Indian Hospitals Need New Online Initiatives

HIS_boxWebsites of Indian hospitals are hardly something to write home about. They are mostly poorly done, difficult to navigate and usually the information lies buried so deep that it tests ones patience to get the relevant information . The other day, it took me close to 20 minutes and numerous clicks to locate the address of a hospital from its website. I needed the address to send a Diwali card to a friend who works at the hospital and try as I might, I just did not seem to find the address of the hospital.

Almost all of the hospital websites that I am familiar with are largely static. Thus, they do not interact with patients or caregivers looking for specific information. They do not allow one to book appointments, download reports, interact with doctors taking care of ones loved ones, send good wishes or chat with the patients. They do not support e-commerce. Thus if I was an NRI living abroad and wanted to buy my parents an annual health check or if I wanted to pay their hospital bills on line, I just can not.

In the era of burgeoning medical travel and with Indian hospitals attracting a sizable chunk of patients from all over the world, this does seem strange. For some unfathomable reason, Indian hospitals have not invested too much on their websites or for that matter on online marketing per se. I believe it is high team someone woke up and used the net better.  

It is indisputable that a certain kind of Indian consumer has fully embraced the e-revolution and their tribe is growing by leaps and bounds. With the broadband penetrating deeper, more and more Indian consumers will look at the internet for information, entertainment and commerce. They would seek information about doctors, medical facilities and would like to compare medical outcomes across hospitals. They would like to chat with doctors and customer experience executives in the hospital before making a choice. A hospital aspiring to attract these kind of patients must consider significant investments in their websites and in enhancing their online visibility.

The entire gamut of social media on the net can also be used by hospitals in interacting with their patients. At Artemis, we tried creating an online community of patients and caregivers, where members could post their hospital experiences, their recovery post discharge from the hospital, photographs showing their progress and interesting pieces of information on their disease and latest advancements in medicine. We also encouraged hospital doctors to interact with members of this community. Unfortunately the hospital discontinued this initiative once I left. The hospital was cutting costs and building an online community was considered too ‘long term’ for investments to continue.

The next level of online presence would require hospitals integrating their Hospital Information Systems (HIS) with their websites allowing patients and their relatives on line interactivity. This will facilitate hospitals inviting second opinions from experts anywhere in the world, keeping the patients family and relatives (who might be half way around the world) in the loop on the patient’s progress, interaction with their doctors and online payments. The big issue here is the online security of patient information. The hospitals will have to invest in a foolproof system, which guarantees authorised access to medical data. It would be a disaster if a hospital integrates its website with HIS and leaks confidential data.

With the current level of IT advancement, this and more is certainly possible. Indian hospitals have to look at these opportunities seriously and start investing. The returns would quickly follow.

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