Great Experiences and Brand Promises – Lessons from Indigo Airlines

Indigo”It is time you packed-up and left for the airport. You are on Indigo and they always leave on time”, said my colleagues at work. I was in Bangalore and had a busy day at work. I was trying to cram in as much as I possibly could in the day and I guess, I was getting late for my flight to Delhi. In any case, with the way the Bangalore traffic these days is, reaching the airport is akin to a lottery.

The Gods were kind that day, Mr David managed to get me to the airport well in time and, sure enough, Indigo boarded right on the dot. However, much to our chagrin we learnt that there would be some delay before we took off. Soon after being air-borne we had the captain on the PA system, proudly telling us that though we had departed Bangalore 10 minutes behind schedule (and it was all because of the congestion at the airport), he was quite hopeful of getting us into Delhi on time. He explained the benefits of a friendly tail-wind assisting us in the journey and also how he would try his best to get us on ground in Delhi on schedule.

It was soon evident that we had a chatty captain, who would tell us that we could see the lights of Hyderabad towards our right and that we were over Jaipur and were cruising over 33000 ft. The captain kept us engaged. He was never intrusive, but I did observe that in almost all announcements that he made, he did refer to the fact that we were likely to reach our destination on time. The crew also kept reminding us that an ón-time’ performance was their paramount goal. They urged us not to leave any waste around, so that they can turn around the aircraft faster for the next flight. It seemed that the crew was really focused and keen to get us to Delhi on time.

As soon as we touched down in Delhi, the crew announced that we have indeed arrived a little before schedule. They seemed to be genuinely pleased with their performance and wore big smiles. As I headed out of the aircraft, I noticed the captain standing just outside the door of the flight deck, wishing passengers the time of the day and amicably chatting with his crew. The captain and the crew looked like a wonderful team to me, who had enjoyed flying us to Delhi that evening and were genuinely happy that they managed to get us to our destination well in time.

This episode left me wondering how difficult it really is to conjure up this kind of experience every time Indigo takes flight, day in and day out. This would mean hundreds of flights everyday, flying thousands of passengers and ensuring a steady and consistent experience delivered through thousands of employees. No wonder, Indigo is one of the most successful airline in the country and their brand promise is synonymous with timely flights.

And since, I work for in healthcare, where a great experience is perhaps so much more important, it left me wondering, why most hospitals in India fail to deliver a consistent experience that can become their calling card. Unfortunately, we still do not have hospitals, which can deliver some if not all experiences in a pre-defined and consistent manner. Is there any hospital in India, which can claim that the OPD’s in its hospitals always begin on time, or where patients with prior appointments don’t have to wait or where physicians see off patients at their doors? Or, where patients are uniformly greeted by the staff at the front office, always treated with courtesy and where compassion counts for more than anything else?

I am aware that this is no easy task. Unlike passengers in an aircraft, patients are sick people, some are in life threatening situations, many are in the hospital for the first time in their lives and are truly unsure of what to expect. I also understand that unlike the airline, patients in a hospital will be staying for several days, they will be interacting with a multitude of people (doctors, nurses, paramedics,housekeeping, F&B services, general maintenance, billing etc.) and it is so much more difficult to synchronize all of these interactions into one great experience, which can be crystallized into a succinct and powerful brand promise.

However, hospitals, which hope to build a brand for themselves must start looking at ways and means of doing this. They must meld their varied customer interactions into one great experience that a customer can expect even before she enters the hospital. The true power of a hospital brand will only be unleashed, when it will learn to deliver that one experience again and again, every time that a patient walks through its door.

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Medical Travel Must Come of Age

Medical Travel to India has now reached a certain level of maturity and business size and it has started getting serious attention from all manner of people. Back of the envelope calculations indicate that the opportunity today is approx. USD 500 mn and growing at least 30% or more pa. And these numbers are only the revenue that Indian Hospitals generate from patients traveling to India for medical treatment. Add to this the possible revenue from their stay in hotels in India and the airfare, we are perhaps staring at a business opportunity worth close to USD 1 bn today.

