A strong brand identity that is built and protected over time can create a long-term, consistent image of quality and value. Inevitably, you will attract more patients, based on how you have influenced them with your branding strategies.
Those doctors who take branding action now will be tomorrows leaders.
What about using advertising to attract more patients?
It’s well known that the most effective form of advertising is word of mouth. How we care for our patients and how they perceive our care is what brings us more patients. The next best form of advertising is to our colleagues, by communicating our experience and expertise via scientific presentations and/or publications. In the past, this much was enough.
The Code of Ethics of the Medical Council of India still does not allow doctors to advertise, and most senior doctors in India look upon advertising with suspicion. After all, doctors are professionals – why should they behave like shopkeepers in order to attract customers?
However, times have changed, and we need to change with them. Gone are the days when patients had a family doctor whom they could blindly trust, and who would provide medical care for them from cradle to grave. Today’s reality is that medical care is often provided on a fragmented, piecemeal basis by numerous specialists, and the patient needs to learn to get the best medical care for himself. This is why it is so important that he has access to information on available doctors so that he can select the best one for himself.
Most doctors feel that advertising is unethical, but we need to look at the reality more carefully.
How are young doctors who have just started practise going to get patients?
How will patients know of their skills and their expertise?
Many young professionals, who have spent long years to qualify and taken loans to start practise, simply cannot afford to sit back and starve till patients arrive on their doorstep. This is why new doctors feel they have to resort to unethical practices like cuts and kickbacks today, many of which have been institutionalized by their seniors. It is more honest to allow them to attract patients by allowing them to advertise; at least this is open and transparent.
Preventing advertising favours senior doctors, those who have an established reputation, with many hospital attachments, and lots of patients. They will do their best to maintain the status quo by prohibiting advertising; not to protect patients as they claim, but to prevent new doctors from competing with them, thus safeguarding their own interests.
In the absence of advertising, the next best situation is to educate and engage with patients, the public, and the community, to build a practise.