Outpatient Department or the OPD is critical in the marketing of a hospital. It is the OPD, which drives the admissions in the hospital and the diagnostics including the pathology and imaging. It keeps the doctors busy and the hospital buzzing. The success of various Marketing activities is usually measured by the number of incremental patients who walk through the hospital doors during the promotion.
Here are some ideas on driving the OPD volumes.
I know, many people believe that for a hospital to be involved in Marketing promotions is a strict no no. Offers like free consults and 30% off on all diagnostics somehow seems too much like a ‘Sale’ at the neighbourhood supermarket. However, the truth is that promotions work. Many people like to avail of the promotional offers, walk into the hospital to see a doctor for a long ignored niggling problem and many like to avail themselves of a discount on a CT or MR. The trick here is not to overdo it and to ensure that the communication is not overtly commercial or over the top. I would reckon 4 big promotions a year, (one a quarter) would be fine.
A hospital wanting to have a buzzing OPD, must try and engage with those living in the neighbourhood. A busy OPD usually means that the hospital enjoys the patronage of its neighbours in a big way. Thus weekend neighbourhood health camps, regular clinics in the societies around the hospital and fam visits to the hospital by local opinion leaders goes a long way in establishing a good connect between the hospital and the local communities. Neighbourhood relationship programs offering benefits to local residents and the senior citizens always works.
Connecting with the Doctors
It is imperative that the doctors doing the OPD’s connect with the local populace. Artemis Hospital started doing a monthly lecture involving its senior doctors. Every month on a Sunday morning the hospital would invite residents to listen to its expert doctors talk about Heart Disease, Arthritis, Back Pain and even more serious issues like dealing with Cancer. The program worked well with the auditorium filling up and people have a wonderful time interacting with the experts. They got to know and interact with the doctors outside their OPD chambers and it worked wonders in establishing relationships.
Local advertising helps the hospital brand remain top of the mind. Advertisements talking about the hospital’s philosophy and commitment, its super specialities, its highly evolved expertise in certain areas and the emergency services help demystify the hospital and keep it fresh in the consumer’s mind.
Specialised OPD Clinics
With in the OPD there is always the opportunity of establishing super specialised clinics involving several consultants and services and offering these as a bundled convenient offer. Thus a diabetes clinic would involve a diabetologist, an ophthalmologist, a podiatrist, a dietician and even a psychologist. They can come together to offer a package, which would involve round the year care through active follow ups and regular testing.
These are just a bunch of thoughts and I am afraid nothing very revolutionary. However, I have seen in my experience that very often hospitals fail to do these ‘small’ things consistently well. The programs are initiated and then abandoned, management attention gets diverted to more flamboyant projects and these ‘day to day’ programs are given short shrift. I believe that OPD’s can only be built gradually, one step a time and constant engagement through well thought out programs and communication goes a long way in establishing the trust, which drives the OPD.