Why doctors and hospitals need to market healthcare


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Summary: Landscape of medical practice has undergone profound change. Patients are proactively seeking healthcare and therefore doctors, hospitals and diagnostic services providers also need to proactively market their services to their proactive consumers.
Author: Varun Jain is a qualified engineer. He completed his B. tech in 2011 from Delhi College of Engineering. Thereafter he worked for Deloitte Consulting, Hyderabad. But within a short span he realized that a job is not something he is really interested in. He wanted to set out as an independent but innovative entrepreneur. He expressed his thoughts before his family and with due family support he launched http://curatio.in in September 2012 as an Online Healthcare Marketing Hub.


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Why doctors and hospitals need to market healthcare

  1. 1. Why Doctors and Hospitals Need to Market HealthcareSummary: Landscape of medical practice has undergone profound change.Patients are proactively seeking healthcare and therefore doctors, hospitals anddiagnostic services providers also need to proactively market their services totheir proactive consumers.The issue of healthcare marketing has its origin in changing landscape of medicalpractice whether in hospitals or in doctor’s clinics. Expansion of scientificknowledge, vast expansion in range of available diagnostic services andtherapeutic modalities coupled with easy availability has contributed in a greatmeasure to increasing complexity of this changing landscape.The scenario is further complicated by increasing demand for evidence basedmedicine which in reality seeks to minimize interpretive role of treating doctorand maximize role of direct scientific evidence. This demand for scientificevidence is duly supported by increasing specificity, accuracy and precision ofeasily accessible diagnostic services and treatment options.But this has also profoundly increased cost of healthcare. Economic pressureshave resulted in fragmentation of patient community ranging from patientsdemanding time tested clinical acumen based medical practice to strictlyscientifically and legally valid practice coupled with their demand for extensivedocumentation in the form of electronic health records; with shades of grey in-between. According to a study conducted in USA, only 22% patients expressedsatisfaction with their doctors. Therefore it is not surprising that patients keepwandering from one doctor to another.The changing landscape has tremendously increased investments required toestablish medical establishments. So much so that there has been corporatizationof healthcare and return on investment (ROI) has become the prime motivatingfactor for any potential and current investor. It is no longer possible for medicalprofession to ignore profit maximization theory of firm. Another fall out of thisscenario is that there is no dearth of treasure hunters in the shape of potentialinvestors and experts seeking to earn their pound of flesh by fishing in troubled
  2. 2. waters. They tend to layer medical practice with their tools and techniques oftenof doubtful significance to patient welfare. Undoubtedly practicing doctors needto connect to their establishments because of infrastructural requirements ofmodern healthcare and thus become prey to their idea of medical practice.Nature of doctor patient relationship has undergone a sea change during laterpart of the last century. With increasing consumerism patients now regardthemselves as doctor’s customer and demand to be treated as a customer.Patient right advocates are increasingly demanding patient centric care whichessentially means that patients decide everything and doctors merely assist themin decision making. Patients have received support from both - legislature andjudiciary in claiming their perceived rights. So patients have a right to informeddecision making and duty of a doctor is to provide all the relevant informationneeded to take informed decisions. But patients’ decision criterions are highlyvariable and this has led to segmentation of patients into different preferencegroups. There are patients who demand five star comfort and convenience andthere are patients for whom cost is the only criterion. In fact according to a studyby Deloitte Consulting, 34% of patients are cost conscious.Cost of medical treatment in developed world has given rise to medical tourism.Patients travel great distances to control cost of health care they need. Internethas greatly facilitated development of medical tourism.Expansion of internet has considerably influenced patient behavior. A study byGoogle shows that 8 out of net savvy patients and caregivers search internet forhealth related information. Google’s data shows that health related information isthe type of information most often sought on the internet. In fact this is the thirdmost common activity on internet after email and search activity. Patients andcaregivers search internet for a variety of information. Women more frequentlysearch for health related information then men; maybe it is because they areoften the caregivers. Type of information sought also varies with age. Youngstersoften tend to search symptoms related information whereas elderly often tend tosearch treatment related information.
  3. 3. The most often observed behavior is that patients and caregivers search relevantinformation on the net and then consult their doctor in order to participate in thedecision making process of healthcare being provided to them. So patients are nolonger passive participants who would accept their doctor’s word as a gospeltruth. They are active participants in administration of healthcare. Experienceshows that an informed patient is a better patient, being more compliant with hisdoctor’s advice.Massive expansion of medical sciences during the past and the present centuryhas led to emergence of large number of specialties, subspecialties and niches.Moreover doctors and hospitals have often organized specialty clinics andhospitals to provide organized care to patients suffering from particular chronicailments. Traditionally doctors and hospitals have relied upon mouth of wordpublicity only even for marketing of their highly specialized services requiring vastcatchment areas.Patients are a highly granular community with their selection criterion, demandsand interference criterion varying from case to case and from one context toanother. They can keep any doctor on his toes in a bid to customize theirhealthcare not only according to their clinical condition but also according to theirindividual preferences. The entire concept of pyramid of healthcare having itsbeginning in primary health care and carried through a system of referrals is anon-performer in a country like India because patients and caregivers oftendecide the specialist to consult rather than their general practitioner andapproach specialist directly without any involvement of their local doctor.Traditionally doctors, hospitals and diagnostic services have relied upon word ofmouth publicity and referral services for reaching target recipients of theirservices. However this is becoming increasingly insufficient in view of thechanging landscape discussed above. Doctors, hospitals and diagnostic serviceproviders also need to extend their reach and penetration into the community ofpatients locally as well as globally.Increasing consumerism and increasing specialization require health careproviders to be active participants in this market led economy. The later has
  4. 4. mandated that doctors draw their clientage from large and quite ofteninaccessible catchment areas and this is not possible without efficientdeployment of effective marketing tools and techniques. Therefore it is notsurprising that doctors, hospitals and diagnostic centers are increasingly resortingto aggressive marketing of their services through various media such as TV, radio,print media etc. Patients and caregivers are also actively seeking this informationthrough all available channels which includes not only traditional channels butalso social media, mobile and digital media. According to a study published byGoogle, health care providers relying only on traditional channels for leadgeneration lose one out of two leads generated to their online competitor. Rise ofelectronic media has made the competitor only a few clicks away!Hence whatever view ethics and law may hold about marketing of healthcare, it isa reality of the market place and we should all come to terms with it. Withconsumers taking a more proactive approach to health, you need a moreproactive approach to reaching them. Hence it is imperative that in this universedominated by Darwinian Struggle for Existence, doctors, hospitals and diagnosticservice providers need to resort to aggressive marketing of healthcare to reachout to those who need their services and to sustain relations with them.Author: Varun Jain is a qualified engineer. He completed his B. tech in 2011 fromDelhi College of Engineering. Thereafter he worked for Deloitte Consulting,Hyderabad. But within a short span he realized that a job is not something he isreally interested in. He wanted to set out as an independent but innovativeentrepreneur. He expressed his thoughts before his family and with due familysupport he launched http://curatio.in in September 2012 as an Online HealthcareMarketing Hub.http://www.linkedin.com/company/curatio-technologies?trk=top_nav_home