Step into a hospital anywhere in the western world and you are in all likelihood to run into an Indian doctor sooner than later. The medical education system in India churns out doctors in large numbers and many of them choose to go abroad for advanced training and skills enhancement. Many of these settle down in the new country, which is more than happy to welcome highly educated and skilled doctors to its shores. It works well for the doctors too, they learn new things, train in some of the finest institutions in the world and than are able to make a decent living in their adopted country.
This is the way it was till recently.
Now with India making rapid strides in healthcare and even attracting patients from across the globe, many of these doctors are choosing to return to India. They are able to find employment in the new high tech hospitals, which have sprung up in the last 8-10 years. The reasons for this are not far to seek. Indian hospitals can now easily be compared with any that they might have worked in earlier, in the west, the standard of care is often superior, the financial rewards far better than what they were a few years ago, and life in upmarket urban India quite comfortable. Moreover, India is home for many with responsibilities for aging parents. Some are also not comfortable with their children growing up seeped in the ubiquitous and consumerist western culture.
All this is great, except for the fact that some find going in India quite tough. The hospitals that employ the returning prodigals, soon realise that these doctors will take time to settle down and find their feet in the changed Indian environment. Having been away for years they do not have a bank of patients, who can start patronising the hospital. Often their salaries are more than those hired from other Indian hospitals and with no patient base to speak off, these doctors are immediately under pressure to justify their high salaries. They usually need urgent Marketing support.
Marketing these doctors wouldn’t be too difficult. However, marketers like me realise to our dismay that many are just not willing to make the effort, which is required to establish their credentials back home. Many believe that their foreign accents and fancy certificates will suffice to get them patients. Unfortunately, this never works.
Their are really no short cuts to building a practice. It requires painstaking engagement with the local doctors, establishing a rapport with the local communities around the hospital and delivering great experiences to patients who come in. Dr. Paramvir Singh a gastroenterologist, who returned from the US to join Artemis Health Institute in Gurgaon is a case in point. He decided early on that he will have to work closely with the marketing team and pestered each and every member of the team to take him out for meetings with local doctors, deliver talks in corporates and interact with the local community leaders. Dr. Singh also ensured that he called those referring patients to him, discussed the case and politely thanked the doctor for his support. He also became friends with all the marketing executives, who found him very accessible and ready to go out with them on short notice. All this worked like a charm. Dr. Singh is today, about a year in pratcice in Gurgaon a very busy gastroenterologist indeed.
Sadly, many of those who returned find it hard to cope with the grind. Many carried a lot of baggage from the US, had an attitude which borders on arrogance and found it difficult to connect with the local doctors. Many confessed of not being comfortable interacting with some of these doctors, they questioned their practices and were just not able to treat them with respect. Not surprisingly the local doctors too turned up their noses at these ‘upstarts’. The hospital sales team just couldn’t make any headway.
Some of those who came back, found going out with the hospital sales team a chore well beneath their dignity, the heat and the grime of India beyond the air conditioned surroundings of the hospitals too much to bear. Others found it difficult to work long hours, 7 days a week, (which is the lot of most doctors in India) and cope with the relentless pressure of generating patients for the hospital.
No wonder many of them are contemplating returning back, others are holding on grimly, hoping with the passing of time patients will surly come. They may or may not, the struggle for these doctors is not ending anytime soon.
Pic courtesy www.flickr.com/yodababy79