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."

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