Thursday, September 25, 2008

How a doctor himself can promote his services

For a doctor to increase his business he will have to consult and treat more patients, without patients a doctor cannot survive his/her business. Also if you (doctor) get more patients you garner more experience resulting in more patients. For this the doctor needs to differentiate from the competition i.e. other doctors and create his/her own USP. There are variety of methods a doctor can maintain Public Relations/Patient Relations. I have listed some key strategies:
  1. No patient likes to wait and waste time at Hospital/Clinic. So the doctor needs to maintain an appointment diary and one day prior needs to call/message the patient about confirmation. This creates discipline for doctors and patients as well. I have myself witnessed patients confirming the appointments with doctor and the same vice-versa but the problem arises when the doctor travels to more than 5 locations and the doctor is stuck in traffic jams, leading to not checking the patients on time.
  2. A doctor needs to maintain all the records about the patient, so the patient need not carry his/her records. Also on the patients next visit the doctor can check/inquire on the health of the patient. This is for the patient’s convenience after all they are the Clients. There are a variety of free software’s available like Google Health which the doctor can use:
  3. Whenever pricking any patient with a needle/injection a doctor/nurse has to say sorry because you are hurting the patient. This leads to a very positive impact on the patients and the patient won’t ever forget in their life that a doctor said sorry before hurting.
  4. Speak to patients and listen to them, they are already frightened. Console the patients and ask them to be positive about the treatment. Most often more than medicines and treatments a positive attitude helps to get cured from the aliment.
  5. Call your patients after a week or two to check how they are feeling? Post-treatment hardly any patients will remember you, a call will make the patient feel important and they will refer you to everybody who is suffering from any aliment or disease. A patient satisfaction is very important to word-of-mouth publicity.
  6. Whenever a patient comes to you for consultation for the first time give them a disease prevention booklet. The booklet will contain information on different diseases related to your specialization, symptoms, healthy living suggestions, etc. The booklet will also contain information about you, clinic addresses, consultation timings, appointment contact no, and how to reach clinic map. A Pharma company can sponsor the booklet, and can give their courtesy at the end of the booklet.
  7. Attend CMEs and built contacts with other doctors, networking helps to build refferals.
  8. Read newspapers, incase you find any story on surgery, disease diagnosis or anything related to healthcare, write a reply mail to the journo on what you think about the story and if possible suggestions on how the journo could improve and get more information, don’t forget to signoff with your contact details. This helps to increase relation with journo’s and in future the journo might feature your quotes on a story related to this article.
  9. If you feel you have treated a unique patient or the surgery done was a very difficult one. Prepare a brief case study and mail to a journo, if the journo is really interested they will revert. On the other hand get in touch with a PR Professional for press coverage of the story. PR professionals will help to garner the best coverage in different publications.
  10. Get your self and your clinic listed in local area directory and online on Wikimapia, this helps when the patient is doing Google on doctors available in a particular area.
  11. Attend seminars and be a speaker of those seminars addressed at community levels in Rotary clubs, Church conventions, etc. Also be a part of free check-up camps this helps to generate patient’s leads.

Last but not the least, please do not try to scare patients and be honest in treatments, it always pays.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Evolution of Healthcare Communications and Public Relations

There was a time, when there were very less no of doctors available to treat patients. But with the growth in economy the number of doctors has increased and the patients numbers has also risen with the rise in new age diseases.
A new attitude among patients has been observed in last couple of years which the doctors never anticipated? The patients now are much more informed. Now, patients do their homework on the aliment they are suffering from, and information technology plays a crucial part in spreading information.

Patients now, are more prone to do a Google on their ailment they are suffering, the best doctor available, advisable treatment and medicines. With the information, patients have become knowledgeable; they now ask the doctor for more information on the ailments, diseases and debate on best possible treatments.

The media for quite sometime observed this trend and launched columns and wellness supplements in there publications. For that matter even TV Channels, Websites, Radio stations have dedicated special shows and sections for the public at large. Most of the issues are related to Health, Wellness, Fitness and diet. Through extensive coverage is given to Health based stories, New technologies in hospitals, successful case studies, Yoga, Wellness columns by eminent doctors, Q & A based columns, etc. These articles often quote expert doctors, and leads to awareness on the doctors expertise.