Strangely, for a business opportunity of this size, we still do not have organised players in the market. Almost all the patients traveling to India are being facilitated by small time medical travel operators, who make a commission in the process. Sadly most of these facilitators are completely unorganized, bring in patients through their personal contacts in places like Iraq and Nigeria and have very little resources to support or provide a vow experience to the patients. Many of them started as translators, who were hired by the hospitals as they received the first wave of foreign patients. They interacted with these hapless patients and earned their trust, branched off on their own and started getting patients referred by those who had come earlier.

While, these folks have so far done a reasonable job of patient facilitation, the time is ripe for the advent of the new generation of medical travel operators. These would in all likelihood be young entrepreneurs, tech-savvy and more in tune with the needs of our ”experiences” driven service economy. They would probably be initially supported by some of the larger Indian Hospitals, who would of course benefit immensely from foreign patients reaching their doors much better looked after. They would also hope to benefit from more patients coming through.

At Fortis Healthcare, which is India’s largest healthcare company and where I work, we are encouraging this trend. We would like to work with and support medical travel operators, who are professionally driven and are much better organised in joining us in sourcing international patients. We are identifying potential partners in various parts of the world and beginning to work with them in an effort to create a new and a different kind of eco-system. Hopefully, this would allow for a far better and a completely seamless experience to the patients who are traveling to us from all parts of the world.

I also believe that very soon we will have large travel operators also entering the business. The business case is so compelling that they can not really afford to stay out. Recent reports have indicated that Thomas Cook has decided to enter the market and I have had several discussions with Abercrombie and Kent, who are already setting up the medical travel infrastructure that they need, to roll out the business across multiple continents. They are exploring markets as far as Eastern Africa and Middle East where they are setting up information and patient facilitation centres to help connect patients to hospitals.

At the global level with medical travel destinations like Jordan and Turkey in Asia, Costa Rica and Panama in Central and Latin America, China and South Korea in the far East emerging as the new medical travel destinations (Thailand and India being there for several years now) the sky is really the limit. A global operator can easily facilitate patients into hospitals in any of these countries. Moreover, this would also provide their existing travel businesses a significant bump up as patients traveling to hospitals are usually accompanied by family and friends. Thus more air tickets and more hotel nights will directly contribute to their existing travel businesses.

Honestly, I have been quite baffled that large travel companies have so far not stepped in. My best guess is that they haven’t really looked upon medical travel as a large enough a business for them to get into. Medical travel in India has grown quietly. Not many people outside the healthcare industry, fully know about the extent of the business today even less about its potential. Also, they are is still a serious lack of awareness about the profile of medical travelers. Today we have patients in our hospitals at Fortis who have traveled thousands of miles and have come for extremely high-end medical procedures such as transplants and challenging paediatric cardiac surgeries.

Something in my bones tells me all this is about to end. Patients, should now be able to choose their hospitals and doctors anywhere in the world a lot more transparently, have their travel arrangements done professionally and receive the world’s finest medical care without the worries of a rickety and unreliable system which exists today.

Patients should be able to travel to their doctors and their hospitals a lot more sure about what they truly are getting into free of worries from everything except their medical condition.

Hiring Right Makes a Hospital Special

Hiring right, is at the best of times a tricky proposition, more so if one is attempting to hire people to work in a hospitals. This becomes even more difficult if one is hiring people in managerial roles in non-medical areas, folks such as the Front Office Executives, Case Managers, Service Line Managers or Sales Managers.

This is primarily because healthcare services are unlike any other service industry. The customers here are both patients and customers, they are unwell, they don’t want to be there but circumstances have forced them to seek the services of the hospital and the expenses incurred unlike say that of a restaurant or an amusement park are an unforeseen burden. Many a times, they have been compelled to travel far away from home and they are alone amongst strangers, who will have an immense amount of power over them. And to make things a lot worse is the lingering uncertainty about the medical outcomes, indeed about life and death.

