Healthcare industry for decades was dependent on word-of-mouth publicity. Even when the industry started operating as corporate entity they still were not able to advertise because of stringent rules laid by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research).
Also the Indian mindset, I mean the public at large don't really trust advertisements in healthcare sector, so this leaves the sector with very little prospects of publicity.
Whether doctors should advertise has been in debate for a very long time in ICMR meetings, but I think this discussion will continue, as the decision makers are of the old thought process and believe that if the Hospital/doctor is really good then the patients will spread the good word to target audience and that’s the main reason they are against advertising.
So the main question arises whether this should this stop the healthcare sector from hiring Advertising and Brand Consultants?
Rather the healthcare sector should hired Brand or PR Consultants who will help in providing advice and guide on managing the brand. It is very essential for a healthcare provider to define internal as well as external communications, to segregate the target audience, to inform about the services offered and the most important to device a crisis management strategy. These Consultants will also help to position the Healthcare provider in the minds of its target audience.
Most often the doctors who have completed Masters in Healthcare Administration take charge of the marketing department of these Healthcare companies, and they certainly cannot advice on Brands and how it relates to the company philosophy. Actually this is the main reason Healthcare companies need experienced Brand/Image Consultants.
Case Study: Hinduja Hospital, a trust managed hospital with a capacity of 351 beds including ICUs, ICCUs, latest technology to diagnose and treat patients, very highly qualified Medical and Para-medical staff to managed emergencies, etc. Most of its doctors often quote in media on various health related issues, media has a very positive attitude towards the hospital, so half battle is won when solving crisis situations.
The hospital never advertises because it is a charitable trust hospital helping poor patients. The best part is even media knows this about Hinduja Hospital, but what happens when an opinion survey is conducted. The findings very much deviate from the philosophy of the hospital, it shows that the hospital is for rich people and hardly any poor patients opt for treatment in Hinduja Hospital. Quite surprising! But that’s the truth about this hospital. Now the public perception needs to be changed so the brand is in sync with its philosophy, mission and perception.
In this case the hospital needs to hire an Image Consultancy which would try to change the perception over a period. The plan would be a mix of events, CMEs, internal communication programs, brochure and information document development, etc. The Image Consultancy with experience and market survey will help Hinduja Hospital to position itself as a world class Hospital for poor.