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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marketing your medical centre for free & get 20% more patients

Dear Readers,

Wishing you and your family a great 2012.

Well the above mention was nothing but a small gesture of welcoming you to my world of blogs. 

Well similarly, the same is expected of a medical centre. Just putting a smile, doing a namaste and welcoming a patient into your premises is the least bit any medical centre can do. This elicits a response - positive mind frame, and let's the patient open up to you in a more receptive way.

Background: I was invited as a panelist at a conference on ways to improve patient productivity (turnaround) in Nagpur recently.

It was pleasure to share the dais with luminaries of the industry like Mr VP Kamath COO of Wockhardt hospitals, Dr Vedprakash Mishra - Pro chancellor of Datta Meghe Institute of Medical sciences, Dr Mr & Mrs Gode, Dr V Ranjan- Director at HMI KEM hospital Pune, and of course, interact with bright energetic hospital management students -  the leaders of tomorrow.

So, taking the insights forward, this blog post shall highlight some key ingredients to increase productivity in a medical centre - be it a hospital, nursing home, day centre or even a diagnostic centre. And the best part is - one can improve productivity by almost 20% and more by just doing the things below which does not cost anything. No advertisements required, no publicity, no unethical cut practice. Just sheer WILL and PATIENCE.

1. Greet all customers: But the catch is - the greeting should be felt from within and should show on face. There is no language barrier to greet. A simple namaste does the trick. In all areas this gesture should be followed. Be it a nurse caring for patient, or doctor examining, housekeeping cleaning the room or security frisking you. This however needs to match your action. Just plain greeting is not enough. Your gesture to welcome indicates that patient is a guest and you will take good care. So if there is a problem then it should be immediately 'looked into' without being defensive. (Discussed later in blog)
The best way to inculcate this habit is the initiative starting from ceo/trustees directly. They should start greeting even the housekeeping boys, doctors, nurses etc themselves. This shock of a gesture will embarrass all into following the same habit.

 2.  Take complains very seriously: To begin with you should have a strict command chain which makes it mandatory to collect feedback from 'all' patients. Though difficult, but needs to be done. An internal objective number of feedback's collected can increase month on month and can be linked to performance appraisals. Start off with a small sample size. All feedback forms should reach CEO 'after' root cause analysis and action taken. This process though has to be very prompt. CEO should create a environment among his employee to do this. The pretext of all complains should be handled with philosophy that ' All customers are right. And if customer is wrong, you led him to be that'

3. Display internally created publications: Well always remember one thing. Patient does not want to come to a hospital. Its a unavoidable need. So patient is not looking to be entertained there. He just wants to be treated, and well. So avoid keep entertainment magazines in your premises. On the contrary the only publication which should be there for people to read is your own. Why should you promote anyone else other than your organization and people in your own premises without getting paid

Create a monthly news letter or magazine which has poetry's written by your own staff(including housekeeping), disease articles by your doctors (one which you can handle and not some procedure which only your competitor can do), patient management processes and stories by your nurses, administrative hassles (ways you are overcoming wait times etc) by your admin staff, billing trends by your front office, lab/imaging trends/info etc. All should of your own hospital. Promote all department's salient offerings, explain in detail what you can do. Highlight one department of the month and introduce all staff members with group photo etc. Include their travel woes and their dedication to work. Best employees, awards etc, NEWS article copies of your hospital's mention. Write about the experience and back ground of your doctors, nurses, admin staff etc over a period of time in various issues.

This will not only motivate the staff, reduce attrition, but entice patient's confidence and bring them closer to your staff. Increase the confidence further by highlighting you clinical and administrative indicator statistics with benchmarks like infection rates, UTI rates, ALOS, YOY productivity in various departments, etc). 

And always print testimonials and positive patient remarks from feedback, etc(with patients permission, of course)

4. Publish or perish: Well a saying which is centuries old has still got relevance. Our Indian doctors are the busiest in the world. The kind of patients and experience we gain cannot be compared by anyone in this world. We all know that at times we see about 200 to 300 patients a day, each. In government setups this number is per hour.
Only problem - the treasure of experience gained, the unique cases seen, the amazing outcomes achieved are rarely shared with the world by my Indian colleagues. The Indian doctors kill an opportunity everyday to become famous and share the global dais among their western counterparts. 

'Their' OPDs are 'full when they see about 30 patients a day. Their single patient research gets accolades world wide and then patients from across the globe hoard to see them. Then why not us? I have though argued the other side of the story too (defending the non publishing friends of mine) that India is a developing country and we all are eager to create a financial security first than fame. That's ingrained into our mindsets. Western worlds have social security, population is less - so internal competition for work is less, so it leaves them time to publish what ever they see. But I guess its time to think again, as competition is increasing, patients are becoming more learned, word of mouth is the best source of reference and Internet is the best source to search for talent.

So if your article and paper is not there for world to see, and is not there in an indexed journal (at-least begin with a simple article every month online on free sites like slide share or Facebook or blogs) work done by you will not be noticed and you will not be able create a word of mouth among your referring fraternity and net savvy patients.

