Social Media and Indian Healthcare - A Potent Marketing Weapon (Featured in HealthcareBiz Magazine)


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Social Media and Indian Healthcare - A Potent Marketing Weapon (Featured in HealthcareBiz Magazine)

  1. 1. Center Stage Social Media in Healthcare A Potent Marketing Weapon Social Media is the latest Buzz word in Indian healthcare these days. After having bitten various industries, it is now time for the bug to bite Indian healthcare industry as well. Already numerous healthcare players have adopted the medium to spread information and awareness about a range of topics. And increasingly, this number is going up. By: Jayata Sharma-Sand S ocial media can be used not just to spread awareness about a public health topic, but by doing so, you also end up doing some real good branding for your own organisation. Most of the times, social media is used for spreading ‘social’ messages. However, this media is proving to be a subtle but effective way of marketing and promoting one’s organisation, without sounding or doing ‘in your face’ activities. Social media is a conglomeration of public platforms, which means if you place yourself out there in the open, be ready to get bouquets and brickbats both. Hence, as I read somewhere, in case of social media, it is important to ‘first clean your house and then invite guests’. The article is an overview of how social media is percolating in the Indian healthcare industry and in various sections. That’s why we have 18 Health Biz India October 2013 tried to bring in experts from as many healthcare verticals as possible to try and present a wholesome picture of who thinks what. There is no doubt that social media has fundamentally changed the patient to patient and patient to provider communications relationship for the healthcare industry. The advent of transparent, real time social media communications platforms that allow open and honest dialogue presents a wealth of opportunities for the industry to capitalise on positive patient sentiment and build a trusted support community to actively engage with. Many healthcare entities are also using social media to build and cultivate a team of patient evangelists who can be subsequently leveraged to spread good will and build brand equity to help maintain trust and confidence in health care services. A preferred marketing tool Social media is the best way to reach out to your customers. You can reach them easily via social accounts and if the data shared with the community is unique and beneficial then it can be viral too. A major chunk of the population is active on the social media platforms. “This indulgence can be leveraged by the healthcare industry in spreading awareness and marketing of their products. Platforms like Facebook give user demographics also which makes it further defined and focussed for the healthcare brands,” says Mr. Amol Naikawadi, Joint Managing Director, Indus Health Plus. His company is one of the most-active ones on social media platforms and their initiatives are highly ‘liked’ and appreciated by their customers. Healthcare professionals can also create educational content to be shared across social media that will help accurately inform consumers about health related issues and out shine misleading information. It’s
  2. 2. very convenient to have social media guidelines in place for your health care facility to ensure everyone is on the same page, your staff is aware of limitations to their actions on social media and that a systematic strategy is in place for how social media should be run across your organisation. “Cancer patients always want to find out about other people’s experiences and talk to them. With social media, it becomes easier to connect. We even chat with local doctors in remote regions and give them a second opinion in a matter of hours. It is a great networking and resource management tool. The dissemination of information is ‘fast and furious’ with social media,” says Dr. Ajaikumar, Chairman & CEO, HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd. “The wide reach of this medium and the ease with which people can access it make social media a preferred tool. In today’s fast paced era, where time has a tag value, social media helps in reaching out to the remotest locations, at a phenomenal speed conveniently. Moreover, people can share their experiences that make this medium even more personal and believable,” believes Murli Sundrani, Business Director, BD Medical - Pharmaceutical Systems. Today, most of the smartphone owners too have at least one health app on their phone. Exercise, diet, and weight apps are the most popular types. Today most of the patients too prefer researching online about their ailments. If the context of a group or community online is high quality and curated, Center Stage then many trust that crowd sourcing of information from other like mind individuals is reliable. “Social media can be a vehicle to help scale both positive and negative word of mouth, which makes it an important channel for an individual or organisation in the health care industry to focus on in order to attract and retain patients,” says Mr. On social media