Saturday, September 19, 2015

Is it ethical to market Healthcare?

The debate about whether it is ethical to market healthcare or not has been on like forever. Traditionally, healthcare marketing was limited to only “word of mouth” and now it has reached a point where it includes everything and anything ranging from customized food to the patient’s travel package in the most exotic locations as an adjunct to his healthcare.

Can we actually compare two extravagantly expensive and lavish corporate hospitals with each other and say one is less than the other. Is it morally correct to say that one hospital is doing better than its competitors or their doctors are more qualified than the ones working with others? Maybe not, maybe there is hardly any difference in the scope of services these two are providing and the efforts and budget they are sparing for attaining the wow levels of satisfaction amongst their savvy customers (read patients). How many of these are real differences and how many are just perceived differences?

What has led to this trend?

So, what has led to this “Star Wars” in a profession as noble as healthcare? It’s the sudden growth of the corporate hospitals, globalization of healthcare trends, medical tourism, increasing customer centric approach and increased number of private players in the industry which has contributed to this hoard of new-fangled selling strategies. Along with this come the unethical practices, false promises, gimmick marketing and fraud claims. So how does a patient differentiate between a genuine customer communication made to introduce a new innovative technology and a claimant indulging in act of puffery?

The Solution

I think, all we need to focus here is on drawing the line. Healthcare Marketing shouldn’t be focusing on portraying yourself as superior than the other where in reality you are not. Healthcare Marketing should rather be concentrating on highlighting your efforts towards building your brand values and working towards the ultimate focus of patient centric approach.

If done appropriately, ethical healthcare marketing can get you more profits, patients and cases you want and build your brand image as you have missioned.

So, I think, in the end, it is all about doing it with the right attention and hopefully the healthcare representatives will soon choose to follow this path rather than going for over-the-top marketing tactics.

-Ms. Ginny Kaushal
 Faculty, INLEAD 

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