– By Jasrita Dhir, Head – Brand, Marketing and CSR, Fortis Healthcare

Healthcare marketing has always required a specialised skill-set considering healthcare is a ‘grudge-category’. However, never has healthcare marketing been under the kind of pressure that it has been, in the last couple of years. The paradigm is shifting irrevocably – what with increasing Government regulation putting huge pressures on private healthcare’s business model on one side and increasing patient vigilantism and trial by social media on the other. Amidst these, private healthcare seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place.
To stay relevant in these changing times, the rules of engagement between healthcare marketers and their target groups have to undergo a sweeping change.
Am penning down my list of healthcare marketing trends which will help healthcare brands stay relevant in the changing paradigm:
1) Bridging the gap between Brand promise and brand experience / Patient Experience: Healthcare is not a category that can be propped on communication alone. While communication has an important role to play in articulating the brand promise, the brand comes alive in the hospital across various delivery touch-points. With the healthcare consumer becoming more and more discerning and the reduction in information asymmetry, there’s a bigger premium being placed on the patient experience as it unravels on the hospital ‘shop-floor’ level. What this translates into is – a lot of the marketers’ time would be taken up in not just designing campaigns and deciding media-mix but more so in mapping the consumer’s or the patient’s journey in the hospital and calibrating the experience that they will have when interacting with the hospital touch-points. Both process as well as tech-innovations have a key role to play here.

2) Digital Transformation: Most hospitals in India can currently be plotted being somewhere on the ‘digitization’ or more precisely the automation graph. The spadework is being done in the areas of automation of some paper processes – that’s setting the ground for the next step of their digital journey. Most hospitals are approaching this from the perspective of cost and time efficiencies, however, the industries that have successfully pulled off digital transformation are the ones that have kept the consumer at the core of their transformation. Hospitals will truly benefit from digital transformation when the lens for the transformation is the patient’s not the hospital’s, in other words, when OP & IP journeys or critical care pathways or emergency first-aid treatment before reaching Hospital ER are transformed using the power of digital not just an alteration in the digital consumer’s journey or the in-hospital processes such as Finance, Supply Chain etc.

3) Causevertising : Feature-benefit selling and product marketing is giving way slowly but surely to Cause-based marketing / Cause Advertising, also known as Causevertising. In a trust-deficit environment, it’s not enough to do safe surgeries and preventive healthcare – that’s all par for the course….brands are waking up to the need of standing up for a cause ; aspiring for a higher purpose.

In a global survey, shoppers ranked social purpose (for societal or environmental concerns) as the most important deciding influence when choosing between brands of comparable quality and pricing – leaving behind even brand loyalty. In a parity market such as private healthcare where medical skills and physical infrastructure are more and less transposable, those brands that stand for a cause consistently and credibly would be able to cut through the clutter.