A brand may consist of many parts. It’s not just about the
name and the logo. For the strongest brands, it’s about how the organisation
deals with its customers, its tone of voice, and its relationship with customers,
based on intangible qualities that evoke strong emotional responses.
(If you want to learn more about branding in medical
tourism, come to hear Ilan Geva at the Marketing Workshop at EMTC 2012
in Berlin this April.)
Medical tourism and healthcare in general have been
relatively slow on the uptake in terms of understanding what a brand is all
about and how it can strengthen a business.
But one of the fundamental starting points in branding is what
you call your business or service, how memorable it is to your customers and
how well you communicate it to them. In medical tourism, it’s important because
the people you treat are your “patient ambassadors”. They may not bring repeat
business directly but they can bring you “repeat business” from their
relatives, friends and work colleagues.
So what happens if they can’t even remember your name......?
We have just completed the Treatment Abroad Medical Tourism
Survey 2012. This research carried out by an external market researcher
attracted over 1,000 patients who had travelled to another country for
treatment. (The 150 page report will be available for purchase at the end of
one of the interesting snippets of data from the research is how many people
can’t actually remember the name of the facilitator or agency that they used, or
the clinic or hospital that they went to, or they have got the name wrong.
Bear in mind that these are people who have made a major
life decision by deciding to travel to another country for treatment. And that
they spent on average 16 days abroad, and in 40% of cases they made two or more
trips to the healthcare provider.
Here are the hard facts from the research:
- Just over one quarter of the medical tourists
made the arrangements for their trip through a medical travel facilitator or
agency, but of these, one in ten could not remember the name of the business
that handled their trip.
- And it was a similar story for the name of the
clinic or hospital that the patient had gone to. Again, one in ten of the
respondents, couldn’t remember specifically where they had been.
- A common response was “Can’t remember” or
responses such as these:
- Can’t remember but it was in Bruges
- Can't remember - it was in Kusadasi
- Can’t remember, the main one in Brussels
- Can’t remember, it was in Sofia
Well done to the following agencies, clinics and providers, who got
quite a few mentions in the research AND whose customers got their name right
(nearly all the time!):
Is it important for your customers to remember who you are?
Well, it is if your agency, clinic or hospital is doing a great job treating
international patients and your “patient ambassadors” can’t recommend you to
One of the key reasons that patients forget... is because
they have short memories. So, it may be worth looking at your organisation and
asking yourself...”When did we last have a conversation with or speak to our
past patients?” or “When did we actually write to or send something to our
Another telling statistic from the research is the “short termism” that
is prevalent in the medical tourism sector. For many in the international
patient business, the focus is on......
- treat them (well),
- get the bill paid,
- and send them home.
There are exceptions....but this is how it works most of the
A missed opportunity to reinforce your brand
Here are more hard facts from the Treatment Abroad Medical Tourism
Survey 2012. After returning home:
- Around half got an email.
- One in seven got a phone call
- One in fifty got something in the post
Nearly one third of the patients had no contact after they returned home.
What a missed opportunity to
reinforce the brand message and ....more importantly what does that statistic
say about the relationship between healthcare provider and international
Keith Pollard is Managing Director of Intuition Communication Ltd, a web
publishing business in the healthcare sector. Intuition’s sites include Private
Healthcare UK, Treatment Abroad, IMTJ, Surgery Door and HarleyStreet.com.
Keith is a healthcare marketer with a background in the pharmaceutical and
private hospital industries. He is a regular speaker and commentator on medical
Comments provided below do not represent the views of IMTJ. Comments will be published "as is" and will not be edited by IMTJ staff. IMTJ is hosting these comments, and is not undertaking an editorial role in the content of these comments. However, it is editorial policy not to publish comments which have been submitted anonymously.