Friday, October 31, 2008

Publicity of CMEs

Continuous Medical Education, in short CME forms an important part in a doctor’s career. They begin their career attending CMEs which is essential to update their knowledge and end up themselves as speakers at CMEs. According to ICMR a doctor has to attend a particular no. of CMEs per year to upgrade themselves on latest developments in their area of specialization.

Informing media about CMEs and getting publicity for the same is very difficult or just next to impossible using the traditional methods of Public Relations. Doctors & clients often demand media publicity for such programs.

I agree pitching for stories and inviting media for it, is very difficult, but possibility cannot be ruled out. The PR consultant can take few steps to understand the CME:
  1. Meet the concerned doctor and understand everything related to the CME, its benefits for Doctors, Patients and Society.
  2. Get all the details from Client on this CME like schedule, speakers, topics of discussion, case study presentation, etc.
  3. Speak to other well-known and established doctors practicing in this area of specialization and understand the CMEs importance from their perspective.
  4. Scan and track online (internet) for news featuring these doctors quotes, to understand the area of specialisation of medicine.
  5. Check whether any news is available on that particular specialization of medicine and related to the CME.
  6. Source unique case studies from the concerned doctor, which will prove helpful to pitch to media.
  7. Now draft a note based on all the info available and sought approval from the client.
  8. Based on this available information prepare a strategy for media coverage.
  9. Pitch to media (preferably meet media personally) and discuss this story with them. E.g. pitch to two mainline and two vernacular publications for stories. It is quite easy to invite two mainline pubs for an interaction with the concerned doctor. For vernacular and other media press release can be disseminated.
  10. Invite at least three trade media publications to attend this event.
  11. Post the event get a small brief on all the topics discussed and presented. Also get the presentations. Pitch to all the trade media publications based on the info available.
  12. Also send this detailed information to all the doctors who were unable to attend this CME.

A Communication Consultants job is not only to get coverage but also inform all the stakeholders. The hospitals newsletter should contain information on such CMEs which could later be sent to Health correspondents of publications as reference material. Mailing such newsletters also highlights the healthcare provider’s initiative to upgrade knowledge and inform about new developments.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Or can we say doctors and media? Any which ways doctor's always Love giving their quotes for various stories which the media often covers. Doctors also love their publicity and they cherish that media knows them by their name. The most important thing which fascinates a doctor is a pic of his case study along with him and story on successful surgery.

The trend of hiring journalists / correspondents specially dedicated to health beat started around 1995s. These correspondents mostly reported human interest stories; they also covered unique case studies / surgeries. Most of these stories require doctors quotes so the story is factually correct.

But interestingly the more quotes start appearing in media on specific diseases / surgeries led to doctors publicity. Readers regarded such doctors as experts in their specialties and start spreading word-of-mouth publicity, thus helping the doctors to gain more patients.

The real boost came when doctors realize this and how it was connected to their business. The doctors also knew ICMRs restrictions for advertisements in Healthcare sector.
What actually started happening is doctors started hiring services of PR Agencies, a new boost in Healthcare scenario!
But when something unregulated starts in any business it leads to lot of chaos.

The important aspect to realize is only publicizing doctors, won't help, it has to be 360 degrees. From free diagnosis camps for patients, to seminars, to doctor patient relation manners & etiquettes training, information articles on diseases and speaking to media on various issues will help in the long run.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Disease BRANDING !

Interesting to note, the healthcare industry works in reverse manner, coz of restrictions on advertising in this industry. While it has also been argued that the Indian consumers hardly get influenced by Pharma Drug/ Product advertisements, doctors promoting advts, etc.

With the advent of mass media and information age, the consumer has become knowledgeable enough to decide. Now the consumer is the king coz they take their own decisions. In such scenario promoting products becomes very difficult, add to it the launch of more products in the same category creates a very competitive environment for the products/brands to survive.

So then what can be the right medium to promote/publicize Healthcare products?
These products are often managed by Product Managers more experienced in marketing and armed with MBAs. They think only on Rol, exceptional think about MAR-COM (Marketing & Communication).

It is important to promote the disease category. Brand the diseases and inform the masses/ consumers about the disease. Some of the important diseases who enjoy Brand status in the market are listed below:

  1. Breast Cancer
  2. AIDS
  3. Bird Flu
  4. Headache
  5. Sore eyes (Conjunctivitis)
  6. Heart Attack
  7. Dog bite (Rabies)
  8. Diabetes Day

Consumers are aware about these mentioned diseases. They are empowered with knowledge to fight against these diseases. Mass media gets the credit to promote among the patients/ consumers. Patients often debate with Doctors on possible treatments for these diseases.

The media informs consumers/ patients and doctor answers queries, it is a two way process, which creates a lasting impact in the minds of consumers. Branding diseases also helps to create awareness resulting in more patients and diagnosis. Early diagnosis helps to provide early treatment, saving the patients.
Now the time has come for ICMR to soften of restrictions which they had laid.

I won't be surprised if tomorrow patients start performing diagnosis on themselves and consult with a doctor online for help...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Importance of COMMUNICATION in Healthcare

Every industry has realised the importance of communication. The constitution itself proclaims Right for Information. This same stands true in Healthcare scenario. But their is a difference, because a small mistake in Healthcare Communication can create a huge crisis. Healthcare is related to Wellbeing, Life, Health, basically connected to us HUMANS. Hence entitles for utmost care in communication.

