‘Trust & transparency form the core of successful health communication’
The 1st edition of e4m Health Communication Conference saw a panel discussion chaired by Dr Sanjay Arora of Suburban Diagnostics
Trust and health have often ended up sounding like an oxymoron in today’s times. But are doctors losing patients due to the lack in transparency and trust in healthcare today?
During a panel discussion at the 1st edition of e4m Health Communication Conference in Mumbai on Thursday, experts said healthcare communication has been redefined by the healthcare industry and its patients.
Joining Dr Sanjay Arora, Managing Director, Suburban Diagnostics, who was the panel Chair were other experts — Rajiv Himmat, Head Marketing, PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre; Dr Saurabh Joshi, Founder and Principal Consultant, The Vein Center; Aleem Merchant, Director, Synapse Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd., and Kartik Johari, Vice President, Nobel Hygiene.
Dr Arora threw open the session by asking why healthcare in the recent times was being perceived as extremely transactional.
There has been brand deterioration in healthcare, Himmat said, adding that this been driven by a couple of factors like change in patient profile.
“Patients are becoming customers. First there was the ignorant patient who would ask the doctor to do whatever they want to, then came the informed ones who’d ask the doctor to do what they want to but inform them about it too, and then came the empowered who wanted to be a part of the decision-making process. Too much of googling has become a problem from the patients’ side. On part of the healthcare provider, it’s not just the doctor but also others like the billing desk staffers who do not explain the patients’ procedures and costs properly. Thus lack of proper communication has become a huge hurdle,” he said.
Corporatization is another problem in the industry of healthcare, Himmat said. “Corporates own healthcare providing units where profit is the motive and there is often a conflict between shareholder value and patient satisfaction,” he added.
He also said that increased advancement in medical science has cured the toughest disease, no doubt, but at the same time it has increased risks and costs several fold.
Dr Joshi thinks the magic word here is empathy. “We need to have empathy for the patients. At the Vein Centre we follow an empathy-based practice. Empathy is the core value at Vein. Empathy helps informalise the relationship with patients. We believe in giving more time in talking to patients and not lecturing them. We want to listen to our patients. This practice can actually increase patient conversion rate and revenue. It just doesn’t cost you to be empathetic. It makes it fluffing for the doctor and gives him a satisfied patient,” he said.
Johari, on the other hand, said, “The communication that you put out on behalf of the brand must be transparent. The content you put out must identify with the customer mindset.”
Dr Arora then raised a question on the role of social media and how it’s impacting the healthcare industry today.
Making an interesting observation, Merchant said, “Everybody is a keyboard warrior these days but luckily the reader today is balanced and he reads bad reviews too to prepare himself for the worst.”
“Social media has broken a lot of taboos about issues like menstruation and sanitary napkins, and use of adult diapers. Doctors are also joining social media groups to learn from each other. So social media is a blessing in disguise,” Merchant added.
Most panellists agreed on how the India Inc is reluctant to pay for healthcare. According to the experts, Indians would rather spend money watching movie at multiplexes munching popcorns than spend the same in a healthcare test or treatment.
Himmat spoke about services given at Hinduja and how they have kept them transparent. “We have a single tariff policy and do not offer packages. At any given point a patient party can log on to the website and check the interim bill to understand where the treatment is heading economically. This helps us keep the procedure of the treatment transparent,” he said.
Merchant said healthcare brands should not chase USP but move to UST - Unique Selling Truth. “Truth is the most important aspect of healthcare, and trust and transparency are the two pillars of it,” he concluded.
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