Doctors and Grassroots Marketing Initiatives

200140282-001 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. 

 

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3 thoughts on “Doctors and Grassroots Marketing Initiatives

  1. There surely has to be other side of the story. After all the doctors are smart professionally who wouldn’t easily take a self destructive stand.

    My understanding for the lack of matching enthusiasm from doctor is

    1. Lack of absolute trust between the doctors and the organization- everyone is so engrossed in securing his own interests that any thing is seem to be outside that spectrum is ignored.

    2. Lack of team building efforts and imbibing the spirit of ‘swim or spirit together’.

    3. It should be realized that specialists are super specialists are a scarce and valuable resource and have to used appropriately and not to message peoples egos.

    4. Using your own arguments community outreach clinics are best served by community doctors who have the time, perseverance and the right personally to form personal relations and an ability to deal with a variety of disorders and which is backed by strong referral support of the hospital.

    The bottom-line is the hospitals in India have to first invest in people who understand the concepts of team building, mentoring and clinical governance only then would they be able to carry forward their agendas

  2. (Corrected version of last letter)
    There surely has to be other side of the story. After all the doctors are smart professionals who wouldn’t easily take a self defeating stand.
    My understanding for the lack of matching enthusiasm from doctor is
    1. Lack of absolute trust between the doctors and the organization- everyone is so engrossed in guarding his own interests that any thing that is seen to be outside that spectrum is outrightly ignored.
    2. Lack of team building efforts and efforts to imbibe the spirit of ‘we shall all swim or spirit together in everything’.
    3 Egos are a problem and these barriers can only be broken by someone who is seen as an ‘insider’ and has impeccable leadership skills.
    3. It should be appreciated that specialists are a scarce and valuable resource and have to be utilized appropriately and not to ‘massage people’s egos’.
    4. Using your own arguments community outreach clinics are best served by community doctors who have the time, perseverance and the right personality to form personal relations and an also used to dealing with a variety of disorders and which is backed by strong referral support of the hospital.
    The bottom-line is the hospitals in India would first have to first invest in people with leadership skills who understand ( and practice) the concepts of team building, mentoring and clinical governance, only then would they be able to carry forward their agendas

  3. Ana’s – Seems like not much is different between India and the United States. Might I suggest creating more project briefs explaining everything from possible benefits of the plan, projected outcomes, possible barriers of execution and recommended next steps.

    I think it is easier to persuade if your audience understands your goals and thought process. Give the physicians your knowledge and thought process, such that coming to the same conclusions you have already come to seem like their ideas.

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