to Fred Joyal, who is one of the world’s leading experts on dental
marketing and author of “Everything Is Marketing,” 81% of patients come
to you by word-of-mouth referral. On the downside, 85% of your
patients will leave you for what they
perceive is a bad experience. And whilst
this study was conducted in America, our
own qualitative research for clients in the UAE has a similar conclusion; that a recommendation
from friends and family is the
biggest driver for new patients.
This might not be so surprising, and its
why 3rd party endorsement is the holy grail
for modern marketers. Yet in many hospitals,
clinics and practices a positive patient
experience, which is the catalyst for a
recommendation, is the responsibility of the
operations department who have KPIs that
centre on efficiency – such as reducing
waiting times. But healthcare now exists in
a ‘buyers market’ and if healthcare institutions,
whether they be major hospitals or specialised clinics, want to compete
amongst increased competition (especially
privatised competition) the patient experience
needs to be considered beyond the
bricks and mortar of the respective clinic.
To understand why everything about
healthcare is marketing, as Joyal suggests, you
need a new definition for marketing. In reality,
“marketing” is anything and everything you
do to attract, engage, retain or motivate
patients and it encompasses everything that in
any way impacts the patient experience, at
any touch point, for better or for worse. And
therefore, everyone within your healthcare
organisation is ‘in’ marketing. This includes
doctors through to cleaners.
Let’s consider patients as customers and
start thinking about hospitals and clinics as
brands, then we can start to think differently
about what constitutes a ‘customer experience’
and offer relevant services that introduce
a more unique and holistic experience,
fostering a longer term relationship and
enhancing overall brand value.
An appropriate place to start is with first
impressions. Besides treating pathologies, it
is of the highest importance to provide
patients with comfort and reassurance as
well as clean, hygienic surroundings where
the risk of hospital acquired infections is
minimized. At the same time visitors and
accompanying family members are often
more stressed or anxious than the patient.
So likewise, they have to be treated with
care and educated to ensure awareness upon
entering and leaving the premises.
You may think that this is well beyond the remit of marketing but consider for a
moment, if you will, that a patient spends
only 25% of their time undergoing medical
treatment, so the remaining 75% of their inhouse
experience consists of non-core activities
that fall directly or indirectly under the
responsibility of a facilities management
team. It is thus very important that nonclinical
workforce is motivated, efficient and
effective because their productivity is a key
driver of patient satisfaction. This is why the
future of non-core services goes beyond the
operational department and the importance
of employee engagement will ensure they
create a warm, caring and hygienic environment
that contributes to a better hospital
performance and patient experience.
To do so, the facilities manager’s role is to
understand and share the challenges faced
by the healthcare establishment and to
understand the brand reputation it has, as
indicated by marketing. The establishment
is then able to meet and operate above a
certain level of expectation, staff will understand
how to communicate with customers
and understand what affects their opinions.
Likewise, doctors need to operate under
similar parameters and just as a car is the
product in a showroom, doctors are the
product in a hospital. So in the same way,
doctors need to be part of the marketing
strategy and create a more public profile that
communicates experience, knowledge and
trust on behalf of the hospital. Essentially,
creating enough visibility to become
someone recognised for a specific skill-set.
In this regard, social media is the perfect
platform and today it should feature in any
marketing strategy thanks to its ability to create 3rd party endorsement and
without showing any pretence or ulterior motive.
Through social media, doctors can become the brand ambassadors
and face for the bricks and mortar of the healthcare establishment –
connecting on a more personal and emotive level with customers or
Social media also has many other advantages – firstly it can engage a
whole community under the umbrella of a common cause, especially
when a healthcare provider is rolling out a Corporate Social
Responsibility-based campaign, which they frequently do. Furthermore,
customers are frequently turning to social media for advice, rather than
Google. For example, a facebook group for new mothers in Dubai is
consistently sharing health-based advice for babies and any questions
are answered somewhere by someone immediately. ‘TriDubai’ has an
equally active page and athletes use it to source the best treatment and
clinics for specific injuries. So it is forums and groups like these where
doctors need to be present, personal and offer impartial advice to build
up a level of trust amongst the community.
Likewise, new-media, especially in the case of mobile marketing,
allows doctors and their healthcare practices to provide an added-value
service such as appointment time reminders, prescription updates and
even minutes of the original appointment and suggestions of next steps.
In this way, healthcare is not too different from any other
industry. Patients, just as customers, have a certain path to
purchase and will be influenced by specific touch points and
attracted by unique services that differentiate a hospital or clinic
from its competition. This means hospitals need to engage with
potential patients before they have considered or even need treatment.
In turn a healthcare practice must have a brand essence and
patient experience for which it becomes externally known.
Hence, every experience inside or outside a hospital affects opinion
and it’s the public opinion that is controlled by marketing, not the operations
department, which they should surely welcome if it means delegating
the role of reducing waiting times!
Penny Couchman is the Group Director for da Vinci marketing.
of upload: 22nd Jan 2013