I would like to start this post with a sentence from an enlightened spiritual maestro:
“This world was not built with random bricks of chance
A blind god is not destiny's architect;
A conscious power has drawn the plan of life,
There is a meaning in each curve and line”.
Success in establishing any business including Medical Practice/Clinic is not a random brick of chance, a conscious process and planning is required to achieve what we call a business success story.
Marketing Plan is an essential element of any business including Medical Practices (or) Multi-Specialty Clinics (or) Out-patient Diagnostic and Surgery Centers.
4 P’s of marketing plan comprises of PRODUCT, PRICE, PLACE and PROMOTION
Let’s see how to approach each of the four classic Marketing Fundamentals.
Healthcare is a services industry. In a services industry, the production and consumption of the product are simultaneous and the product is intangible, diverse and perishable. The nature of this ‘product’ allows for on the spot customization. This also means that the point at which this activity is occurring becomes very important. Ideally, to ensure repeat experiences of similar quality and a consistently good user experience, most service providers aim to give some customization within an overall standardized mode of delivery.
In a nutshell ‘product’ in healthcare is an assurance of good care (or) clinical decision making that patients’ get from providers towards their health issues. Providers’ ultimate goal is to reduce or eliminate health concerns from patients.
It is essential that Providers’ maintain their experiential and evidence based knowledge base to an extent that they can customize and deliver this product (clinical decision making) with required expectations from customers (patients).
The amount paid in exchange for the product (or) value received. Price is one of the Marketing Elements that is less leveraged in a Medical Practice. Invariably payment towards healthcare services rendered is controlled by Insurance Companies’ through a terminology called “Approved Amount” or “Contracted Amount”. This applies to most Medical Practices that are participating with various Health Insurance Plans.
A practice may participate in various incentive programs from insurance companies or quality initiatives to curtail overall cost of care for patients. This may lead towards an additional financial reward from various Insurance Companies’.
A practice has a choice to stay out-of-network with Insurance Companies’ and define their own price based on “Quality of Care”, “Experience”, “Ambience” and “Overhead”. This may require an excessive scrutiny of patients’ benefits with their Health Insurance. It is essential that Health Insurance covers care provided by out-of-network providers. Patient may have to contribute a portion of this cost towards co-insurance or deductible.
In a nutshell, the price is not a competitive advantage in a Medical Practice Marketing Mix.
Place (Product Distribution) is the process of making a product or service available for use or consumption by a consumer or business user, using direct means, or using indirect means with intermediaries.
The healthcare service is produced and consumed in the same place. It cannot be owned and taken away from the location. This is why the place at which this transaction occurs is of vital importance. The location of the service provision is carefully analyzed to allow ease of access and the desire to make the effort to reach it.
It is essential that Providers’ from Medical Practices are providing services to their patients in an entire spectrum of care. This includes office, skilled nursing homes, hospitals, daycare centers (or) adult homes.
Providers’ can do quarterly analysis of services rendered by location and decide to consolidate their service locations based on patient volume and time spent in providing services. A conscious planning of ‘Place’ or ‘Servicing Locations’ can result into spending time where it’s most needed.
For start-up Medical Practices, it may be worth to look at ratio of demographics and population versus provider availability. This would help the practice in determining proper geographic location for services rendered.
Promotion fulfills the same role as it does in any other marketing context.
A healthcare service may not be more easily replicated than a physical product. There are various parameters beyond the scope of service provider that control delivery of a good healthcare service or clinical decision making for patients.
The promotion is a process of establishing communication with patients and outside world to show that the ‘Practice’ delivers an accessible and accountable care. Practice provides an assurance of quality towards the clinical decision making provided by caregivers.
To prevent a service becoming interchangeable with its competitors, it becomes vital to create a desirable brand image and name in the market. Differentiation becomes a key goal in order to attract both new and repeat patients.
In order to highlight practice’s Accessibility, Accountability and Assurance part for patient care, it may be essential to highlight some of the testimonials from patients. Practice may explore an option of consistent brand building through a website, Smartphone application or social media. All of these efforts should lead to an increased accessibility for patient care and concerns.
All of the above 4 elements of Marketing Mix are extremely important in deriving an effective Marketing Plan for Medical Practice that results into Horizontal and Vertical Growth for the practice.
In the next post we will explore additional 3 P’s of marketing that includes ‘PEOPLE’, ‘PROCESS’ and ‘PHYSICAL EVIDENCE’.