During my many years as a healthcare services marketer, my biggest challenge has been to involve doctors in the marketing of their service lines. I have tried to think through this. How can I possibly have a greater and an in depth involvement of doctors in the marketing of a program. It seems that many are just not interested and consider getting involved in something as prosaic as grassroots level marketing beneath their dignity as doctors.
Frankly, as a marketer I would hate to start a marketing program, without a complete buy in from the doctors concerned. That unfortunately happens rarely. I recall my efforts at starting a relationship program for individuals with a high risk of cardiac diseases as well as those, who are currently under medication for the treatment of heart disease.
The marketing team was excited at the idea, a name for the program was identified, a logo was soon developed, marketing collateral were organised, program protocols including enrolments and services outlines were prepared, the front office teams were trained in enrolment and service protocals, separate phone lines were installed and the advertising was developed to launch the program.
The program could still never see the light of the day because we failed to convince the cardiologists and the cardiac surgeons that it made sense to try this out. In meetings after meetings we were told that this has not been tried before, going directly to a set of identified customers with a value proposition like this is just being too adventurous, and we may end up with people being offended by as direct an approach as this.
The subtext was also this that many of those enrolled in the program might be high risk but are hardly patients for the moment and seeing them in a hospital OPD is a waste of time for a cardiologist. My view as a marketer simply was that the exercise helps build a relationship with a potential patient and it is certainly better than sitting in an idle OPD waiting for the real patients to show up.
Since the success of the program depended so critically on the complete buy in of the cardiologists, we decided to shelve the program.
Another program involved establishing clinics in well to do condos, which surrounded our hospital in Gurgaon near New Delhi. The idea was again to build a relationship with the the local communities and be their first port of call in a medical need. The Marketing team engaged with the leaders of these communities, mostly retired and elderly folks, who gladly allowed to set up our clinics in their apartment blocks. They have gave us space and access to the residents. We were to ensure the presence of our specialists for a couple of hours per day to run these clinics. Thus a doctor from a particular speciality say cardiology was to go to these clinics once a week for two hours a day.
Sadly this initiative also did not work out as well as we thought it will. We could not convince our doctors that it was worth their while to do this and engage with the local communities. Many thought that it was just beneath their dignity. Eventually we started sending doctors from our Emergency teams and junior doctors, who had no choice but to follow orders. The local community folks were very disappointed and I had to answer pointed questions on promises made and not kept. In many cases we ruined the relationship even before we started establishing them.
I am still none the wiser on how to sell these programs internally, where huge egos and plain disdain for grassroots relationship marketing often stands in the way of executing a good marketing program.