Thursday, September 08, 2011

Should Indian hospitals be marketing online ?

I met a marketing manager of a corporate hospital today. They spend a lot of money advertising in magazines and newspapers so I asked her - Why don't you spend the money online ?

She pooh-poohed the idea because she felt this would be a waste of money . She quoted studies have showed that internet penetration in India is only 4%; and was very skeptical as to whether online advertising would be cost-effective for her hospital.

It took me a long time to convince her that her thinking was completely flawed. if hospital advertising needs to be successful it needs to reach out to its target market – patients ! Everyone knows that these days most patients are online, looking for information about their medical problem !

The 4% figure is a gross underestimate for many reasons !

1. When people have a medical problem they will often go to a cybercafe to access information on the net , even if they don't have a computer at home
2. Many corporate employees will use their work computer to access the same information !
3. When someone in the family has a problem , it's not only the patient who does the searching. Often friends and family members will do the search on their behalf. This means that even if they do not have Internet access themselves , they will still be able to get information about hospitals and their treatment options from the internet to help them to solve the problem.
4. Finally, the kind of patients who can afford hospitalization in these corporate hospitals are the very ones who are affluential and do have Internet access at home ! The first thing they will do when they have a medical problem is turn to Google to research their treatment options and to find information about medical services and hospitals.

No smart hospital in India can afford to neglect this important segment of patients ! However, part of the problem is that their online marketing is extremely na├»ve. They feel that by just putting up a website, they’ll get lots of traffic ! When this does not happen, they jump to the wrong conclusion that online marketing is useless !

I had to explain to her that where your website ranks on google depends upon the quantity and quality of online content you provide. There’s very little point in providing information about your hospital and services on your website because patients don’t care about this – they only care about themelves. However, writing high quality medical content specifically for patients can be a very difficult and time consuming to create and licensing it from global companies can be very expensive.

The good news is that Indian hospitals can now instantly license over 30000 pages of reliable updated trustworthy patient education content from the world leader in patient education, Healthwise Knowledgebase . There’s more information at www.informationtherapy.in .

One major advantage of marketing online is that it allows hospitals to reach out directly to patients. It allows them to cut out the middleman , so that they don't have to waste money on inducing family physicians to refer patients to them. Even more importantly , because they are connecting with patients directly, they can earn patient loyalty by providing them with information therapy on an ongoing basis , through ezines , for example.

Online patients are often e- patients - engaged , empowered ,enabled and educated . If the hospital does a good job in taking care of them , they can help them to get even more patients by creating a lot of positive word-of-mouth !

Indian patients are now online – can hospitals afford to be left behind ?




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