things go viral only when something extraordinary happens Dr. Alok Roy, Chairman, Medica Superspecialty Hospital Naikawadi. According to the study by Geonetric, four out of five users web users look for health related information online. With more and more patients turning to online for medical advice, it is imperative that healthcare professionals and hospitals connect and add their credible voices to such conversations. Social media offers the perfect platform to engage with patients, online users as well as with other industry experts like doctors and physicians. “It plays a vital role in making active conversations happen between the healthcare industry and web users alike. Patients now share medical experiences and seek opinions on symptoms, ailments making it mandatory for healthcare brands to listen in to the conversation and add value, take appropriate action,” says Jasrita Dhir, Deputy General Manager – Marketing, Fortis Healthcare Limited. The one reason which everyone keeps their finger on is the cost effectiveness of using social media. It helps business to reach with the budget they have in mind. Additionally, a two-way communication is easily possible by using this medium. “Unlike traditional form of advertisements, the ads and engagement practise here are very much two-way from brands to consumers and from consumers back to brand in real time,” says Sorav Jain, Thinker-in-Chief, EchoVme, a digital marketing firm that specialises in integrated digital marketing consulting, services is the most preferred social media marketing platform for healthcare players Health Biz India October 2013 19
  3. 3. Center Stage concerns, and this is where Nova as a healthcare leader provides value to its audience: by listening to what they share, and wherever possible, provides its expertise to solve their health-related concerns,” says VP Kamath, Group Chief Operating Officer, Nova Medical Centers. There is no doubt that Social Media is considered and training. Social media also helps bring innovation in marketing. Many brands love to showcase innovation in marketing and adapting social media for business is innovation. Many experts believe that social media makes it possible for companies to reach out to their audience in their space of comfort, where they are at ease; communicating with people they trust and enjoy interacting with. “People use these platforms to share their experiences as well as their Social media should not be overused. After a while, patients should listen to their doctors Dr. Ajaikumar, Chairman & CEO, HealthCare Global Enterprises the in-thing now in marketing and owing to the boom the healthcare industry is witnessing today, many hospitals and healthcare organisations are learning and eagerly looking forward to marketing their services on social media. “This thirst for knowledge in the industry led us to design workshops on social media marketing across the country with Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmadabad, Pune and Kolkata in the pipeline after Bangalore and Chennai. However, hospitals in India are still on the verge of understanding social media and its importance and only a handful of hospitals are actually using social media techniques for their promotion,” says Paniel Jayanth, Founder & Chief Strategist, AMEN, a healthcare events organisation. His company has been conducting various workshops on social media and healthcare recently. “Social media is one of the preferred medium of marketing, but not the most favourite. However, it is important to engage in this media as there is significant impact seen. India has a substantial number of younger Social Media Activities by Healthcare Players Fortis Hospitals On the social space, Fortis has been extremely active. They have just completed a successful World Heart Day campaign wherein they encouraged people to look after their heart through a friendly route of ‘Karo Apne Dil Se Dosti’. They asked them to take a pledge on Facebook as well as offered a hugely discounted health checkup package to gauge their heart condition. The campaign has received more than 7,000 visits to the microsite as well as trended nationally on Twitter. They also recently finished a campaign for the Fortis Mumbai arm which promoted a song composed by Lesle Lewis (Mumbai Ki Dhadkan) that asked people to take care of their heart. The song received more than 20,000 views on YouTube and more 20 Health Biz India October 2013 than 21,000 song plays on the Saavn platform. Last year too on World Heart Day, Fortis had undertaken a large-scale CSR activity exhorting the citizens of Delhi & NCR to walk into their nearest Fortis facility to get a free cholesterol check done. More than 18,000 free blood tests were done in a single day and Fortis Healthcare ended up setting a new Guinness World Records Record at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute. They also ran a CSR campaign for Baby Shriya suffering from rare Gaucher’s disease encouraging the twitter universe to come forward and tweet for her. For every tweet, Fortis Foundation contributed Rs. 10 to her care and by the end of the campaign they had more than 14,000 tweets in support of the baby’s treatment.
