record of pushing the envelope in the CT industry, being the first company to introduce a system that – with one scan—acquired 16 sets of data that build a more thorough and complete image for doctors to view. The planned December 2003 introduction of the Philips Brilliance 40-slice scanner – which would provide 40 sets of data in the same amount of time—marked another industry first for the lifestyle, technology and healthcare giant, but competitors were not far behind. But Toshiba was preparing to launch a 32-slice system, while GE and Siemens, not wanting to be undone, announced plans to develop 64-slice units.
Philips faced two significant challenges: the first clearly driven by the need to get to market first. But the second challenge was as significant: with all the strong claims made around the benefits of the 16-slice scanner, why should a hospital replace their current system with a 40-slice system?
The objectives were: garner five in-depth trade stories in key imaging trades to increase awareness of the Brilliance 40-slice scanner; differentiate Philips CT from competitors’ by placing three articles that illustrate immediate clinical benefit; drive at least 25 customer inquiries of product at time of heavy competitor activity
Operating in a crowded market with aggressive competitors, it was critical that Philips surround itself with the support of credible third parties – professional organizations and renowned customers—touting the 40-slice system. In addition, creating repeated opportunities to deliver examples of the immediate clinical benefits of the 40-slice scanner – as yet missing from competitors’ efforts—was key to combat competitor noise.
MS&L and Philips started working together in the summer of 2003 to formulate a multi-faceted program that would leverage Philips’ first-to-market legacy as well as educate the market – radiologists and hospital administrators—about the clinical benefits of the Brilliance 40-slice scanner.
A survey found that most radiologists felt accuracy of diagnoses increased 20 to 40 percent due to enhanced resolution and reconstruction abilities with multi-slice CT while more than 68 percent of radiologists credited CT technology and diagnosis with improving their profession more than most other medical advances: we needed to show them how the 40-slice would benefit them as well.
Based on interactions with industry reporters and research into publication’s readership, we know that radiologists rely on their trade journals to keep them up-to-date. We also know that most of them attend the largest radiology show (RSNA) every December in Chicago: we sought out publications and events where we would reach our audience.
Informal feedback from our physician spokespeople as well as publication readership surveys indicate that like most technology-focused professionals, radiologists are active users of the Internet. They use it to supplement their publications to get the latest news. They also use the Internet as a way to sustain and update their education: we used Internet websites and direct events to reach our audience.
Finally, trade reporters like to hear from customers (“users”) rather than the manufacturer—A media audit of imaging reporters showed that they prefer to hear from customers about their clinical experiences with new technologies: we made sure customer testimonials were part of all our communications efforts.
MS&L and Philips CT partnered with the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) to question our key audience — radiologists — about their perceptions and views of CT technology. By partnering with the ARRS we gained credibility plus cost-effective access to their membership list to field a web-based survey. The survey provided rich results and served as the basis of all our press materials, underscoring the impact of CT on patient care and hospital efficiency.
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) is one of the largest trade meetings in the world, and presented an efficient outlet to reach our audience. With all of our select trade targets at RSNA, MS&L/Philips worked with the AARS to coordinate a media briefing for global trade publications to unveil the Brilliance 40-slice and showcase early clinical results. Using advanced web-based technology, we created an electronic invitation that included an automatic RSVP system.
Held in the large Philips booth on site, the briefing was moderated by an ARRS executive/radiologist, who highlighted findings from the radiology survey. Philips CT Vice President Jim Green delivered the company’s strategic vision and introduced the industry’s first 40-slice scanner. Dr. Nathan Peled of Israel presented his early findings and experiences with the cutting-edge system. Vivid and dynamic images showcased crisp, clear and detailed images on the heart’s anatomy that was previously unavailable with current technology.
All of the key trades attended the session (www.Auntminnie.com, Diagnostic Imaging, DI Scan, ASRT Scanner, Medical Imaging, ADVANCE, MEEN). Competitors tried to stage a similar presentation at their booth, to no avail. In fact, when describing Siemens’ 64-slice scanner, a Diagnostic Imaging reporter observed that “the paint on it was still wet” and that “it was a 16-slice scanner when it was delivered to McCormick Place last week.”
To ensure continued coverage of the Philips Brilliance 40-slice system, MS&L worked with Philips CT to contact Indiana University Hospital (IUH) – the site of the first U.S. installation of the 40-slice scanner. MS&L/Philips developed a press release about the clinical impact the scanner was having on IUH, their patients, and overall care. IUH clinicians conveyed how the expanded scan coverage area and faster image acquisition time enabled them capture images of the beating heart and enhanced efficiency.
The unit empowered IUH clinicians with better insight for more confident diagnoses, treatment planning and more efficient patient care. The release generated coverage in the local market (Indianapolis Star, WISH-TV) as well as in key trade publications (Auntminnie.com, Health Imaging & IT).
To establish the Brilliance 40-slice’s clinical record and highlight its benefits for healthcare facilities, doctors, and patients around the world, MS&L/Philips leveraged its relationship with the ARRS to sponsor a Webcast. Featuring four doctors from renowned international institutions presenting their experiences and interaction with the Brilliance 40-slice, the Webcast brought Brilliance 40-slice’s features, capabilities, and technology to a global audience of radiologists, hospital administrators and journalists. Each doctor discussed crucial areas of the body where the Brilliance 40-slice system was enabling better clinical imaging and outcomes, including neurology, cardiac, and abdominal care.
The Webcast was burned onto CD-ROM for use as a sales tool, while an archived version of the event was made available via Philips and ARRS Websites, allowing Philips to capture key audience data and requests. To drive attendance and coverage, we secured event listings on key trade publications’ Websites, brokered an advertisement banner with the industry’s online news portal (Auntminnie.com), contacted reporters before and after the event and distributed press kits to trade media with facts sheets and bios. The CT Webcast registered more than 230 physicians and media to participate.
Approximately 99 registrants viewed and listened to the Webcast live, including several reporters from key imaging trade publications. We timed the Webcast right before a major industry CT meeting in California, which helped ensure Philips inclusion in articles resulting from that meeting.
The effort secured seven in-depth stories with key trades, all of which included interviews with company or customer spokespeople and generated more than 21 million media impressions with 95 percent reflecting key messages.
Articles in ADVANCE, Radiology Today, and DI Scan featured first-hand customer testimonials and clinical images and the message that Philips technology was available now in 100 percent of coverage received
Customer response included information requests from 63 potential customers, six requested sales call immediately.
As a result of this success, Philips and MS&L have noticed that competitors have been trying to play catch up and employ the same tactics. After the June Webcast, Siemens and GE both issued press releases to highlight their systems, but with only one or two test sites up and running they do not have the deep customer base to deliver the rich clinical proof points Philips and MS&L have created.