The healthcare sector needs to be treated like other economic sectors. Therefore, planning about healthcare should enhance provision of quality services. Market planning forms part of the plans of improving performance. It has its hurdles when being done in healthcare. Therefore, a number of planning steps have tom be followed. These are setting goals and objectives, carrying out analysis of the market using analytical tools like SWOT analysis. The general environment in which the healthcare sector lies must also be analyzed. The environment is usually analyzed from two perspectives: the macro and the micro environments. Also, finances to be used in implementing the plan have to be kept in mind calling for the analysis of the financial goals. Also, structures that will help in weighing the progress of the plan when being implemented must be laid in the plan. Lastly, the mechanisms of adjustments in case of leakages in the plan implementations have to feature in the marketing plan.
Marketing PLAN – Strategic Planning & Marketing in Health Care
The healthcare industry is one of the most essential industries in any country. For many countries, healthcare has been categorized as a primary good. However, the demand for health services has been rising. This has put pressure on governments, necessitating the expansion and betterment of healthcare services (Hall, 2009). Privatization of healthcare services has been chosen as a means of addressing the increasing demand (The Ritz-Carlton, 2012). There is a lot of competition in the healthcare industry due to the increasing demand for both primary and secondary healthcare services. As a result of the changing conditions in the healthcare industry and the advanced delivery systems, marketing planning and strategies in healthcare have become crucial (Hillestad, Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2004; The Ritz-Carlton, 2012). This paper looks into the essence of market panning strategies in the healthcare industry. It explains how market planning can be attained in healthcare. It contextualizes healthcare and analyses all aspects of the environment in which healthcare exist and how the environment can be tailored in market planning for the industry.
The healthcare industry is one of the industries which have an unusually high demand. Within the industry, there are many participant institutions. The industry offers both primary and secondary healthcare services. Majority of the primary healthcare services are provided by government institutions. Secondary services are mostly provided by private institutions though government institutions still remain as a significant player (Clark & Fance, 2006). As it is with healthcare, the capacity of healthcare institutions does not meet the demand and the needs of the people who are seeking the services. Healthcare remains to be vital for many people in communities, yet many of people seeking for health services often complain of poor and unsatisfactory services from the healthcare institutions. We still have people who cannot afford to visit the healthcare services in certain communities due to a number of factors among them poverty and access to healthcare. Therefore, the healthcare is still a constrained industry (Stefan, 2004). The healthcare institutions in most parts of the world have a poor reputation. There is too little involvement of communities of people who form the clients or customers of the industry (Hillestad, Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2004).
According to Calhoun, Banaszak-Holl and Hearld (2006), marketing strategies in healthcare needs to be highly comprehensive so that they can capture the needs, as well as change the image that has been created by people about the sector. In the marketing strategies, issues of service improvement have to be given priority. Many complaints have been raised by patients and service seekers in the industry. Most complaints being raised concern poor quality services being offered by health workers. The search for alternative health services has become common because of these problems (Berkowitz, 2006).
Organization and Product Service Overview
The healthcare industry is a much diversified industry. The diversity begins with the different types of customers that they deal with, and also the types of services present in the institutions. There are patients of different kinds– the aged patients and infants and children. Also, we do have patients suffering from different diseases coming to seek for medical services in healthcare institutions. Services offered in the healthcare institutions include curative services that are offered by physicians or doctors, family planning services, consultation services on issues of nutrition, preventative services like vaccination and many other services depending on the capacity of the given hospital or healthcare institution in question (Berkowitz, 2006).
Healthcare institutions are classified into public and private institutions. There are other subgroupings of healthcare institutions. These groups depend on the level of specialty and the intensity of services available. We have hospitals, which are leading institutions in giving healthcare services; and they offer specialized health services. Apart from dealing with the primary healthcare cases, they mostly attend to secondary cases of health which need specialized services. They have staffs that have specialized knowledge to offer specialized services like major surgeries. Apart from the hospitals, we have health centers and clinics that often give primary healthcare services. They can only attend to health cases which are not complicated. All the healthcare institutions fall either in the private or public category. Most prefer the private healthcare institutions as they are considered to have proper facilities and products, hence they provide better services (Edwards, Hugman, Tobin & Whalen, 2012).
