5 Marketing Strategies Healthcare Providers Can Learn From COVID-19
Everyone, and everywhere is affected by the global pandemic; exchange rate, money value, people’s residual income, including people’s mental health. Different companies have shut down, including some healthcare providing companies. The many that are functional, are also on the verge of closing down.
Contrary to popular opinion that hospitals are making massive profits, healthcare providers are also affected by this global pandemic.
While the government, and the regulatory body of the pandemic in Nigeria (NCDC) encourage people to visit the designated centers for the pandemic, the government has also placed a rule on private healthcare organizations to avoid admitting a suspected case or attempting to treat a positive COVID-19 patient.
This rule is a great way to contain the pandemic. A large number of hospitals in Nigeria are operating below medical standards; they lack necessary equipment, employ quacks, lack the expertise needed to tackle this pandemic.
Truly, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are authorized to work, because we need healthcare services, but in reality, there are fewer hospitals making profits at this time. Could this mean that people are not sick? Or why exactly are they been affected by the global pandemic?
The answers are not far fetched. The healthcare industry is gradually changing, and even at a time like this, healthcare providers are challenged; more nurses are encouraged to get educated, and become innovative, more healthcare companies are expected to leverage on the pandemic to make profits.
This new development appears to be positive as compared to the pre-COVID era, however, only a few healthcare providers are leveraging on the pandemic.
I once walked up to the nun governing the hospital I worked in 2019 about the importance of electronic medical records. She was glad I could discuss such with her, but she disapproved of it. She stated that the hospital was not buoyant to transit into a digital inclined phase. I visited the same hospital on the 12th of May, and there was only one inpatient, and three outdoor patients. I was surprised, I had forgotten that most people would rather nurse their sickness in their homes, than visit the hospital at a time like this.
On the other hand, the Federal Medical Center, Owo has been existing for 30years, yet they own a dysfunctional website, and lack digital appearance. Since the global pandemic began, patients have drastically reduced at the hospital.
Before the global pandemic, very few hospitals in Nigeria maximized technology, and the internet. The likes of St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos state; Lakeshore Cancer Center, Lagos state; and Meridian Hospital, Rivers States amongst the few others have over the years proved to be an authority in the healthcare industry. The good news is most of these hospitals are consistently in operation, delivering healthcare services and making profits, and perhaps implement a new scheme to gain more profits, while others will wail over their losses.
Having carefully studied the healthcare industry in Nigeria, just a few hospitals to be precise have great marketing strategies. Healthcare service is in great demand, and it is the center of attraction at the moment. However, the potential clients of the industry are terrified; there is panic and anxiety in the hearts of people, hence they resist the need to visit the hospital.
Here is a scenario:
Patient A receives a voice note on her phone, the voice note states that anyone who visits the hospital will be infected with the virus, hence everyone should stay at home, no matter how sick they are.
Patient A listens and composes a great article about the voice note and sends it to her friends, accompanied by the voice note. Patient A has five friends, the first is diabetic, the second is hypertensive, the third is asthmatic, while the last two are suffering from arthritis and rheumatism. All of these five people listen and decide not to visit the hospital no matter what.
Having read that, what should a healthcare provider do to ensure that their prospective clients remain faithful to them despite the fear, and panic?
1. Build a Great Relationship With Your Patients
This is the best time to make use of those databases, and patients records. It could be difficult to have an accurate record of patients without EMR, however, the hospital can make use of whatever is available.
• Send a text message to your patients always. Talk about the symptoms and why they should avoid panic.
• Encourage them to always call the hospital whenever they feel sick. Remember that Patient A thinks you will infect her with the virus if she visits the hospital, so you have to make your message concise and motivating enough.
2. Build a Community of Patients Who Share Similarities
"Our similarities bring us to a common ground; Our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other." ~ Tom Robbins
You must make your patient feel they are not alone. Create a community for patients suffering from the same disease condition. You could name it something positive like, “Healthy Heart Club” for patients with heart disorders, “Strong Pancreas Club” for patients with diabetes, or “Living Lungs Club” for patients with asthma, and other respiratory disorders.
Depending on the age group of your patients, a digital group may be unrealistic, hence you should make the community physical.
The benefit of a community is to share stories that connect, and make people feel more comfortable.
3. Maximize Mobile Healthcare Services
Imagine that Patient A calls you to inform you that her son is convulsing, all you need to do is get into the ambulance and drive down to her house.
With mobile healthcare service, you can meet your patients wherever they are. You can also make use of mobile healthcare services in remote areas, especially during the lockdown.
4. Maximize Social Media Platforms
In the year 2019, a popular Doctor, @aprokodoctor who doubles as a social media influencer launched a project. The idea behind that was to treat malaria for as low as #450 wherever you are in Nigeria. No disease is cheap, even malaria may cost you a fortune before you eventually get it treated.
Depending on your market size, you should leverage on websites, blogs, or social media pages. For instance, while it may be too expensive to own an application like Ada Health, you can leverage on WhatsApp. Patients who have access to the internet can easily access a doctor on WhatsApp.
However, you must take note of the possible disadvantages of clerking a patient online. To enjoy an effective result, you may need to consider the kind of patients in question, the disease conditions, patient history before successfully clerking patients.
5. Ask Your Patients For Feedback
Asking your patients for feedback is important. Ask how they felt after receiving a prescription over the phone.
Take a survey to measure the efficiency of the new development, while you improve your healthcare services to a standard.
The healthcare industry in Nigeria can be better; you do not necessarily have to spend a fortune to move into the digital world, with just a regular text message in your patient’s local dialect, a mobile tricycle-ambulance, and a standby phone that receives all of your patient’s complaints, you can improve your market size, and make a great profit.