MADHUR GOPAL, GM-Marketing, Manipal Health Enterprises Pvt Ltd, talks of the huge leap of technology taken by the healthcare sector, and how Manipal Hospitals is at the forefront of it
What has been the impact of challenges that came with the pandemic on business at Manipal Hospitals? Also, what are the positive outcomes of this time that are going to stay beyond the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has severely tested our resolve and resilience; in fact, we have an added dimension as we need to be in the frontline of dealing with the virus. Unlike many other sectors, ‘Work from Home’ is not an option for healthcare providers and ensuring the safety and morale of doctors, nurses and technicians has been a key additional challenge for hospitals. Various activities were undertaken to protect the mental well-being of our employees. We also ensured no employee lay off even at the cost of revenue loss. One of the positive changes the pandemic brought upon us is our approach towards patient welfare and accessibility. The pandemic helped us evolve in terms of technology adoption, and the process is going to be an integral part of our future endeavours.
What is the level of participation by Manipal Hospitals in the vaccination drive?
A lot of vaccine hesitancy and confusion existed in people’s minds. It was critical for us to be in touch with all our customers and provide them with relevant and right information about the vaccinations. We engaged with our patients directly through live interactions, webinars by doctors, community talks and senior citizens associations. Social media platforms played a major role in addressing the patients’ concern at a personal level.
Tell us about the digital enhancement of healthcare over the last one year and some of the things your company has done in this regard to help patients.
Manipal Hospitals introduced digital consultations to ensure patient safety and avoid over-crowding within their facilities. The consultations also helped doctors assess the patient’s conditions and create a medical plan before the patient visited the hospital. The adoption of digital technology also brought instant access among patients and healthcare providers, especially in the case of international patients who suffered with the pause of medical tourism. Technology has also been manifested in multiple fields of healthcare including e-ICUs, ambulances equipped with remote monitoring systems, mobile apps and tele-consultations. Manipal Hospitals with the aid of technology provided assistance to doctors in the treatment of patients in Tier II and Tier III towns. Our in-house patient care mobile app ‘Manipal Hospitals’, was released with a wide range of features, including a billing system that allows patients to pay their bills from any part of the world. More initiatives were introduced to ensure minimal waiting periods, including delivery of medicines to patients directly to avoid long queues at the pharmacy.
Manipal Hospitals is all set to acquire 100% stake in Columbia Asia Hospitals Private Limited (Columbia Asia). What does this mean for the group and its next phase of growth? What are the other opportunities you are looking at in the short and long term?
We hope to return to profits at a net level in 2021-22. We had been growing at 15% CAGR (revenue) in the past till COVID-19 impacted and reversed that trend. In terms of expansion, we do not want to set up Greenfields, as they pose some difficulties in terms of regulatory approvals and take a longer period of time. Right now, we are focusing on expanding our footprints on the eastern horizons especially in the states of West Bengal and Odisha, where we are underserved.
What have been your key learnings as a marketing expert in the healthcare sector?
Marketing Channels: Marketing team in healthcare focuses on connecting with our target audience and customers. During pandemic we had to redefine the role of marketing channels. Engagement on our digital channels grew 10X, print channels were used more on advertorials, media houses were engaged with our clinicians to provide the right information around the disease.
Communication: It’s very important for a brand to be in continuous touch with its customers. We increased our communication during the pandemic, tonality of the communication was to reduce anxiety of our customers.
Use of AI for better customer experience: We identified our high-risk patients and pro-actively called them and connected them with our doctors for medical advice during the lockdown period.
Customized programmes for key customers: We created various programmes for our referral doctors to take care of their patients. For many of our corporate clients too, we created customized programmes to support their employees in case of emergencies.