The reason behind improved and better services in the private healthcare institutions accrues to the attention that they give customers. These institutions employ a certain level of marketing in their activities, though the level of marketing is not as intense as has been proposed by healthcare marketers. Public healthcare institutions do not emphasize on profits. This is part of the reasons why they cannot perform as their counterparts in the private sectors. However, the private healthcare providers are quite expensive. They avail services at a much higher cost as compared to the public healthcare institutions. The relevance of the healthcare industry cannot be overemphasized. Without proper healthcare systems in place, the rate of development will be put to jeopardy, and development is likely to stagnate. Therefore, marketing of the healthcare industry has been outline as one of the instruments that can be used for improving it (Edwards, Hugman, Tobin & Whalen, 2012).
The healthcare industry is one of the most funded industries in the world. Most governments are aware of importance for the healthcare of the nation. Though they do not provide adequate funding, they make efforts of ensuring that the health institutions are working. This is an advantage to the healthcare industry. It offers a foundation on which the marketing strategies and planning can be built to enhance healthcare service provision. There is a remarkably high affinity for health services by communities. Healthcare services are always in high demand, and this means that the healthcare industry has a large clientele of customers (Rooney, 2009). There are many healthcare institutions present in the healthcare sector; including hospitals, health centers, clinics and even individual service providers. The only problem hindering service delivery is the incapacitation of these institutions and the failure to use effective marketing strategies (Kotler, 2011).
The healthcare industry is incapacitated, especially in the developing world. The majorly incapacitated institutions of healthcare are under the public domain. With these levels of incapacitation of services, a lot of resources are needed to improve the image of the institutions in service delivery. This will either hinder or add to the costs of marketing implementation. Marketing is something that has not been emphasized or used in the healthcare. It is a concern that has come up in the recent times (Kennett, Henson, Crow & Hartman, 2005).
Marketing is something that has been developed, and used in improving services in other service industries. Many models of marketing have been developed and used in various sectors. The models can only be tailored to meet the marketing requirements in healthcare. The concern for healthcare marketing comes at a time when there are tremendous changes in technology. Marketing has been eased with the presence of information and communication technologies. Social network marketing and the use of the internet in marketing are enhancing marketing functions. Also, numerous demographic changes are taking place. The changing trends are resulting in changes in health needs among people. Therefore, more investments will be required by the investors in the sector. New market segments are emerging in the healthcare sector (Rooney, 2009).
The slowdown in the national economic system poses a significant risk to the healthcare sector. Cases of inflation and increasing standards of living have been on the rise. They hinder the consumption of healthcare services and products. Shrunken economic systems at national and international levels affect healthcare marketing. The amount of investments in healthcare shrinks due to the slow performance of economies (Stefan, 2004).
The healthcare sector is a sector that has many customers. In every nation, primary healthcare is essential. More than 60 percent of population in many countries seeks for medical services every year. Majority of people who seek healthcare services lie in the age group of between 0-22 years – about 30%. This is followed by the adults who constitute about 20 percent and the old people who form the remaining 10 percent. Customers require better services at reduced costs. Customers also need to be sensitized on the variety of healthcare services that are available in the healthcare industry. The healthcare institutions need to conduct thorough healthcare marketing surveys, and come up with marketing plans that are responsive to customer needs. Advanced communication tools available in the industry can be extremely helpful (Pitney Bowes, 2010).
The environment usually has a significant influence on healthcare delivery. Healthcare is influenced by factors that are drawn from both the micro and macro environments.
Micro environmental factors
The healthcare sector has many customers who have varied needs; just as it is with the services that are offered in healthcare. The industry deals with people from all walks of the society. The working and the no-working populations are all customers. It is quite challenging for firms to narrow down to a given group of customers. The choice of a customer group can help in upgrading the healthcare services offered by a given institution (Hillestad, Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2004).
Intermediaries help healthcare institutions in logistics; like timely delivery of health materials and services and storage of medical products and equipment. They help institutions to be more efficient and reliant to customers (Hillestad, Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2004).
The competitive level of the healthcare institution is directly impacted by customer satisfaction. Therefore, firms in the private healthcare are working on differentiation strategies in positioning their products and services (Hillestad, Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2004).