  4. 4. people so targeting them via social media becomes easy. Also, healthcare is now moving from communicable diseases to lifestyle diseases. And these platforms are ideal for disseminating information on such topics,” says Dr. Alok Roy, Chairman, Medica Superspecialty Hospital. Also, a large number of people requiring medical information are mostly in the older age group. “Most elder citizens are less technology savvy and hence only using social media as a marketing tool is a mistake. Though there is no denying that it is ‘one’ of the potentially important weapon,” says Kaushik Sen, CEO & Co-Founder, Healthspring Medical Centers. Since you can target town specific people, social media is useful even for local and regional brands Dr. A Velumani, CEO, Thyrocare Technologies Center Stage most novel way. “Since the turnaround time to send and receive information is minimal, therefore regular communication with instant results help you build a stronger relationship with existing customers. Today one can reach millions of people all around the world. Social media platform has the ability to target particular groups - many forms of social media allow businesses to target specific groups, often in particular locations. With less or no cost incurred in many cases, it’s a complete win-win situation,” avers Mr. Naikawadi. Most experts believe that social media surely is beneficial for an organisation’s business ecosystem. “Once a business owns social channel for Making business sense We have now comfortably established that social media, as opposed to other forms of marketing, is a cost-effective method. Probably, that’s a major reason why it makes business sense to invest in this form of marketing. One can interact and outreach a larger spectrum of population through this platform. One can easily keep a track on not just the clients but competitors, business associates and lots more. Social Media presents great marketing opportunities for business of all sizes. You can use social media to promote the name of your brand and business. One can tell the customers about the goods and services. Through a large traffic coming in, it’s convenient to have an opinion poll to know what customers think about your business. Since majority of the population is internet savvy, social media helps you attract new customers in the Indus Health Plus Indus has focussed all their content on two way interaction. Since the concept of preventive health care is new, initially they decided to explain the very essence of the preventive health check-ups that are provided at Indus. Secondly, the urban population which in majority faces such diseases is active on Facebook, hence they decided to push content that engages them. Unique stuff like food facts, quizzes, information about such diseases etc. is posted on the page. They also put light content like “Dadi Ma ke Nuskhe” to engage audience. Besides these regular surveys, campaigns and contests help the community to remain intact with the idea of going for a Preventive Health Package and entertain them as well. Indus has tried to target specific age groups via Facebook ads. Recently, they ran a campaign called Listen to your Heart on World Heart Day where viewers could participate in an online survey to know their heart score (heart’s health). The idea behind doing many such activities is to keep the customers engaged and spread the awareness of prevention and caution for health to masses at a larger scale. The online doctor chat helps the visitors to ask and have access to any kind of medical query. Indus also has a regular blog where articles in sync with latest developments in the preventive healthcare industry are posted. Health Biz India October 2013 21
  5. 5. Center Stage business communication they can perform lead generation, customer service, recruiting, brand awareness, crowdsourcing and various other practise,” informs Mr. Jain. Healthcare is all about people. And if you want to connect with people and be part of their community, you need to be present where the community is. Since the reach of this media is phenomenal, making it a vehicle of choice for healthcare marketers is quite logical. “The medium also allows seeding content that can Social media must be used with utmost sincerity, without hyperbole or sales pitches VP Kamath, Group COO, Nova Medical Centers be updated and modified frequently. It is highly interactive and is more engaging because of the timely responses from the audience. Social media is changing the nature of interactions among people and organisations – because of rapid transmission, user generated content and a two way open conversation. Insights from social media might offer feedback on products or services, along with new ideas for innovation,” says Mr. Sundrani. Considering that setting up a Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Media account is free of cost, it definitely makes business sense. Through targeted campaigns it’s possible to garner business leads through social media. “However, an important aspect is the way a campaign is designed and targeted to the right target group as a part of the overall communication strategy. The moment you try to hard sell anything on social media, your response rates are sure to nosedive. Apart from revenue, social media provides a tremendous opportunity to listen and respond to online feedback as well as connect with the online community. What brands have to realise is that social media is a two way street, it shouldn’t be treated as a corporate communications mouthpiece wherein one-way dissemination of information happens,” opines Ms. Dhir. However, there is no denying that social media opens up the possibility of creating online brand loyal advocates who might have had a great experience with your service and would recommend the Social Media Activities by Healthcare Players NOVA Medical Centers Nova actively engages with over 40,000 members on a daily basis, across various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, etc. They have seen considerable growth in terms of the number of members as well as the quality of engagement with their audience. A lot of NOVA’s conversations with its audience is based on queries and second opinions from NOVA’s experts. Nova carries out activities such as interactive information sessions with its experts, live surgery webcasts, specialty awareness weeks, sharing stories of patients’ journey to recovery, as well as daily health and wellness advice. 22 Health Biz India October 2013 Media Superspecialty Hospital The hospital is doing everything possible under the roof of social media. It tries and engages people and have discussions and forums. Till now, their most successful campaign has been on Facebook about Women Drivers in Healthcare. Medica has five women valet parking attendants with them, whom they had saved from the slums and trained as drivers. They ran a competition for the ‘Best Woman Driver in Healthcare’ which saw participation from other healthcare players as well and was hugely popular.