People working in hospitals must understand these factors well. Medical folks because of the virtue of their training and  knowledge comprehend these facts instinctively. However service personnel, who have moved to healthcare services from say the hospitality sector are often caught by surprise and are left wondering about the interplay between patients, customers and hospital staff.

Thus, a hospital must be very careful in hiring the right people and then training them in handling customers and patients. Here is a small checklist of what I look for when hiring people in a hospital.

Empathy:

This is the single most important characteristic that I look for in an individual. It is absolutely essential that those who work in hospitals have empathy for patients and their attendants. Many years ago I heard a doctor say that she always tries to remember that it is not a tumour that she is treating, but a human being. Anyone who works in the hospital would do well to remember that. In a hospital I would like to hire people, who can connect with those in distress and interact with a measure of understanding and compassion.They must treat every patient and his problems as the only one that they have to handle that day.

Patience and Maturity:

It is imperative that a hospital hires mature people with loads of patience. This will help in managing patients, who are generally impatient-to see the doctor, get the tests done, lay their hands on that elusive report and get the hell out of the hospital. Since most people find it hard to understand matters related to their illnesses and treatment options, it is best that we have people who can explain these things patiently, without losing their cool and without showing the slightest signs of indifference.

Hunger for Knowledge:

It is a myth that in a hospital, medical knowledge should remain restricted to the medical folks and it is only they who need it. I have seen patients asking questions from patient care executives about arcane surgical procedures, about diagnostic tests prescribed by the doctors and even about their prognosis. To my mind, every individual working in a hospital should aim to acquire and benefit from basic medical knowledge. For me, part of the charm of working in a hospital has always been the immense amount of knowledge I gain by interacting with medical colleagues. In conversation with doctor colleagues, if I find myself lost, I never hesitate to ask them to stop and explain things to me in terms that I can understand. It always helps, when I am required to explain a procedure to let us say a foreign patient contemplating travel to our hospitals in Delhi.

Ability to Get Along with Doctors

It takes a special kind of skill to work with busy doctors, who are always short on time and stressed out. One needs to adapt to their work schedules and understand their pressures to put things in the right perspective. Also, one must remember that they are trained as doctors and not as professional managers, thus often their understanding of a manager’s world is not the same as that of another professional manager. In my experience it is best to always try to understand, where they might be coming from rather than articulating management dogma, which they may not understand well or may find obnoxious.

Optimistic and Cheerful Disposition:

Those blessed with an optimistic and cheerful world view do well in a hospital. A hospital needs loads of people with a sunny disposition, who always look at the brighter side of things and who are hard to put down. These are individuals, who are eager to help, who go out of their way, do that bit extra to make someone happy, because that is what makes them happy.

Rigorous training and an organisational culture based on openness and trust helps these people become good to great and transform the hospital into a wonderful place of healing and caring.

Nursing-The Big Differentiator

If someone was to ask me what truly differentiates one hospital from the other, I would unhesitatingly answer that it really has to be the quality of nursing. Yet most hospital managers pay scant time and attention to what is perhaps one of the most critical functions in the hospital. In India, nursing is perhaps one of the most under rated professions and in a hospital senior managers, who are busy driving patient volumes and revenue and focusing on delivering cutting edge medicine often forget that it is Nursing, which truly is the back bone of  hospital operations.

The last few months for me have been nothing less than traumatic. My father lost his battle with cancer and he continued to be in and out of hospitals virtually all of November and pretty much most of December. While, he gradually deteriorated and my worries and frustrations of doing battle with as implacable a foe as cancer, mounted I could clearly see the wonderful role nursing played in delivering round the clock care to him. My admiration for the profession has since multiplied many folds and it also led me to reflect on how we need to acknowledge and appreciate the role Nursing plays in the life of a patient and indeed that of the hospital.

