The Meaningless Healthcare Awards

The Indian healthcare industry is awash with awards. Not a month passes, when I do not receive proposals from all manner of people to participate in some awards or the other. This is rather embarassing to many of us simply because these awards are just a sham. For some though, this constitutes a compelling business opportunity. Thus, there are companies whose business model is giving sundry awards and to make matters infinitely worse, we now have large media companies rushing in with sackful of awards, to be presented to anyone who is willing to buy media space in their publications.

The Problem

The scheme goes something like this.

A media house announces a bunch of awards to be presented in a “glittering” function at one of the city’s 5 star hotels. The award categories are numerous and almost all aspects of hospitals are covered. This is done deliberately so as to maximise the number of people/hospitals that can be awarded. The media sales people then fan out and start meeting hospital marketing teams, asking for registrations/nominations for the award. These are to be sent with an accompanying cheque, usually the amount ranges from INR 25000-50000 per category. In itself, not a very large amount but the numbers deceive. Usually a hospital applies for multiple awards, let us say 10 out of the 50 or so available. And then there are dozens of hospitals applying in all these categories. The numebrs all add up beautifully.

Well, this isn’t the end of it. The media sales team then come up with media supplements and special pages, which are supposed to cover these awards. This is really the big one. Hospitals, are cajoled to advertise in these supplements and are often promised pictures of they receiving the awards and their quotes being carried in the accompanying write-ups. If the electronic media is involved, the event along with the bytes of the winners get broadcast as well. All this is sold as a package.

To further amplify all this the social media too is available. The pictures are posted, tweets are sent out to gulliable readers announcing the winners of the awards, often accompanied by their smiling visages and small clips of ‘thank you’ speeches do the rounds.

In an intensely competitive industry there is a need to differentiate the awards and hence sometimes consulting companies too are roped in. They are supposed to lend a bit of credibility to the entire exercise, the senior managers are trotted out to present the awards to the winners and it all makes for a nice photo-op.

If the media house is one of the larger ones, they are usually able to get hold of a “neta” or two. If they really get lucky, the health minister might himself turn-up. The lure of the media is usually irresistable to the political class. To add the glamour quotient a socialite is usually brought in, usually to be the MC for the evening. I recall with amusement attending one function, where she couldn’t even pronounce the name of the minister but than it doesn’t matter much.

All of this is of course done with quite a bit of tamasha of going through the motions and following due processes to arrive at the winners. Fortunately, there are enough categories and everyone can comfortably win.

Well, you get the picture.

This is the sad reality of most of the healthcare awards. Bereft of any credibility, done purely on commercial lines, they serve no purpose. In fact, they do a lot of harm.

The readers of these publications/viewers of the TV stations are befooled by the false recognition given to thoroughly undeserving doctors/hospitals, for achievements they never had and things that they never accomplished. This is plain wrong.

The media houses too are diminished by this unalloyed greed. By honouring and recognising those who have done little of value and paid a lot to get the award, the media houses are essentially cheating their readers and viewers.

The hospitals and media houses both must introspect seriously. The quest for publicity on the part of the hospitals and the lure of money on the part of the media houses is the underlying cause for this sorry state of affairs. This is an unholy nexus, crass opportunism at its worst and we must end this, the sooner the better.

The Solution

I would urge hospitals to stop participating in these awards. We need to identify a couple of respectable industry bodies and compete for awards in their fora. FICCI and CII are respectable industry bodies and we can work with them in setting up fool-proof mechanisms of recognising excellence in healthcare through awards. A rigorous process can be set up to scrub entries, reputed audit firms can be engaged to audit and certify the selection criteria and awards given out strictly on merit. A media partner can be engaged to amplify the awards in a legitimate manner, highlighting true merit, excellence and innovation.

We will all win if we do it this way.

The views expressed are personal

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