This phenomenon suddenly gave a boost to Healthcare PR. Healthcare PR professionals often publicize the doctors, treatment and diseases. Well this is for what they are known for. But they also do a lot of other things like
  1. Provide information on wellness
  2. Crisis management of medicines
  3. Information on new diseases and treatments
  4. Creating awareness on existing incorrect policies
  5. Website designing
  6. Doctor's brochure compiling
  7. Promotion of CMEs

There are lots of other aspects where a Healthcare PR professional plays an important part. Healthcare PR professionals have become an intrinsic part in spreading word-of-mouth awareness and pubicing the Doctors Consulting business.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Word-Of-Mouth in Healthcare

The healthcare industry largely depends on word-of-mouth publicity. In fact doctors and hospital for decades have been dependent on word-of-mouth publicity and this has been the best mode of awareness for them. Actually the reason being, ICMR had laid stringent laws pertaining to advertising and publicity carried out by Hospitals, Doctors, Pharma companies, etc. Doctor businesses even today totally dependents on referrals by treated patients and other doctor's. Referral in marketing terms is classified as word-of-mouth publicity.
The fact is by the time doctor establishes their business/consulting they end up spending enough of money and time. This could be the reason we are not able to create a pool of expert/specialist doctors. Once the doctor becomes specialist they leave India for greener pastures abroad, so we again end up with very less specialists for a particular disease.

In US the doctors are allowed to advertise, there are rules laid by American Medical association but not that stringent. In US the doctors can promote their expertise through media; it is mostly informing the general public so they can decide. The doctors then can earn decent reputation and in turn don't have to dependent on referrals.
Healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors, growing at more than 26%. More and more people are turning towards health and wellness. People are using different medium like internet, newspapers, television to keep them abreast about the latest developments. So why not allow doctors to give information and create awareness on wellness within the general public. What more is a better way to serve society?

Below is a brief on US laws on Advertising by Doctors

Doctors advised on advertisingThe General Medical Council (GMC) has revised its guidance to doctors about advertising their services. The information must be factual and verifiable and must be published in a way that conforms with the law and with the guidance issued by the Advertising Standards Authority. It must not make claims about the quality of services nor include comparisons with the services provided by colleagues. "It must not, in any way, offer guarantees or cures, nor exploit patients' vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge."
The GMC says that in information about specialist services patients should be advised that they cannot usually be seen or treated by specialists without an appropriate referral, usually from their general practitioner. The same advice should apply to advertisements for services by organisations with which specialists are associated.
The council says that information "must not put pressure on people to use a service, for example, by arousing ill founded fear of future ill health. Similarly, you must not advertise your services by visiting or telephoning prospective patients, either in person or through a deputy."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning forms an intrinsic part of any product/service launch. It is the most important function of any brand to survive in this cluttered market of Brands. Positioning helps to define category in which the Brand will survive, grow and grab market share to earn RoI.
Often more than 10 brands of similar features compete for market share and that is the main reason why positioning is very important. The brand needs to segregate itself from other competing brands in terms of packaging, spotting the right target audience; features such as colour, taste, aroma does count the other factors being personal touch and user friendly. We can jot down more than 100 factors where the Brand needs to position, but this largely depends on Brand like whether it is a product or service, then whether it is consumable, etc.

The Brand to appeal a consumer, it should first appeal to their senses. The brand needs to create first impression or impact on consumer sight, then smell/aroma, the touch. The other two senses hearing and mouth will have less impact. Post approval from these three senses the mind and heart thinks about the brand. This whole process takes less then 2 seconds but a lot of money is at stake. The money involved for R & D, marketing, packaging, sales, human resources, etc
So this brings us to a very important point that, we have to influence the consumer at first sight, then touch, then smells and aroma. Now that we have reached this stage, the consumer is prompted to think and decide with the help of heart. Heart plays an important role as it takes most of the decisions. There are many examples, let me illustrate a few:

  1. Idea - An idea can change life - The priest wants to teach, needy and poor students but lacks resources less no of teachers, far of villages, less classrooms, etc. So uses Idea mobile network and starts classes for these students through speaker phone. The teacher teaching students through mobile phones a great idea to reach the needy students in villages. Everybody wants to help society what they need is a simple Idea, this also highlights that Idea can reach the remote villages where teachers cannot reach.
  2. Vodafone- While Vodafone says wherever you go will be there with you always. They positioned this with a pup following a small child the goes in forests, in bathroom, in school bus, etc the pup follows the child everywhere.
  3. Airtel – Airtel instills the emotional connect of a father and son. It starts with a young college lad visiting a small house in a distant village. An old lady opens the door and upon enquiring finds out that the lad is her grandson. Grandson meets grandfather who is angry with the lad’s father for leaving them alone in their old. The young lad uses his mobile to call his father, and hands his (young lads) mobile to his grandfather. Upon hearing apologies, the grandfather gets emotional and cries. Thus the young grandson helps to bridge the gap between grandfather and father.
  4. Reliance mobile – They openly claim that they are present in more than 100,000 villages through advertising.

If we compare each mobile service providers communication, they tell/inform the consumers that their network is present everywhere even in villages, but the positioning and communication is different. So positioning helps a Brand to separate itself from clutter of different Brands, this helps to establish trust in consumers mind and they began to own the brand.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is the new age of INSURANCE about creating CLONES?

