Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Why do hospitals waste money on marketing executives ?

A new trend in Bombay these days seems to be that at all the new corporate hospitals , diagnostic centers and imaging centers employ marketing professionals . They are titled " doctor relationship executives " , and they go around from one GP to another , inducing and cajoling them to refer patients to their center . It’s a highly competitive business, because if you need to survive, you need patient turnover and throughputs . These executives are very popular among GPs, because their major selling point is that they provide inducements , which are primarily financial in nature. You can call this a referral fee – or a kickback, if you don't want to mince words . It’s common knowledge that the referring doctor gets anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of the fees the diagnostic or imaging center charges the patient.

However, I think they are just wasting money on their salaries. There are now so many of these marketing executives around , that I doubt very much if they have any significant impact. In any case, doctors are not going to be loyal to the center – and are happy to refer their patients to the highest bidder. This just sets off bidding wars – so that all the centers find it very difficult to even break even !

I just can't understand why they are so shortsighted and why they want to reach out to patients through middleman . Doesn't it make a lot more sense to reach out to patients directly ? It was hard to do so in the past when you didn’t know where your patients were . This is why hospitals used to waste so much money on print ads in newspapers and magazines to reach out to consumers.

The good news today is that all patients - especially the kind of patient these centers want to attract are all online ! It makes a lot more sense for these centers to spend their money on marketing to these patients online ! They best way of doing so is by putting up a high-quality website which has a lot of useful content , so that when patients search google , looking for information about their medical problem, their corporate website comes up number one !

The patient is bound to feel that if these people care so much about educating and informing me , this means they have my best interests at heart , and are therefore much more likely to go directly to the center. This is obviously good for patients ; good for the center , which can then use the money they would have wasted on the middleman and their marketing executive to provide better quality services to their patients !

Creating high quality content for educating patients is a challenging exercise, but the good news is that the Healthwise Knowledgebase is now easily available in India. For the cost of a salary of a marketing executive, these centers can now have a website which provides a friendly welcome to patients - 24/7, round the year !

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