The PR Story

newspaper-storiesAs I wearily settled into the cramped seat of a Spicejet flight to Mumbai this morning, I pulled out the Metro Nation a tabloid format newspaper and started flipping through the pages. Suddenly an image of my former colleague Dr. Deep Goel, the head of Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgery at Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon caught my attention. Dr. Goel was featured in the story along with a 200 kg Canadian patient, whom he had successfully operated upon (performing sleeve gastrectomy) and discharged from the hospital with in 24 hours. The story albeit poorly written (the journalist appears to be totally ignorant about medicine, medical procedures, surgeries et al), did manage to inform the readers about Dr. Goel’s superlative skills and about the Bariatric Surgery at Artemis.

Last week I had come across the story of a successful heart transplant in Chennai, when the donor was in Bangalore a team of surgeons from Chennai successfully harvested a heart in Bangaloreand transplanted it in a policeman in Chennai. Stories about Pakistani children being successfully treated for congenital heart diseases at Narayan Hridyalaya in Bangalore and undergoing liver transplants at Apollo Hospital in Delhi have routinely appeared in national media. Celebrities being treated at Leelawati and Breach Candy hospitals in Mumbai are also commonplace.   Continue reading

When Things Go Wrong in a Hospital

Sudhir Sharma, 58  was wheeled into the operating room early in the morning for what looked like a routine bypass surgery. The surgeon Dr. Roop Singh met his worrying friends and relatives, reassured them that he does not anticipate any complications and hopefully he will be done in 4 hours. The doctor seemed to be in good spirits and quite confident of the outcome.  

The relatives and friends of Mr. Sharma repaired to the Subway joint in the hospital for a quick breakfast and the morning coffee. The mood was hopeful and upbeat.

Not known to them things in the OR had gone horribly wrong. As Mr. Sharma was being put on a heart lung machine, disaster struck. A terrible mistake was made. Mr. Sharma’s aorta was connected with the line supplying oxygen from the machine. The mistake was discovered immediately and the team tried to revive Mr. Sharma,  but by then it was too late. Everyone in the team was shattered and were in a state of shock. One small terrible mistake had cost Mr. Sharma his life.   Continue reading

Should Doctors Advertise?

Advertising has traditionally been a strict no no amongst the medical fraternity. It has always been considered infra-dig. A doctor’s face peering down from a bill board or staring you in the face from the pages of your favourite magazine does make one feel a little uncomfortable. We have all been brought up to look on the medical profession as something noble and with a strong orientation towards service to humanity.

However in today’s times I am not sure this argument really holds. If a doctor chooses to advertise his skills and does it honestly without taking recourse to exaggeration and hyperbole, is there anything really wrong with it? If a doctor has unique skills and training, which helps him get better results, than isn’t advertising these, allow consumers of healthcare make better informed choices? Why do we have to look upon this particular doctor as ‘too commercial’?   Continue reading

Hospital Advertising that Works

It is a myth to believe that hospitals do not need advertising.

Many a times I have come across the argument about hospitals wasting money on expensive advertising, which seldom works and puts off customers. In my earlier avtars as the Head of Marketing Communications in large hospitals I have been at loggerheads with my other colleagues, who have often voted against my advertising proposals. Here is why I believe they are wrong and advertising works in healthcare just as much as it does in any other service.

The caveat of course is that the hospital’s communication must be subtle, the message must be designed to ring a bell and should be done in a manner, which is consistent with the customer’s sensitivities. An over the top message, which is loud and persistant and tries to do too many things will certainly put off customers.

Advertising at the end of the day is a promise of service to a customer. This is true of all advertising and is just as much true for healthcare services advertising. There is no reason to believe that as a consumer of healthcare services I wouldn’t want to know what the hospital next door really stands for?    Continue reading