The Healthcare sector has realised this and to the birth of specialised communication consultants like Bioquest, Imprimis Life Therapy, Sorento Healthcare, Watermelon advertising, etc. It is rightly said "Need is the Mother of Invention", so it is important to understand this sector companies, their offerings and briefs. These specialised consultants have resources trained and experienced to understand the nitty gritties, issues, Government policies, Information on new innovations, discoveries, etc.

In Indian scenario Healthcare Communication is mostly managed by experienced resources, but it still lacks the understanding coz doctors themselves are not involved. The international trend involves doctors coz they bring with them the understanding on those Healthcare subjects/issues.

India lacks Healthcare professionals, so it is very difficult to involve them as resources in the business of Communication. Now, what can be the probable solution to this problem of resources?

According to my suggestion the Healthcare Communication Consultants can use experienced Medical representatives as advisers. They are lots of Medical Representatives working for different Pharmaceutical companies, Lab automation manufacturers, etc. Medical Representatives interact with doctors daily and equipped with information on specific diseases, they also have understanding on Healthcare issues and policies. Medical representatives are the marketing executives of the Pharma companies and also their Brand Ambassadors who often meet the Doctor’s (Clients).

It is also important to take help from KPOs working in Healthcare sector coz, they are the people who conduct surveys, prepare reports on diseases and drugs, which are then shared with the key doctor’s. This helps the doctor’s to get better understanding about the products/ drugs.
But, taking into account ICMRs (Indian Council of Medical Research) liberal policies in this era, lot of Healthcare companies are investing to develop communication strategy, to differentiate itself from the competition. This industry is also experiencing lot of lobbying through govt associations, media and policy makers, so the portfolio of the Communication consultants has also grown or increased. It is difficult to predict how big Healthcare Communication industry will grow. But the Indian Healthcare Industry is expected to grow @ 12% annually taking the total worth of this industry to US $25 billion (approximately Rs. 1, 00,313 crores) by 2010.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brand categories, rather than Brand products

For long, the Pharma Company’s have been promoting their products, which only influenced doctors, chemists and people connected to the industry. No matter how hard the companies tried they were hardly able to address their target audience. With the entry of more Pharma companies, National & International, and increase in competition the need to differentiate from the clutter of products has risen. The questions product managers are always hunting, how should a Pharma company communicate their target audience on products?

The Pharma companies need to target their audience directly. The patients/ consumers in this new age are a lot informed. They know what they need and how to get it. Now the Pharma Company’s communication should be directly to its consumers through information about the diseases, about symptoms, etc.

The new age marketing will be on diseases category development, mass awareness about disease symptoms, effects about a particular deficiency, online forum, support group meetings, publicize disease specific docs, disease information brochures, etc. The Pharma companies now need to communicate the masses and KOLs. Also in this information age specific day related to the disease needs to be publicized with the help of KOLs, media and events. Some of the days which can be publicised are

  1. World Heart Day
  2. Breast Cancer Awareness Day
  3. Hepatitis Awareness Day
  4. World Anti- Tobacco day

These days inform the masses about the diseases and symptoms. Resulting in patients asking the doctor for more information. The doctor answers the queries of patients and gives information brochures. The consumer then for further information visits the website, created for that specific purpose and loaded with all the relevant information. This is new age marketing which involves the doctors and patients.

This also helps to promote the brand further by the same patients who become the Brand Ambassadors of the information, by spreading word-of-mouth publicity. The reason behind this is most consumers once they acquire information, they become knowledgeable and talk about it to the people they meet about the disease.
Now the Pharma companies have to be better informed because the consumer is empowered with knowledge. The Pharma companies are trying to realize this, but still are undecided on the strategy. It's high time they realize this and change their strategy, be more informative and mass oriented.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NGOs help to increase awareness on Healthcare

Healthcare and NGOs always go hand in hand. A lot of times NGOs help to address healthcare issues. NGOs work to improve healthcare facilities and services, they have lot of freedom, motivated staff, so respond easily to the needs of the healthcare community.
Following are some of the issues NGOs work on or create awareness on:
  1. Malnutrition
  2. Deficiency of Iron
  3. Stress on students
  4. Noise pollution
  5. Air pollution
  6. Vaccination
  7. Drug abuse
  8. Sexual abuse
  9. Sucidie
  10. Cartract operations
  11. AIDS preventation

NGOs help to raise awareness on healthcare amongst patients and the common people. Their are also NGOs who promote good/healthy living manners amongst people. They work in the arena of Dental care, washing hands before eating food, etc.

So NGOs form very important part of healthcare awareness in turn growing the Healthcare industry. So it is very important for healthcare industry to promote and publicize such NGOs. Promoting NGOs will help create awareness among the target group, who in turn buy the product and increase business. NGOs act as the company's critic partner highlighting the weakness of the product. NGOs can become the CSR initiative arm of the company, thus creating goodwill about the company. It is easy to generate awareness about a disease category with the help of an NGO. NGOs can be used to attack competitors, coz when an NGO publicizes weakness/ill-effects about the competitor’s products in press they generate lot of mileage, thus impacting the business of competitor. NGOs can fight for a plea with the competitor company and still earn respect in terms of helping the society.

Healthcare is a very critical area and one mistake can lead to the downfall of a company. Coz Healthcare is related to the wellbeing of a human being and something destroying it will create negative influence.

How the company selects an NGO or should the company launch its own NGO?
Well, as per my experience the company in association with an existing NGO should launch a new NGO. The company will fund it and the NGO will take care on operations area. In the long run even if the existing NGO breaks the contract, the company can run/manage this new NGO on its own.

Companies can get detailed information on NGOs through

Also can visit the following link for an more information: