MARINA DEL REY, Calif-In today's health care environment, the providers of cancer care must determine not only how to market their services but also whom to market them to, Patti A. Jamieson, MSSW, MBA, said at the annual Conference of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC).
In a changing market (see below), with hospitals slashing operating costs and capital budgets at a minimum, "how do we make sure our cancer programs get the resources they need?" asked Ms. Jamieson, a senior associate at ELM Services, Inc., an oncology consulting and software company in Rockville, Md.
To answer this question, Ms. Jamieson suggested that cancer care centers must define their markets. "In the past, we've had the freedom to do random marketing and advertising. Now we must carefully decide where our dollars go," she said. In many areas, marketing is needed "not just to increase market share, but to maintain market share."
Examples of target markets for cancer services include the general public, managed care corporations and other payers, and major employers in the area, she said. The appropriate promotional mix will vary, depending on the community served.
The most important variable to determine is the managed care penetration in an area. When the market is only 10% to 15% managed care, heavy marketing directly to consumers makes sense. When penetration is over 50%, additional methods may be needed to reach potential patients, she advised.
This points to the fact that "you have to do market research," Ms. Jamieson said. She suggested that cancer programs complete a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat) analysis for each of their competitors. This will help centers look for opportunities still open in the community.