Tips for Marketing Hospitals in Rural India

INTRODUCTION

Marketing is essential for both rural and mission hospitals in order to enable the optimum use of the hospital services. Here are some of the innovative ways that worked in mission hospitals (1).

THE GROUNDWORK

The groundwork and preparations are very important. Gathering and analyzing hospital data will help in planning the marketing strategy. Methods that can be used to do this include:

  1. Staff meetings
  2. Focus group discussions
  3. Surveys in the villages and exit surveys at the hospital
  4. Patient satisfaction surveys
  5. Having a PR person for the hospital

meeting group

Important marketing strategies: Using satisfied patients, using existing marketing systems and directly reaching target population

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PATIENT SATISFACTION

Satisfied patients are the most important ambassadors for marketing. Exit surveys help in assessing satisfaction levels. Some of our findings include:

  1. Irrespective of the background, patients are not happy, and the satisfaction levels are low just after they pay the bills. Even a small amount returned to them makes them very happy.
  2. Even if they are illiterate, patients and relatives love receiving explanations about their disease or condition and the necessary procedures.
  3. Of all the groups who influence the satisfaction levels of patients, the nurses have the most influence. In other words, the nurses can easily undo the good work others have done and vice versa.
  4. In the mission hospital, a print station counter where senior nurses are available to provide explanations for patients and allocate juniors to accompany them to various destinations tremendously improves the satisfaction levels.
  5. Rounds by administrative staff boost the satisfaction levels of patients.
  6. Pulse rate of patients is a simple indicator of satisfaction levels (2).

USE OF AVAILABLE CHANNELS FOR MARKETING

In rural areas, the local medical practitioners are the first ones to treat the patients, even if they are not allopathic doctors. They are happy to refer surgical patients if their work is not affected. Training them to diagnose and refer conditions requiring surgery and treat the medical conditions better is a great way of marketing the rural hospital. Referring patients for follow-up makes them happier.

Medical representatives visit all of the local doctors and are happy to help with promoting the rural hospitals, especially if they are allowed to enroll patients for insurance programs, etc.

The local Churches and social service organizations willingly help arrange diagnostic camps and get involved in the treatment of patients. We were surprised to find, even in rural areas, that we can use the local shops and internet cafes to enroll patients for health care plans.

USE OF DIRECT OUTREACH PROGRAMS

The diagnostic camp model (3, 4) is an excellent way of getting surgical patients referred to the rural hospitals. Many rural patients do not have the opportunity for diagnostic procedures like ultrasound examination and scopies. If these procedures are made available at the doorsteps, they help in diagnosis and referral of patients (see figure 1). We found that almost three fourths of the surgical patients referred to the hospital were diagnosed for the first time with these procedures, in the remote villages.

people outside of their house

Gathering data from the doorsteps using focus group discussion

Health education that we provided to the relatives of the patient through computer disks, calendars, health education materials and live relays of surgeries also helped our hospital to get more surgical patients. Writing health education articles in the local newspapers and magazines contributed to more awareness and referrals for surgery, as well.
watching tv

Live relay of surgeries reaches the population directly

SOME OBSERVATIONS

  1. Offering services that are not available elsewhere attracts many patients. The mission hospital in a small village called Alipur, near Silchar, was the first to offer laparoscopic surgeries, vaporization surgeries, etc. in Northeast India in the late nineties and early millennium. There, the number of surgical procedures carried out every year has increased from less than 100 to over 5,000 a year.
  2. According to the analysis of the exit interviews, every satisfied patient sent a minimum of one new patient to the hospital within three years.
  3. The main concern of the poor patients is cost, and people will flock to the places offering high-quality care at an affordable cost.
Gnanaraj-64 Dr. J. Gnanaraj MS, MCh [Urology], FICS, FARSI, FIAGES is a urologist and laparoscopic surgeon trained at CMC Vellore. He has been appointed as a Professor in the Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering Department of Karunya University and is the Director of Medical Services of the charitable organization SEESHA. He has a special interest in rural surgery and has trained many surgeons in remote rural areas while working in the mission hospitals in rural India. He has helped 21 rural hospitals start minimally invasive surgeries. He has more than 150 publications in national and international journals, most of which are related to modifications necessary for rural surgical practice. He received the Barker Memorial award from the Tropical Doctor for the work regarding surgical camps in rural areas. He is also the recipient of the Innovations award of Emmanuel Hospital Association for health insurance programs in remote areas and the Antia Finseth innovation award for Single incision Gas less laparoscopic surgeries. During the past year, he has been training surgeons in innovative gas less single incision laparoscopic surgeries.

References (click to show/hide)

  1. Dr. J. Gnanaraj.“Marketing rural hospitals. CHRISMED Journal of Health and Research 2014: 1 p123-7
  2. Gnanaraj J, Raja P, Balaji Prasad, Muthulakshmi. Patients pulse rate: Indicator for patient satisfaction assessment. Rural Surgery, Vol. 5, No. 4, October 2009 p 8 -10
  3. Gnanaraj J, Lau Xe Xiang Jason, Hanah Khiangte. High quality surgical care at low cost: The Diagnostic camp model of Burrows Memorial Christian Hospital. Indian Journal of Surgery Vol. 69, No.6, December 2007 p 243-247
  4. Gnanaraj J. Diagnostic and surgical camps: Cost effective way to address surgical needs of the poor and the marginalized. MD Current India January 2014


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2 Comments

  1. Girijadutt Sharma
    Posted Sep 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Good ideas, waiting for u r more vedios on lap lift

    • Dr. J. Gnanaraj
      Posted Sep 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      We are using LapGuru to broadcast Lift Laparoscopic surgeries. There is one this evening

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