The Preventive Healthcare Conundrum

200308966-001It really takes a lot to understand the truth in the old adage that Prevention is better than Cure.

Marketing of Preventive Healthcare Programs in hospitals is a tough call. While one would expect consumers to grasp the importance of Prevention and thus the need for regular health checks, in my experience as a healthcare marketer in India, this is one of the most difficult products to sell.

Hospitals have spent money by the bucketful to understand the underlying consumer psyche and device products, which the consumers may find meaningful, but rarely have they succeeded in attracting customers for Preventive Programs. They have resorted to gimmicks like the Max Platinum Healthcare Program, but nothing really seems to be working.    

Some of the reasons cited in consumer research for such apathy towards a product, which after all can help save a life are quite eye-opening.

Many of us believe that we are quite healthy and serious illness will not affect us at least in the near future. That we have no symptoms of any disease automatically means good health, is a dangerous proposition. However, we the consumers of healthcare do not think so. Our faith in our own well being is tremendous. Thus in true ostrich fashion, what we do not see does not exist.

Another reason, which is cited for avoiding going for an annual health check is the often heard ‘I am far too busy’. The daily chores and routines of our increasingly busy lives make us take our own good health for granted. Ironically, we always find time to take the car for a wash and the routine service always happens on time!

Many of us are terrified of hospitals and hate to visit it unless compelled by circumstances to do so. Since a Preventive Health Check is hardly a compelling medical condition we avoid getting it done. There is also a belief that the doctors and the huge machines in these hospitals always conspire to find something or the other wrong with us. Their sole aim is to find something to scare us with and lighten our pockets by more extravagant testing (CT’s, MRI’s, PET CT’s the works). 

Their are others, who believe that these programs rarely detect anything. These are hypochondriacs, who keep looking at the reports hoping to find something amiss and can not help but feel a tad disappointed when the doctors give them a clean chit. They believe that a clean bill of health from their doctors is really such a sorry waste of their hard earned money and time.

Somehow, the truth that these programs are a set of tests designed to detect commonly occuring ailments before they really happen, just does not register. Healthcare Marketers have tried advertising, direct mailers, reminders on sms, promotions et al but we are just not convinced. Healthcare communication has been designed to appeal to us, our spouses (Give the gift of good health, this karva chauth!), our parents (wish your son a long life!) and even our children. (Mom’s health is the most important and the least cared for in the family). Nothing works.

Can someone help me understand this conundrum better?



3 thoughts on “The Preventive Healthcare Conundrum

  1. What is the answer was simply lack of trust?

    What if the person feels, this test is being done by the hospital because they want to find a problem where none exists….

    It stems from 2 points

    1. There is a rampant feeling that unnecessary testing and expensive medication is given without reason.

    2. Lack of work done by the hospital in building the wellness part of communication.

  2. Why do we think that preventive healthcare only means a set of tests aimed at diagnosing a prolem and then treating it , if something wrong is detected.I think nobody wants to know the bad coming their way,so people are apprehensive to go for these checkups.Interestingly, one can feed up clients for these programs from the other end.I mean if hospitals could initiate some regular activity based community programs
    ( walking,jogging,cycling,swimming etc.)which engages people in their leisure time, will lead to familiarise people with their own symptoms and gives them a better understanding of why these tests are necassary . Its like replicating treadmill test outside hospital boundaries. It gives two benefits, one , hospitals make a goodwill in the community to raise the awareness towards healthy lifestyle, second, it forces people to think about their health needs once their friends and fellas are participating in such events.

  3. I agree with Syamant. The underlying reason for consumer apathy to Preventive Health Checks is a deep rooted cynicism about the motivations of the hospital.As long as consumers believe that the hospitals are getting all the testing done to line their pockets, Preventive Health Programs can not take off.

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