Saturday, December 05, 2009

Why are doctors so penny wise and pound foolish ?

Here's a guest post from Aditya Patkar, Marketing Director of Plus91, who still cannot understand why doctors are not willing to invest in good quality medical software to help improve their productivity ! Are doctors being very short-sighted ? Or have they just got so used to getting freebies from pharma companies they they refuse to spend their own money ?

The sheer number of times that I have had to think about refusing to talk to a doctor because he is too uptight about spending money makes me wonder whether doctors are at all worried about quality.

I think a there was a wide schism between requirement and delivery in a lot of earlier versions of medical programs in India , leading to a fear amongst doctors about being taken for a ride when purchasing a new IT product. But there is a limit to which this excuse can be used to bargain .

Any doctor wanting to make his clinic IT savvy needs to get the right solution . Otherwise , it is going to be a dead investment, and there is no salvaging either the product or the doctor's interest in using IT to improve their practise. So, why do doctor's tend to bargain like they live hand to mouth when it comes to IT products ? This is a very different trend from the big hospitals, who may bargain and call tenders but are never penny wise and pound foolish.

I think it stems from a few reasons:

a. Because there are no standard suppliers for these products in the medical retail segment (read clinics, medical centers, small hospitals) , there is no real price benchmark.

b. Making a software is a simple enough affair , which is why you get a lot of 2-bit players, pharma company sponsored software, a relative who is an engineer or a local company which makes a HIS system among its entire range, so there are many cheap alternatives out there - much like a cheap imitation watch market. Unfortunately , doctors are not IT savvy enough to be able to differentiate between the good, bad and ugly ! Remember that if you pay peanuts, you are likely to get stuff which is useful only for monkeys !
c. Today , as we make a transition from the old to the new, software hasn't yet become a high priority for the older generation, so they are very sceptical about its utility, and refuse to spend on it.
d. Doctors have this fascination with getting things cheaper, because of the pharma companies.
e. Doctors are still very financially naive, and do not think in terms of "life cycle costs" or productivity benefits.

So what has been the effect of all this?

Doctors end up arguing with me about a cost of Rs 2000-3000 , even though they run practices with a turnover of many crores and our medical practise management software can help them to improve their efficiency by over 10% ! Some doctors still take shortcuts in their software , cutting out essential modules because they may save a buck or two.

If doctors are willing to spend big bucks in buying the best quality medical equipment , why aren't they willing to invest in good quality medical software ? After all, this will help them in making the most of their expensive equipment, so they can provide the best quality medical care to their patients !

Aditya Patkar
Plus91 Technologies Pvt Ltd

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