  6. 6. same to their peers. “If one is present across a vast geography, it makes a better business sense. But since you can target them town specific even for local and regional brands it is useful,” says Dr. A Velumani, CEO, Thyrocare Technologies Ltd. Organisations around the world constantly face the challenge of building a lasting relationship with their consumers to enable a sale, retain customers, and hope that they spread the word to their friends and grow the firm’s consumer base. This is especially challenging when you are a healthcare provider; it’s not easy to convince someone to put their lives in the hands of someone they don’t know. “Social media in this area is an effective medium for us to build that trust and credibility, increase awareness of our services among our audience, and finally reinforce our thought leadership so that patients recognise Nova as a trusted source of medical information and treatment, ultimately making business sense,” says Mr. Kamath. Almost every expert echoes the thought that social media provides for a platform where you get to engage with your customer and understand his/ Center Stage her requirements and needs. And that it has an enormous potential for relationship building in the long run which is the goal of every organisation. “Facebook for example, provides an amazing platform to showcase your hospital services and also update friends and communities on health tips, which in-turn helps enhance hospital business. There are over 72 million Social Media users in India and guess that answers it all,” says Mr. Jayanth of AMEN. However, it is important that all healthcare business organisations should keep their objectives right and should aim at achieving desired results in an elongated duration than aiming at quick ROIs. “Social Media is not a sales channel and it is a relationship building tool so ‘relationship-building’ must be the key highlight point of your social media objectives and the ROI will eventually happen,” advices Mr. Jain. Pros & cons Social media, like any other marketing tool, has its own pros and cons. Let us find out what forms both the angels and the demons. Pros of social media Indus Health Plus runs regular campaigns through Facebook to engage its audience and bring in business • Online marketing reaches people from all over the world and allows your business to be open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It allows your customers to browse your website and do their shopping at their convenience especially since Social media can be a vehicle to help scale both positive and negative word of mouth Amol Naikawadi, Joint Managing Director, Indus Health Plus Health Biz India October 2013 23
  7. 7. Center Stage industry. • Opportunities of listening for brands and giving customers a surprise call to solve their concern, sentimental analysis of customer’s reaction on social media on a new product launch, advance target of advertisements People sharing experiences make this medium more personal & believable there are different time zones. Shopping here refers to preventive healthcare packages offered by various companies and hospitals, or fixing appointments, or even gathering information about your organisation. • Using conventional media such as newspapers, magazines, and television can dip into your pocketbook. As you promote your business through social media sites you are spending less money and reaching out to more people. • It is the best possible wordof-mouth advertising you can get for absolutely free. • There are no large warehouses to build in order to keep stock on hand as you can order stock, as the demand requires. This keeps inventory overhead low. • The more likes, circles and +’s you receive the more positive ratings your online business will receive. “People like to see positive 24 Health Biz India October 2013 signs and the more positive ratings and followers you are getting the trustworthier you and your business will appear on the Internet,” says Mr. Naikawadi. • Social media has high reach especially in terms of viral campaigns. • Organisations that actively use social media to communicate are perceived to be more human, which is critical in healthcare Murli Sundrani, Business Director, BD Medical Systems on the basis of gender, sexuality, marital status, age group, interests and more, opportunity to make a brand globally popular. Cons of social media • Social media marketing places high demands on your time. Content must be created, edited, approved and published; comments The percentage of hospitals with social media icons integrated on their official websites
  8. 8. Center Stage Gauging the Impact of Social Media Initiatives Much information is made available without proper documentation or evidence. Many organisations spend large sums on this channel, but have little idea on the impact of such digital initiatives. To overcome this challenge, many engagement efforts are being used for gathering feedback and response. “Loyal communities” for their products and services are being created to measure the success of this medium and keep them engaged for a long period of time and reward them for their loyalty and support. Companies are looking for opportunities to educate the customer community about health benefits, processes, and programs while being vigilant about protecting patient privacy. 26 Health Biz India October 2013 Brands love to showcase innovation in marketing on social media Sorav Jain, Thinker-in-Chief, EchoVme must be responded to and sites and pages must be maintained. You can alleviate these demands by outsourcing for a fee. • Social media marketing places high demands on your talent. It can be difficult to constantly come up with innovative exciting content that interests a variety of readers and without relevance; your efforts will be wasted. • You lose some control of your marketing efforts. Anything you publish is up for grabs, and others can easily criticise you. Publish backlash is the last thing you want your social media marketing to spawn, and without the ability to control comments or even what your own team is publishing you open yourself up for potential negatives. “Your return on investment is delayed. Social media marketing efforts are not likely to earn immense popularity overnight, so you must be willing to be in it for the long haul if you decide to launch a social media marketing campaign,” warns Mr. Naikawadi. • Most platforms aren’t owned by you so changes in algorithms or shift in user preference for a social network might affect your investments, time and effort in them • Social Media users can be highly fickle and getting repeat mentions or visits may be a challenge. • Once you highlight yourself on social media, too much of expectation is raised in the minds of customers, which if not met, can result in backlashing. • Provides very little control over what others say about an organisation, hence probable risk of a PR disaster and damage to a brand’s image. • Not valuing the customers’ feedback can result in a gang bash. Playing safe As mentioned earlier, social media is an open medium and as established by the ‘cons’ above, as a healthcare player, you may be faced with some difficult times. So, what can be done about it? Well, probably some safe-play can come I handy. Let’s see what the experts have to say to this. Mr. Naikawadi suggests that apart from unique content posting one should also take help of experts in order to resolve queries on the page. Social networking sites