Medical needs are quite basic. The relationship of healthcare institution with suppliers is paramount. The timely delivery of medical supplies ensures that customers get the services anytime they need them. As part of enhancing marking, healthcare institutions are initiating and managing healthy relationships with their suppliers (Hillestad, Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2004).
Macro environmental factors
Economic factors have a substantial effect in healthcare. The ability of the population to access healthcare services is often reliant on the economic status and the prevailing economic conditions and structures. It is advisable for healthcare institutions to be aware of their clients and the economic class in which they lie. These institutions must develop strategies of cushioning their customers during tough economic times (Hillestad, Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2004).
The capacity of the healthcare sector to address the needs of the clients has been supported by technological systems. The social media is used for advertising and raising the awareness level of customers about the services. Healthcare institutions are urged to take advantage of the technologies, like the internet and the social media. Social media are a successful tool when efficiently and maximally used in marketing. Firms in the healthcare sector have to embrace this. They must accept the cost of employing advanced communication technologies. Such costs are usually offset in the long-rum when marketing strategies are optimal (Pitney Bowes, 2010).
Demographic changes have an impact on the healthcare sector. Such changes include changes in the values and norms of people, rise in academic levels and changes in the social responsibilities. The rise in academic levels impacts positively on healthcare marketing. High literacy implies that many people will be using the internet; hence marketing via the social media will be effective. Emigration and immigration will also force the healthcare providers to adjust to the changing number and nature of customers. Changing norms and values means that the strategies will be adjusted to capture the aspect of quality in products and services (Revere & Robinson, 2010).
Legal and political factors
Healthcare provision is highly sensitive to political changes. Stability in any country gives a favorable environment for healthcare institutions. Health institutions will flourish in countries with stable governments. The debate of policies leads to the choice of better policies that are supportive of healthcare development (Hillestad, Berkowitz & Hillestad, 2004).
Marketing goals and strategies
Marketing goals are the key guide of the marketing activities– application and implementation. The strategy helps in providing a framework on which the goals will be implemented so that a full marketing function can be reached.The healthcare sector plans to make use of all the marketing enhancement processes, and tools as part in marketing the sector. These include the use of the social media campaigns that target approximately 80 percent of the customers. Under this strategy, we have the formation of online dialogue sites or communities, which will keep the customers engaged. All the comments of the customers will be reviewed as a way of encouraging many customers to link up to the sites. Adverts will then be introduced on the sites (Trombetta & Woodard-Bourke, 1998).
Since marketing has not been a substantial exercise in healthcare, the short term goal will be to change the image of healthcare institutions in the eyes of the publics. Confidence and trust in healthcare institutions and services will be restored by this.The long term strategies are aimed at reinforcing the image through marketing models; such as the marketing mix and social media marketing. Social media attract many users who are potential clients of the healthcare sector.
In the initial stages of marketing implementation more finances will be put to use as advances are made to revive the image of healthcare institutions and services. Money will be invested in the acquisition of technological tools to be used in implementing the strategies of marketing. As the application and implementation continues, other corporate strategies will be adopted to supplement the technological tools. Once marketing has been initiated, it will be quite easy to sustain it (Trombetta & Woodard-Bourke, 1998).
All aspects of the marketing mix will be captured in the overall implementation. Promotion will be done using the social media. Each of the institutions will do destination marketing campaigns according to the kinds of services offered by them and the nature of customers which they target (Kotler, 2011).
Monitor and Control Implementation
With the introduction of marketing strategies and market planning in healthcare, many changes are expected. Therefore, monitoring and control is used in ensuring that the plans are executed according to the strategies laid down (Kotler, 2011).The marketing plans are usually designed on an annual basis. Performance reports are just but one of the useful tools used in monitoring progress. The reports are compiled on a monthly basis. The increase in the number of customers as well as sales and profits will be positive signs of the plan. Analyses of the volumes of sales will be used in measuring actual gain in sales. Marginal ratios are also used in measuring the real financial efficacy in healthcare marketing (Wrenn, 2006).
For a long time, healthcare institutions have underperformed. The underperformance has often been linked to the poor services. The failure to apply marketing strategies and market planning has further complicated the situation. It has been found out that market planning can aid in improving the healthcare sector especially when healthcare institutions take advantage of the social media and the internet as key enhancers of marketing the healthcare products and services.
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