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Marketing is the act of making known to the public and consumers the services at your disposal that may be of beneficial importance to them. In the medical fraternity, marketing involves the act of availing information to the people of the various products and services offered. These include available hospitals as well as the various services offered by them. It also includes advertising of the various pharmaceutical products offered as well the medical equipments.
Until the late seventies the practice of marketing for medical purposes was rarely heard of. Even in the few cases that it did happen the masses perceived the practice as malicious and out to dent the image of the medical profession and industry as a whole (Cooper, P.D. & Robinson, L.M. 1982). It is a tricky and a sensitive practice that needs to be approached carefully since it can also lead to bad perception too.
History of health care marketing
Not so long ago the idea of making known of health care through mass media and various other modes of advertisement was unheard of. Marketing has been practiced since long time ago but not so for the case of healthcare. A change in this trend started appearing in the late seventies, where health care marketing was first practiced in the US. Since then the practice has been propagated and nowadays it is such a success and an economic earner that both the healthcare and the advertising industries cannot afford to overlook it (Francese, 1996). Beyond this growth and the achievements made there are also challenges in this sector. These include challenges such as the long held position that marketing in this field is unethical, and the public perception of this whole idea. All these factors need be evaluated before one embarks in this business and also when choosing the mode of marketing to be applied to meet the objective of the firms involved. In the past marketing in healthcare existed though it was limited and was mainly through simple linkages between the practitioners and the consumers. This was necessitated by the fact that hospitals and other healthcare providers needed to look for new users of their products and also to make sure that they held on to the ones they already had. Print media and other modern forms of selling businesses in this field were looked down upon in those ancient times until the late seventies. From that time to the present day marketing in this field has become very crucial to the extent that few firms if any can afford to operate with no means of marketing at all.
Health care consumers and factors that influence consumer behavior
Healthcare consumers are those people that benefit or may benefit from the services offered by hospitals, the hospital staff, and the pharmaceutical companies and so on. They also include hospitals, private clinics, individuals and medical teaching institutions who buy medical equipments for use for various roles (Berkowitz, 2010). Proper marketing needs to be done so as to ensure the consumers of these products get the right information and also to help them understand the benefits of using the products and at the same time being able to maintain a positive image of the said products. Various factors usually come to the fore when it comes to marketing in this front. This practice leaves consumers with tough choices to make in their endeavor to maximize on the best services available as well as being masters of their own destiny as far as their health care is concerned.
Consumers employ different techniques when choosing between the different options placed before them and these are influenced by various factors that need to be seriously considered when carrying out healthcare marketing. The information availed to the users of the services or equipments will greatly determine the success of the product on the market. Healthcare is a sensitive issue and thus the information provided should be able to address the needs of patients for example. It should be aim at specifically influencing certain decisions that the consumers ought to make in line with the situation at hand (Thomas, 2005). Also the information that is given should be meant for a specific group who have the need to know more about the product and in the wrong run find it of beneficial use. Also the way the information is delivered to the potential users will greatly determine the success of the product in the market. The marketer should try and present the information in a more captivating manner such that he will capture the attention of the consumer.
Being a critical field, the information should stress on the gains to be obtained from the use of the product and not the components of the product. The mode or chain of distribution in this field of marketing is so critical such that the wrong choice of channel for distribution can have dire consequences since it will influence the behavior as well the consumer's choice (Berkowitz, 2010). The marketer should work and associate with reputable and trusted firms and intermediaries since association with untrustworthy and suspicious associates lowers the consumer's belief in the credibility of the information provided as well as the services offered. All the above factors all greatly influence the behavior of a consumer and greatly impacts on their decision making regarding health care products.
Marketing techniques and strategies currently used by health care organizations
Healthcare marketing is a very sensitive field and needs to be approached from a well defined perspective. One should try and balance between promising too much and offering the beneficial services. It is a field marred by various unethical practices such as quackery and also some advertisements aimed at causing panic in consumers to the extent that they end up buying into your ideas, products and services. Proper healthcare marketing should be devoid of this so as to ensure that patients get the right services offered to them. Health care providers use various means to reach out to their clients.
One of the ways that healthcare providers market their services is through promotions. This can be in form of services such as free eye checkups for their clients (Berkowitz, & Hillestad , 1991). Through this clients are able to appreciate the role played by the service provider and this will help in making the presence of the provider felt and recognized by the clients themselves as well as other who were not aware of the existence of such a healthcare provider.
Checking on the progress of patients who have already been offered services by a physician or clinic through call backs and visits is also another way of marketing of these services (Thomas, 2005). This creates a feeling of responsibility and concern in the patient and this will heavily influence him to go back later on as well as advising colleagues and friends to visit the facility in future.
In the case of equipment supply firms they can decide to issue items for free to the hospitals and other facilities where they deliver their goods to. The items should have a logo or the name of the firm on them as a marketing tool even to the patients and other people who may visit the facility, in addition to the impact on the facility itself.
Another way of marketing is through the media such as television. The adverts should stand out and should be captivating (Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2000). This makes the product, may be a drug noticeable by people who access this form of media. This form advertisement has been quite regularly used by companies advertising painkillers where even some sport personalities are depicted as heroes having overcome pain as a result of the drug.
Requirements for successful marketing of health care services
A successful marketing strategy should have goals. Evaluation should be carried out to see whether the goals are met, and if not the other options available at the disposal of the organization. A research should also be carried out on the needs of the patient and the measures that should be put in place in accordance with the findings of the research. Also research should be done on the operations of the rivals (Cooper, & Robinson, 1999). The gap in the products and services they provide should be evaluated and investment strategies on areas where there are deficits implemented. Also areas where the firm or company faces stiff competition from their rivals should be evaluated and improvements made so as to make its services stand out from the rest of the competitors.