If a hospital is about ”care”, truly speaking it is the Nursing, which is the face of the hospital. While a patient who is admitted in the hospital sees his doctor, usually twice in the day, (when the doctor is on his rounds), he sees nurses all through the day. While, the doctors have the largest role to play in achieving a cure, it is the nurses who deliver care and comfort in a hospital. Their role gets magnified many times, when the doctors know that they do not have a cure or sometimes when hope is in short supply, it is the brisk efficiency and the caring hand of a nurse, which makes a big difference. As my father grew progressively weaker and his condition deteriorated, we became more and more dependent on the nurses. We needed them to give him medicines, control his infusions, give him feeds, rub his back, sponge him, draw samples for tests, help him turn in the bed, decipher his almost incoherent speech and comfort him. Often, they bore the brunt of his ire – many a times he was petulant like an ill-mannered child, difficult to reason and get along with, yet those nurses never flinched, they never once walked out of the room in anger or said anything, which might be hurtful.

I watched all this and more play out in front of my eyes every day for several weeks over the last few months. The more I saw, the more ashamed I felt of how senior hospital managers like me treat nurses in the hospital. The doctors usually take them for granted, order them around, some pull them up for even small infarction, hospital managers just do not have time for them, they are just there, pretty much like hospital furniture.

Is this because the nurses that we have come from a socio-economic milieu, which is very different from our own? Is it because most nurses in our hospitals can not converse in fluent English, which is the undisputed currency of social mobility in our country? Is it because many of these nurses are not as well-educated as the doctors, hospital managers and probably most patients whom they care for slick private hospitals?

Whatever, be the reason we need to introspect about the critical role of nursing in our hospitals. I would surely like to believe that a hospital can easily have a long-lasting and sustainable competitive advantage over its competitors if it gets its nursing right. A bunch of efficient, dedicated and caring nurses are a far more precious asset than fancy equipment, smart doctors and smartly turned out-patient services executives.

Come to think of it, isn’t it strange that a hospital charges a fee for the doctors, there are charges for the use of the OT, the consumables and the medicines and even the hospital bed. Yet, no hospital that I know of charges a patient for nursing care!!!

PS: My father spent his last days at the Max Hospital in Saket in New Delhi

Pic courtesy http://acceleratednursingprograms101.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Accelerated-Nursing-Programs-08.jpg

Confronting Deaths in a Hospital

I have often wondered how ill prepared Indian hospitals are, when they are confronted with dying patients. When the inevitability of death looms large over a terminally sick patient, our hospitals tend to pretend that death does not exist. Most folks assigned to take care of a patient who is in terminal decline, find it hard to communicate either with the patient or the grieving relatives. Many including the doctors do not know what to say and inanities such as ”we will keep trying right till the last breath” or a barely muttered ” I am sorry, but his chances are really slim’ escape the lips of the care-givers. For some reason everyone seems to talk in low hushed tones, when they know that death is round the corner.

Sadly many hospitals do not want the dying to pass away while admitted in the hospital. This is as shameful as it gets, but the fact is that many smaller hospitals will refer the patient to some other facility, hoping all the time that the person will not die in their hospital. You see, a visit by the angel of death is not welcome, after-all there are hospital mortality numbers to be protected. Many hospitals will discharge a terminally ill patient informing their family that it is best that the patient dies at home surrounded by her family members, rather than in the hospital under a mountain of tubes and needles. Sounds altruistic and kind but I do believe that hospitals can handle deaths a lot better.

Here are some suggestions.