  9. 9. like Facebook and YouTube can be powerful platforms to deliver and receive healthcare information, especially for patients and caregivers who are increasingly going online to connect and share experiences with others with similar medical issues or concerns. However, these sites may lack patient-centered information and can also be sources of misleading information that could potentially do more harm than good. Social media is an important resource for patients and their caregivers who are facing important treatment decisions after being diagnosed with a medical condition. “One of the best resources for patients ideally would be physicians who also have health conditions and who can post a personal experience video on YouTube for instance, that would not only be medically correct, credible and trustful but would also contain that first-hand experience that patients with a disease like IBD really crave and search for online,” informs Mr. Naikawadi. The virtual aspect of social media enhances communications by creating a comfortable, often anonymous, environment for engaging and exchanging information. “This can warn anyone to be cautious in ensuring that no misleading claims and benefits are promised or stated that can lead to sharing of incorrect information and unrealistic expectations for the users. Trust and connecting with the people providing care will remain vital to healthcare communication in this space,” says Mr. Sundrani. The trust and communication factor plays an important role, especially in open media. “If you have irate customers, they will anyway find a way to complain about you everywhere. If you have own platform, the concern reaches you directly and you can take steps to rectify your mistakes. Hence, one aspect of playing safe is to simply be present on these platforms,” says Mr. Sen. Saying or even implying something wrong on social media may spread like a wildfire ending in disastrous implications. “Hence, disclosure of any trade secret, intellectual property of a patient’s private health information should not be disclosed in the social space. Do not make statements about anyone when it’s false and could lead to legal action. Never discriminate; even one If you try to hard sell on social media, your response rates are sure to nosedive Jasrita Dhir, Deputy GM - Marketing, Fortis Healthcare The industry has only scratched the surface of social media and need to explore more Kaushik Sen, CEO & Co-Founder, Healthspring Medical Centers Health Biz India October 2013 27
  10. 10. Center Stage A thirst for knowledge in the industry led us to design workshops on social media marketing Paniel Jayanth, Founder & Chief Strategist, AMEN 28 Health Biz India October 2013 offensive tweet could bring down the curtains on your reputation and could damage your online brand name for a long time,” advices Ms. Dhir. “Social media to general mass is not a good healthcare more. Social media focused on medical community does a lot good since they know for common man what would do good or not,” says Dr. Velumani of Thyrocare. All in all, the important thing to remember while using social media is you are not in control, the audience is. Traditional marketers must understand that social media marketing is very different from advertising. “People don’t like being sold to, instead they believe in discovering the right solution for their problems, themselves; they will endorse a company if they have a positive experience, which goes a long way. Hence, it’s important that when a healthcare organisation decides to use social media, it must do so with the utmost sincerity; no hyperbole, or sales pitches here. Healthcare marketers must be aware of the fine line between providing information to build credibility and trust, and medical advice. Not knowing this distinction can put an organisation at great risk,” says Mr. Kamath. Agrees Mr. Jain, “Credibility of source of information is very important. We have managed a healthcare product brand before and we have seen the advices offered by us on social media were seriously taken by the customers and also used the methodologies mentioned for quick healing. It is necessary that the advices, remedies, tips given are coming from expert doctors and are not Googled! Besides, I believe every healthcare or hospital brand should aim at educating people to NOT TO google for health related problems as most of the information on the web is hyped and might land patient in depression or extreme decisions.” Dr. Roy supports this comment, when he says, “We are all moving into a more transparent world. Hence, one should be open and accept and take everything in their stride. You should not try and hide things or lie, as people will eventually discover the truth.” True. As social media is a double edged sword and minor negligence could lead to negative feedback and legal complications, hence some feel it is probably better to out-source your promotional activity to an expert consultant or agency to avoid unnecessary complications which may rise. “Many individuals and companies, realising the potential of this medium have started courses and training workshops which will help you understand how to effectively and efficiently use the medium. It is recommended to participate in these programs and then start utilising the services for professional use,” says Mr. Jayanth. All in all, social media is a great tool when used effectively, cautiously, and with utmost sensitivity. Hence, go ahead and indulge in social media marketing! As per a study done by EchoVme, Ambani Hospitals in Mumbai and Apollo Hospitals were the front runners on Social Media. Unfortunately, even after repeated attempts, there were no responses from either hospitals on the said topic.