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Hospital brands: Reputation, convenience matter 

Business Standard , Oct 03, 2017

The Indian health consumer has evolved over time and this has resulted in the health care industry shifting its focus to corporate branding, marketing campaigns and investing heavily in brand building to draw more patients. Though treatment remains the most crucial element in providing health care services, the increased number of choices for the consumer has made it mandatory for the health care providers to change their approach and focus on not only providing better treatment but also on pricing, trust, transparency, cleanliness and other factors which enhance their brand.

A survey by FICCI and Kantar IMRB highlights the course correction by health care providers and what needs to be done to give consumers a seamless experience. Praveen Nijhara, senior executive director, Kantar IMRB and head, Stakeholder Management Division said, “Today, the hospitals, especially the large ones are investing both time and money in aspects like infrastructure, corporate branding, marketing campaigns, free clinics etc. In an increasingly corporatised culture, one needs to ensure that there is adequate focus on strengthening core values of trust, empathy and engagement in health care organisations as well to improve patient experience, since the patient is a vulnerable consumer, Nijhara added.

The survey indicates that hospitals may soon need to understand that the health care customer is not homogenous; despite similar ailments, expectations vary between age groups and even within similar urban pockets. The young, for instance, want convenience and expect little waiting time whether it is to meet the doctor or complete the discharge process.

Expectedly, in terms of experience, private hospitals outperform their government counterparts. But the gap is narrowed down between the two competing factions when treatment, competence, knowledge and skills of doctors are concerned. Government hospitals lag behind in infrastructural advances such as quality of diagnostics facilities, parking, cafeteria, drinking water, toilets and even cleanliness.

Nijhara said, it is imperative for health care businesses to understand that the customers’ expectations is being shaped not only by their own past experiences but also by technology influenced categories like e-commerce as well as hospitality, retail etc. Hence, hospitals today need to look at and learn from hospitality, retail (brick-mortar), where the quantum of human interaction is higher and perhaps more involved.