It is best not to pussyfoot around the matter of death. The senior most doctor under whose care the patient is admitted in the hospital must have a candid conversation with the patient’s attendants about the possibility of death. Giving false hope when there is a very small possibility of the science of medicine pulling off an improbable outcome is best avoided. A doctor must be honest and forthright in their assessment of the situation. This does not mean they have to be cold- empathy, warmth and honesty should go hand in hand. The hospitals must have designated patient conference rooms, where such discussions can happen. Busy OPD rooms or corridors outside the ICU are hardly the place for such conversations. Delegating this task to a junior doctor on the care team is also not right. I would be very uncomfortable with a doctor who can not look me in the eye and talk honestly about death, particularly when everyone from the nurses to the ward boys are whispering about it.

Hospitals must employ some counselors who can help patient attendants cope with the bad news. They should be trained in talking with the patient’s loved ones, prepare them for the death in the family, ask them if there is something that the hospital can do to help ease the pain. I recall a grieving husband, who wanted a sikh priest to spend sometime with his young wife dying of breast cancer in one of the hospitals I worked for. Religious ministers of various denominations must be at hand and available, for patients and their attendants who may need them.

Designated rooms for patient’s attendants to mourn their loved ones will be a good idea in a hospital. I remember once when a distant relative of mine passed away in a hospital in Delhi, there was just no place for the immediate family of the deceased to sit down together and  share their grief. Eventually, they huddled together in the hospital cafeteria with curious onlookers whispering about the misfortune of the family in having lost a member. Their personal grief was there for everyone to see, which made things a lot worse.

Hospital paperwork after the death and the release of the body by the hospital should be managed with a great deal of sensitivity. While one understands that the bills need to be settled and arrangements need to be made, hospitals should have trained staff handling this part. They should know well in advance that in the eventuality of death, who is it that they should approach for the paperwork to be completed. It would also be good if the hospital could help by recommending an undertaker or a hearse service, which most people will need once the dead body is released by the hospital.

While, it may sound macabre, hospitals must have a sound system of delivering a great experience even when the matter may be as grave as a death. In fact, a death would be an occasion, when the hospital must make a big difference.

Health Insurers Vs. Hospitals-Patients Pay

So the health insurance companies have started tightening the screws on private hospitals in India.  The tussle between health care services providers and the health insurance companies have been on the cards for a while now. The sordid affair burst into the limelight last week, when India’s 4 largest general insurance companies, all owned by the government of India, refused cashless services to patients in these hospitals. The insurance companies can easily do this, by throwing out these hospitals from the network of hospitals, whose patients are entitled to this benefit. The fine print that you and I sign, while buying an insurance policy says that we are entitled to cashless services in select hospitals only and the insurance companies can change this network at their sweet will.

Well, for the uninitiated here is what the problem is. Health Insurance companies believe that hospitals overcharge patients who have an insurance cover simply because the money is to come from the insurance companies. Insurance companies for long have been asking hospitals to agree to fixed rates for some common procedures and surgeries. The hospitals have been resisting this as they believe that these rates are too low and in medicine, it is quite impossible to have fixed packages for surgical procedures etc. Large private sector hospitals, who offer high standards of medical care and pride themselves on their state of the art equipment, doctors, nurses etc. believe that at the rates offered by these PSU insurers, they will not be able to maintain their standards and lose money. Thus the impasse.

Now, here is the truth. The insurance companies by and large are right in accusing the private hospitals of overcharging patients who have an insurance cover. However, in many hospitals this is not deliberate. It is just that if a doctor is in doubt about ordering a test, he invariably would ask for the test, if the payor is not the patient but is an insurance company. This is largely because he wants to be sure of his diagnosis and reduce the risk of his clinical judgement being wrong. Now one may argue that the additional test, constitutes better healthcare and the doctor is well with in his right to ask for it and viewed from this perspective, this would hardly qualify as ‘overcharging’.