Well, insurance sector is posed to be the largest sector with turn-over predicted to be more than any sector. After credit cards this industry will clock billions in sales. Earlier it was roti, kapada aur makan. Then the wants increased with money, so focus shifted to lifestyle. Further this led to lifestyle related diseases. To save themselves from these diseases people shifted to health and healthy living. With healthy living gaining importance this gennext humans dream to live longer from 70 years to 700 years. Scientists have always worked towards achieving the human dreams and converting the perception to reality. This actually led to more and more scientists working on projects to increase the life span of humans.
The media often spoke and published articles related to these new innovations, some of them I have tried listing below:

  1. Storing the body in liquid nitrogen just before death and then recovering the same body after 200 years, expecting that the technology will be developed by then to retrieve bodies stored in liquid nitrogen.

  2. Designing synthetic DNA which has the genes to increase the lifespan and fight all the existing diseases in the world. This innovation led to a lot of new theories and innovations in cell development.

  3. Stem cell research led to the discovery of the use of umbicol cord blood cells which can help in saving the person from life threatening diseases. Stem cells are found in umbicol cord at the time of delivery, this cord blood is taken in glass chambers and stored by cord blood banking companies.

Some scientists went to a further step and started research on creating clones... I mean cloning of a Human to create a look-a-like (Clone means look-a-like with the same qualities, thinking skills but without birth deformity). Earlier the organs were cloned and stored for future use. But then huge organ banks will be the need of the future to store those different organs. Also, the scientists were not able to predicate how long the organs will survive.

The next-gen scientists thought about this and researched discussed & argued... They reached to a conclusion that if a clone of human is created and kept in controlled surrounding, without contamination from outside environment; the clones’ body parts (organs) can be used by the clone owner when required. The research for creating clones received lot of funds from big corporates as CSR initiative, while this highlighted the corporates initiative towards human development, but they had their inner greed to live longer. The research started on rats, dogs, monkeys, etc to create the perfect CLONE or should I say INSURANCE…

But is this right, should we challenge the creator of universe and try to change the laws of nature? The world is already populated with people, with pollution and with everything to destroy mother earth. This new research on cloning will kill existence of living beings.
Imagine each living human having a clone staying somewhere out there in a lab far from city, these clones start thinking of getting out from lab and going out in the open world, I mean leaving the lab, leaving the controlled environment and going out in t. Will have humans of same type, more than that where are we going to the cit live life. These will double the existing population of the world leading to blast of population in the world...

Today this will sound really weird and unbelievable but this situation will hold true in the coming century, INSURANCE will all be about CLONING and increasing life-span. Below some links to website offering information on cloning

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Image management in Healthcare industry

Healthcare industry for decades was dependent on word-of-mouth publicity. Even when the industry started operating as corporate entity they still were not able to advertise because of stringent rules laid by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research).
Also the Indian mindset, I mean the public at large don't really trust advertisements in healthcare sector, so this leaves the sector with very little prospects of publicity.

Whether doctors should advertise has been in debate for a very long time in ICMR meetings, but I think this discussion will continue, as the decision makers are of the old thought process and believe that if the Hospital/doctor is really good then the patients will spread the good word to target audience and that’s the main reason they are against advertising.

So the main question arises whether this should this stop the healthcare sector from hiring Advertising and Brand Consultants?


Rather the healthcare sector should hired Brand or PR Consultants who will help in providing advice and guide on managing the brand. It is very essential for a healthcare provider to define internal as well as external communications, to segregate the target audience, to inform about the services offered and the most important to device a crisis management strategy. These Consultants will also help to position the Healthcare provider in the minds of its target audience.

Most often the doctors who have completed Masters in Healthcare Administration take charge of the marketing department of these Healthcare companies, and they certainly cannot advice on Brands and how it relates to the company philosophy. Actually this is the main reason Healthcare companies need experienced Brand/Image Consultants.

Case Study: Hinduja Hospital, a trust managed hospital with a capacity of 351 beds including ICUs, ICCUs, latest technology to diagnose and treat patients, very highly qualified Medical and Para-medical staff to managed emergencies, etc. Most of its doctors often quote in media on various health related issues, media has a very positive attitude towards the hospital, so half battle is won when solving crisis situations.

The hospital never advertises because it is a charitable trust hospital helping poor patients. The best part is even media knows this about Hinduja Hospital, but what happens when an opinion survey is conducted. The findings very much deviate from the philosophy of the hospital, it shows that the hospital is for rich people and hardly any poor patients opt for treatment in Hinduja Hospital. Quite surprising! But that’s the truth about this hospital. Now the public perception needs to be changed so the brand is in sync with its philosophy, mission and perception.
In this case the hospital needs to hire an Image Consultancy which would try to change the perception over a period. The plan would be a mix of events, CMEs, internal communication programs, brochure and information document development, etc. The Image Consultancy with experience and market survey will help Hinduja Hospital to position itself as a world class Hospital for poor.