5. Internally cross promote your departments: Well as I said earlier, a patient never wants to come to a hospital. So the chances are that he will rush to your specific department, get treated and rush back. He would not know about some other great things you offer in your hospital. 

Though waiting time is a bane, you can convert that into boon by highlighting services offered in other departments. 

For example, if your patient is in imaging centre you should definitely highlight what services you offer in imaging. He may have only come (maybe through reference) for USG, but now you should ensure he also knows that you carry out dental OPG, CT etc. You just marketed your services to this patient which may go out as a word of mouth to other friends of his who may need that service apart from him. That recall will be there. This should be further extended by highlighting salient services of other departments (in this example - non imaging like dental, physic therapy, cardiac unit etc) and create foot falls for those departments too and vice a versa in all departments.

You will be surprised to know that many times even the local patients are surprised to know of a service which may have existed for months in your centre. 

You may offer some promotional attractions to visit the new department (eg. Free consultation - show your bill from previous visit in another department)

6. Track all patients/Capture all registration data: The patients who have visited you are a rich treasure of opportunity for repeated acquisition to sustain your business. A healthy hospital is the one which has about 70 % existing patients who come again and again, and 30% new patients. Have you calculated this figure? Please do that today itself. A large number of new patients means that you are depending too much of referred patients and is a danger to business sustenance (the case may be a little different for centers of excellence like dancer institutes etc where patient come from all over the country). The data of phone number, email etc which you capture can be a channel for you to keep on communicating with your patients to offer discounts, disease awareness, promoting new department, wishing them on their birthdays (but with with caution) etc. This will help you get the same patients again and again and improve your revenue.

7. Last but not the least - signages: Have good signboards and signages. They should not be dirty, should be in language which is understood by majority of your visitors, and should easily direct the patients to the relevant location within the centre. Its a great turnoff for a patient to keep on asking for directions. The worst is when your staff is not trained well to guide further. Imagine your security saying 'nahi maloom'. Signages are the first reflection of the 'brand' and are the first aspect in marketing oneself. If one can invest (and therefore my last mention in this post), one should have good signages both internally and externally. If you are at a location which can provide opportunity for a large floating population in the vicinity to see that big signboard, one should invest in a large distantly visible signage(neon etc). This will give you free publicity and recall. Your external signage itself can become a landmark for many addresses.

And for the internal signages, you can begin with nice economical printouts from your computer printer, and use a economical acrylic standees which will be cheap to acquire and install.
Please ensure there is no grammar or spelling mistakes. PLEASE DON'T USE MEDICAL TAPES OR CELLOPHANE TAPES. ITS A BIG TURN OFF. AND DO NOT JOT ANY PHONE NUMBERS ON THOSE SIGNAGES. Do invest in professionally made internal sign ages also over a period of time.


So get going and make patients happy, and profit from it.

Warm Regards,
Dr Akash S Rajpal
Founder, MD & CEO of Ekohealth.

Looking forward for any particular topics that I should write on? Do write in. Reply on my blogs or leave a comment.

Press, media, management schools and others can use my articles and blogs without permission. Kindly just give due credit and inform me of the inclusion. 
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About Ekohealth:
(Watch the CNBC feature on Ekohealth at http://youtu.be/Nh5vpH_SErE)

Ekohealth facilitates discounts for the medically uninsured.
There are many patients in this country who do not get medical
insurance even if they wanted to. Health Insurance does not cover
senior citizens, and those with pre existing diseases like Diabetes,
cancer, etc, and such patients end up with huge medical bills. These
patients are the ones who have to get blood tests done more
frequently, visit doctors more often, and get admitted more
frequently.

Ekohealth strives to help such patients numbering between 100 and 200
million in this country.

Ekohealth has tied up with various hospitals, clinics, diagnostic
centres, chemist shops, dental clinics, cosmetic centres and ambulance
services. Ekohealth members can avail from 5 to 50 % of discounts on
various services at these centers. Ekohealth has tied up with Bombay Hospital, Saifee Hospital, Yash Birla group of medical centers, Nova Day care, Life care, 1298 ambulance, Nirmaya, Rajpal geriatric nursing care, and many more.

There is no age limit to become a member and any person with any
disease or otherwise can join ekohealth. There is no limit on using
the membership card and can be used any number of times.

Youngsters who are insured can also benefit with ekohealth membership
as they can now avail services in OPD like dental care, maternity care
etc at discounted rates. Insurance does not cover OPD expenses like
executive health checks, Maternity child birth etc.

Corporates can buy ekohealth memberships for their employees to extend
an existing insurance scope and reduce expenses on medical
reimbursements. They can also extend this facility to the parents of
the employees who are normally not covered any corporate insurance.

Ekohealth becomes a single corporate like setup for individual
patients who can collectively bargain for better rates for common
ailments.

Insurance will be the biggest beneficiary as they will not have to run
around to get hospitals to offer discounts and their reimbursements
will be lesser saving them millions in cash payouts to patients.

To know more about Ekohealth write to me, call our toll free number
1800 2094 356 or email at benefit@ekohealth.in


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