The other reason for inflated bills is that we as consumers do not feel the pinch even if the hospital bill is more than what we had thought it might be at the beginning of the hospitalisation. Since the insurance company is paying we would insist on top of the line stuff for ourselves. It hardly matters, whether we really need it or a cheaper option might have been just as effective, things that we would surely consider if we were paying out of our own pocket.  I recall when my father underwent a prostate surgery last year, we ran up a bill of close to Rs. 200000, which I thought was on the higher side. However, since we had insurance, I hardly felt the need to either question the doctor or the hospital. I believe, mostly this apathy of the hospital as well as the consumers towards insurance payouts inflates the bills.

Apart from inflated bills the insurance companies also believe that hospitals defraud them by manipulating patient histories and making claims on behalf of the patients, who would otherwise be ineligible for the claim. This mostly happens if a patient has a pre-existing condition (ordinarily not covered), which the hospital’s doctors would try to hide from the insurance companies. Well, there is a grain of truth in this as doctors occasionally do try to ‘help’ their patients. This is mostly on the request of patients, who desperately want to make a claim even when they know that they are not eligible. The doctors try to oblige their patients either because they have an existing relationship with the patient or when they fear that if they do not ‘help’ the patient he will go to another doctor, who will do the needful. Thus losing a patient for something like this makes little sense to them.

The insurance companies on the other hand are always looking at ways and means of denying hospitals claims, which are perfectly payable. They arbitrarily make deductions citing obscure and often questionable reasons. Many a times they release the hospital’s payments without even informing them that they have deducted part of the money. The payments are rarely made on time, the third-party administers (TPA’s) working for the insurance companies are given targets to reduce payouts to hospitals and the system is  hugely inefficient. Hospitals have to incur costs by hiring people, whose only job is to follow-up with the insurance companies and TPA’s about the money owed to them.

A summary cessation of cashless facilities in private sector hospitals is hardly the solution that works. The insurance companies need to work together with the hospitals to sort out their differences on a case to case basis. The hospital as well as the insurance companies must appoint reasonably experienced and mature people to manage these relationships, who should regularly meet and discuss all cases, where the insurance company feels that the hospital has overcharged. These cases should be thoroughly investigated and if a doctor is found complicit, he should be asked to explain. The insurance companies and the hospitals should organise training programs for the doctors, making them aware of how ‘helping’ patients helps no one. If the insurance company finds a hospital’s administration itself involved in shady practices than of course they must throw the hospital out of their network. On pricing, the insurance companies must accept that hospitals have a right to price their services as they deem fit. Most hospitals will price themselves according to the quality of their services, the pull of their brand and the existing market realities. The insurance companies must accept these prices and maybe they can ask for some discounts based on the volume of business they conduct with a particular hospital. Dictating prices to a hospital is bad policy as the hospital when squeezed hard will cut corners thus compromising on patient care.

Finally as consumers, it  also devolves on us to be more prudent about our healthcare spends in a hospital. We should be as careful with the insurance money as we would be with our own. If we don’t and the insurance companies keep bleeding we will either end up paying higher premiums or worse, will have no cashless services in spite of having an insurance cover.   

 

 

Why do Hospitals need to invest more in Advertising?

Hospitals in India hardly advertise. Most of them look at advertising as an unnecessary expense and keep it minimal. This really need not be so. Looked from another angle, advertising for a hospital can be a critical investment, which allows it to differentiate its services, educate customers about its core beliefs, introduce new products and services and help gain new customers. Unfortunately, in India hospitals believe that customers do not appreciate hospital advertising and may even be put off by it. Many hospitals, who are doing well do not see the need for advertising. With occupancy rates high, the hospitals feel they are wasting money by advertising. Little do they realise that advertising quite often is not only about getting more patients.

To make matters worse, whatever little advertising one sees is mostly inane and dull. The communication usually bears the imprint of too many cooks adding different flavours to the advertising, making it a weird medley of pictures, long copy and a strange layouts. The marketing teams in the hospital are forced to accommodate various view opinions (that of the hospital COO/CEO, the heads of medical departments, other leading physicians, the sales head,  and sometimes the owner of the hospital ) to arrive at a piece of communication, which is usually a disaster from a marketing communications point of view. While, this piece assuaged inflated egos, ensures gory pictures (usually reflecting some landmark surgery) in the ads, highlights achievements of some or the other doctors, it fails in its primary purpose of connecting with the end-user.

