The most important part of a healthcare services brand is to build trust. And the only way you can do that is by having the right backing of the medical fraternity.
Healthcare can be broadly divided into two parts – products like medicines and medical equipment, and services. Services might include retail outlets, such as dentist or medicine outlets, or might be purely service based, such as thyrocare. This blog concentrates mainly on healthcare services marketing.
Healthcare services has a wide spectrum - at one end is highly ethical, and at the other is cosmetic or OTC (over the counter). Some services like a dentist is OTC, where you can simply walk in and avail the service. Dialysis, on the other hand, requires recommendations and prescriptions from a doctor. Such complex medical procedures fall under the first category. Both these sides have a different marketing approach.
A perfect example could be dialysis chain, Leven Healthcare, which was mainly focused on western India, Upcountry Mahrashtra beyond Mumbai.
The most important part of a healthcare services brand is to build trust. And the only way you can do that is by having the right backing of the medical fraternity, the doctors and the specialists. The brand image of the doctors backing you will create your brand image.
Secondly, though there is segmentation, price premiumisation is quite difficult. People want the best service, and working out the commercials is quite difficult. It is important to get a commercial optimisation of what is your value delivery and what is the pricing. Here, it is very difficult to do emotional pay off High pricing, which only large brands can do.
Another important thing in healthcare is what we call the ‘three A’s’ – Affordability, Access and Availability. A healthcare service has to be available everywhere and it should be accessible and affordable to everyone.
Focusing on dialysis, a few important points are, firstly, the best quality equipment must be used to provide the best service. Secondly, the best people- qualified specialists and technicians are providing the service.
Thirdly, you have to constantly train these technicians and upgrade their skills.
In the healthcare sector, pricing is the key. You cannot charge unrealistic prices, and you must be somewhere in the belly of the market. The pricing also varies depending on location, and it is different from other, normal products or services. Since, in urban areas, equipment and technicians are easily available, these services are priced lower in urban areas as compared to rural areas. This is opposite to most everyday goods like food or general items or other services, which are cheaper in rural areas. The below graph shows this trend, with a comparison of how specialised healthcare prices change depending on development as opposed to other general items.
Specialised healthcare prices are higher in rural areas, as opposed to most everyday products
In medical care, we are suffering from an extreme shortage of personnel. For example, to run a dialysis centre, you require a specialist called a nephrologist. To become a nephrologist is quite difficult and requires you to become a super- specialist. India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has only about 1500 nephrologists, most of whom are in metro cities. Surprisingly, in the United States, there are about six thousand nephrologists of Indian origin.
Healthcare brand building is difficult, and has some significant hurdles. It is not about building a national brand and advertising on television. Healthcare brands must first be built locally. Trust, quality of equipment and the right backing from the medical community is essential in this sector to build a reputed brand.
This article has been authored by Peshwa Acharya, Founder, Leven Healthcare