Growing a Cancer Care Program: Promising Ways to Spread the Word

January 1, 2013

by Deborah Borfitz

Deborah BorfitzFor a great many hospitals, a cancer service line is a top financial priority. Programs grow in varied directions and often against the marketing din of one another. The service line reaps returns on investment based on intelligent marketing moves in addition to the quality of the program itself.

When Vero Beach, FL-based Indian River Medical Center sought to grow its cancer care program, former patients were put front and center with a series of focus groups and a two-day photo shoot of cancer survivors. The expansion currently includes affiliation with a National Cancer Institute-accredited cancer program; creation of a 30-member cancer services task force of physicians, clinicians, and community leaders for elevating cancer care in the community; purchase of a da Vinci robotic surgery system for treatment of prostate, gynecologic, colorectal, and lung cancers; and purchase of a pulmonary ultrasound-guided biopsy system. A coordinated care program that helps patients through their cancer journey – locally or elsewhere – is one of the new program’s “most distinguishing elements,” says Betsy Whisman, the hospital’s marketing director.

Last September, through a press release and internal communications, the hospital encouraged cancer survivors who had a “hankering toward Hollywood” to appear at a “casting call” for a special expanded edition of its Care magazine that would be mailed to 62,000 homes in December, says Whisman, who came up with idea. Patients who had been diagnosed and/or treated for cancer at the hospital were invited to be photographed and have their picture published in a montage gracing the magazine’s back cover.

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