Here are a few reasons, why hospitals should look at their advertising a lot more seriously and spend money wisely in connecting with their customers.

Core Beliefs and Positioning

A hospital must advertise its core beliefs through a well thought of brand campaign. It is imperative for customers to know what their hospital stands for, what its core values are and how does it strive to stay true to those beliefs. Thus, if a hospital professes to provide ‘Total Patient Care’as a consumer I would love to know, what it means and what all can I expect from the hospital. Similarly if a hospital is positioned as a ”cutting edge technology” centre I would like to know what that means to me as a customer. A hospital must stand for something in the consumer’s mind. I am not sure, our big hospital brands Apollo, Fortis, Max and Wockhardt (now part of Fortis) have been able to establish any kind of distinct identity in the consumer’s mind.

Products and Services

A hospital offers a multitude of services. Customers need to know about them and hence advertising is a good way of keeping customers informed. New services keep getting added from time to time and the hospitals need to keep their customers updated. Recently Max Healthcare started its cancer services. All that they did was release a solitary advertisement, welcoming the new Chairman of Cancer services!!! The ad was also supposed to serve the purpose of informing the customers about the commencement of cancer care services at the hospital. Wouldn’t it make greater sense to announce the commencement of a service with a nice campaign and if needed also feature the medical leader/team in the ads?

Hospital Launch

A new hospital commencing operations needs high decibel advertising. Artemis did this well, when we launched the hospital. We had large bill boards in Gurgaon, a fairly heavy presence in the local print media and local community engagement through ‘fam visits’ to the hospital. I recall Max Healthcare during their launch also did a fairly well orchestrated multi-media campaign. However, many hospitals too try to save money by launching quietly and hoping the customers will come through the word of mouth or through doctors pulling in their existing customers. I believe, these are sub-optimal ways of launching the hospital’s services and an old-fashioned media blitzkrieg works the best.

Renewing Existing Services

Sometimes it is necessary that a hospital ‘renew’ its existing services. These days, I am seeing some bill boards near my residence advertising Apollo’s new Knee Clinic. The communication is targeted at the elderly, informs about the new Knee Clinic, which offers Knee Replacement services at the hospital. Now, Apollo hospital has been doing knees for a long time, however the communication is trying to repackage the service and relaunch it. Unfortunately, There are just two bill boards and, while the intent is laudable, the hospital is being very stingy. Similarly, while in Bangalore recently I came across a ‘Short Stay Surgery’ campaign by Wockhardt Hospitals. Again the effort seems to be to reposition their Laparoscopic Surgery services in a customer friendly matrix, but the money behind the campaign appeared too little to make any significant impact. Other hospitals too need to often ‘renew’ and repackage their services smartly.

Driving Traffic

Hospitals can drive traffic to their OPD’s through innovative offers. In fact the bulk of hospital advertising today focuses here. A free Cardiac Camp around the World Heart Day is routine. Similar camps and offers in other specialities help drive traffic to the hospital OPD’s. The problem here is that hospitals do these sporadically, without adequate planning and often as band-aid solutions to transient OPD traffic related issues. Tactical campaigns need to be more consistent and better planned to yield optimal results.

Educating Customers

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a hospital did an educational campaign about let us say heart disease or diabetes or any other lifestyle diseases. The campaign should aim to educate customers about the disease, its symptoms, treatment options, success rates, technology available and the medical expertise available to treat the disease. The objective should be to inform the customers, help them ask the right questions and thus make the right choices. Unfortunately, none of our hospitals including the big chains are willing to invest in patient education simply because the returns are relatively long-term.

Pic is indicative.