Marketing in healthcare is unique: Dr Alex Hakuzimana - Partner, BlueCloud Healthcare

Marketing in health care is unique
There are a number of ways marketing in health care industry is unique.

First, it relates to all functions of modern marketing themselves. These functions constitute challenges because operations and processes in health care systems are a combination of a myriad of specialties executed by many people. This makes the task not easy for the marketing managers to explain their business to outsiders.

Second, it is associated to the consumers’ needs. In businesses other than health, consumers’ wants and needs are things with specific attributes and traits and the role of the companies is to provide such services or products to consumers according to their preferences and expectations. In health care, consumers’ needs correspond to their health requirements to which health providers have to respond.

Third, customers do not understand health care services well. Services provided by health facilities include specialized examinations and tests undertaken by medical personnel with skills and competencies, advanced technology capabilities, drugs and surgical operations. These services are not understood by the consumers. They are expressed in different forms such as courteous and polite greeting, effective communication, clear information, assistance, confidentiality, privacy, compassion, satisfaction, waiting time, affordability of services, disease prognosis, adherence to treatment, respect of medical check-up and follow up plan.

Fourth, is the time to seek services. Some authors make an analogy between hospital marketing and marketing for a funeral home. People do not know when they will die so they can plan accordingly. Likewise, health providers in hospital must be always available and ready for care and management of an elderly who abruptly comes for heart attack or a pregnant woman referred for foetal distress hence needing emergent caesarean section.

Fifth, pricing of services is unique. Contrary to other industries, where a consumer can make a comparison of prices before purchasing a service or a product, it is very hard for a health care consumer to do such a comparison. In fact, health care customers do not care about costs of services for mainly two reasons: health insurance companies usually do not disclose the exact costs of services covered and health care customers use health care infrequently.

Sixth, customer needs and wants are extremely varied due to their diversity. In practice, a health care service provider appeals to a variety of consumers, with different needs. In general, there are five types of consumers in hospital setting according to their wants and needs. First is the medical staff. This type of in-hospital customers seek to acquire information about admitted patients and hospital services. Their daily activities are to document medical records and keep abreast about new technologies through continuing professional training. Second are the referral physicians. These need to follow up the health outcomes of their patients and sometimes can collaborate with their peers as a follow up tool. The third type of hospital-based customers regards consumers of health care services. Their needs are related to information about accessibility and availability of services in order to make informed decisions. Patients are very often confounded with sole customers of hospitals and constitute the fourth category of hospital-based customers. They want their health and welfare to return to normal. Care, support, friendly communication, and convenience of diagnostic treatment from providers and family support are their basic needs. The last type of the customers in hospital setting is managed care. This special category focuses on quality assurance of services provided.

This article was first published on LinkedIn by Dr Alex Hakuzimana, MD MPH MBA – consulting partner, BlueCloud Healthcare