Of the wide range of activities that healthcare includes, the marketing of medical services is a common but insufficiently studied area. The promotion of products and procedures in this sector differs from that in trading markets due to the lack of the ability to focus on capitalizing profits exclusively. Providing skilled care and comprehensive treatment is above business goals. Nevertheless, due to market relations and competition, the marketing of medical services has emerged as an individual field, and competent management supplemented by strategic planning and resource allocation on the part of administrators is imperative. Findings from academic resources prove that adherence to the terms of healthcare marketing should be based on biblical foundations and depend on a number of criteria, including funding, type of healthcare organizations, and other factors. Addressing gaps and barriers to effective marketing is the key to maintaining a competitive position, building sustainable management schemes, and ensuring high demand among the population.
Marketing principles can be implemented not only in the field of trade and consumer services but also in the healthcare industry. Human health is commonly known as one of the priority needs, followed by professional achievements, business success, recognition, and some other desires. The need to be healthy forces a person to be active in finding ways to self-improve. The processes of socio-economic reforming of the healthcare system in the 21st century have determined the importance of improving the demand, supply, and consumption of medical services, as well as the rational use of available resources and allocated funding.
At the same time, some aspects of healthcare activities are poorly discussed as the criteria for assessing the performance of the healthcare field. They include the attitude of the population to consume medical care, the dynamics of demand for various types of treatment, the assessment of its quality, manufacturability, and economic efficiency, and some other issues. The problem of marketing in healthcare is often covered in relation to private and insurance medicine with a little focus on other topics. Regarding marketing in the context of the state regulation of the medical industry, at the moment, this problem has been insufficiently studied. This research is aimed at identifying the peculiarities of the marketing of medical services in terms of assessing the impacts and challenges caused by market relationships and the characteristics of the provider-patient interaction.
Biblical Foundation of the Marketing of Medical Services
From a biblical perspective, health marketing issues can create ambiguous contexts. For instance, according to Suprihanto et al. (2016), in some hospitals, the recruitment of staff is associated with restrictions, which are explained by the religious views of the management. Christian beliefs limit possible practices that involve forms of interaction with patients. Suprihanto et al. (2016) state that religious culture can be a driver of organizational commitment, which, in turn, improves the quality of medical services. At the same time, the imposition of specific methods of treatment and care is contrary to the idea of human equality and cannot be considered a rational approach to providing the necessary assistance. In this regard, the Christian foundations of health marketing cover a narrow communication framework and are often not the defining criteria.
The market economy is a factor that inevitably penetrates various spheres of life, including healthcare. Benyah (2020) looks at the Ghanaian churches and notes that the principles of congregation engagement are heavily influenced by social media activities. This form of communication is also characteristic for local medical institutions, where, due to the lack of funds, marketing is an essential attribute of generating profit (Benyah, 2020). If material funds are used for a good cause and are not utilized for the selfish purposes of individual administrators, the popularization of medical services does not run counter to biblical canons. In addition, given the limited resources, voluntary donations are common in the religious sphere that, due to the lack of funding from the budget, is forced to accumulate income on its own. Therefore, the marketing of health services aimed at helping the population and not implying selfish goals is normal from a Christian perspective.
Patient cultural background is an important factor that also includes religious beliefs. According to Bucatariu and George (2020), who studies mental health (MH) care, perceptions of medical marketing are influenced by personal backgrounds and opinions. In addition, the authors note that, based on their findings, “religious institutions such as churches did not appear to have strong links to MH care” (Bucatariu & George, 2020, p. 52). This may mean that the use of appropriate marketing strategies is unlikely to resonate with a biblical perspective, and if adequate treatment and care approaches are maintained, there will be no controversy. Thus, the Christian context of the issue under consideration is not a key determinant but can be a deterrent in case of the violation of canonical biblical norms.
The market of medical services is active when there is the potential for exchange. In marketing theory, the market is the realm of existing and potential exchanges (Esmaeilzadeh, 2018). This area is defined by the presence of two main parties – those in need of medical services and those offering them. In addition, this is critical to take into account the market actors. As a rule, this category is formed by medical institutions where the sale and consumption of a medical service or product can be conducted. Kneck et al. (2019) state that freedom of choice between providers and consumers of health care services is an essential attribute of an advanced healthcare system that promotes equality and allows for healthy competition. Thus, the marketing of services in healthcare, in its classical understanding, is possible if there is a market for medical services, provider-patient market relations, as well as competition involving manufacturers of medicines and goods.
Marketing in healthcare has distinctive features associated with the specifics of consumer demand and the market for medical products and services. As Rostampour and Nosratnejad (2020) note, the capabilities of these activities are largely determined by the form of financing for healthcare and payment for medical services, for instance, private, insurance, or state. The forms of ownership of enterprises producing medical goods and providing medical services can also be distinctive – private, municipal, state, charitable foundations, and some other alternatives (Cordery & Howell, 2016). All these types of control are characterized by different management and reporting principles, but the types of services are usually similar.
The marketing of medical services, including recreational activities, is important for the formation of motivation among the population to strengthen health and an appropriate lifestyle and create an image of a healthy person. Based on the statistics provided by Schwartz and Woloshin (2019), the need for the marketing of medical services is due to the fact that consumer demand has always been high. The analysis of medical statistics shows that, despite significant advances in healthcare in certain areas, society as a whole is not becoming healthier. A decrease in mortality from a number of diseases in developed countries is accompanied by demographic shifts, for example, aging of the population or declining birth rates, which lead to growth in chronic pathologies and disabilities. All this contributes to an increase in the need for medical services and their proper promotion among corresponding population categories. Moreover, as Anderson et al. (2019) remark, marketing technologies are universal across many healthcare systems worldwide. Thus, by building sustainable schemes for the promotion of medical services and goods, providers ensure stable demand and can benefit from economic activities not only in private but also in public institutions.
Major Issues and Gaps Related to the Marketing of Medical Services
In conditions of market relationships and the variety of types and forms of medical care, the formation of a network of state, municipal, and private medical institutions gives rise to some issues. Particularly, according to Yula et al. (2020), problems emerge between patients and providers as consumers and producers of medical services, respectively. Such relationships, based on the marketing essence of the healthcare system being formed, acquire specific features of marketing. Each type of medical activity acquires a marketing characteristic and should be formalized. These activities include treatment, diagnostics, preventive examination, obstetrics, relief of the suffering of a hopeless patient, and some other tasks. In addition, various types of medical activities in the marketing relationship of a doctor as a provider of medical services and a patient as a consumer of medical procedures may be unequal and even contradictory. Patient financial status, cultural differences, and other individual factors can constrain the provision of skilled care. While considering the topic of marketing, economic criteria, particularly the level of people’s income, is one of the main determinants associated with potential inequalities in healthcare and requires promoting relevant initiatives to combat this gap.
The successful implementation of modern management technologies in healthcare, as in other industrial and social spheres, is mainly based on the concept of marketing. Agarwal et al. (2020) note that the use of marketing technologies helps improve the final results of activities and makes it possible to optimize the provider-patient interaction through effective communication. However, in the absence of a financial base and good management, some clinics do not have enough funds to optimize resources and move towards advanced treatment and care principles. The development potential in the medical field is limited by the funds allocated for it and the payment for medical care, which can be not only state but also private (Chin et al., 2018). This omission is significant from a marketing perspective because competition in the healthcare market requires implementing highly accurate diagnostic and treatment techniques for clinics to be in demand. Otherwise, patients will opt for a provider with more modern sets of functional instruments.
Medical services may be classified as passive goods due to their limited scope. The patient may not even be aware of the existence of such products. Sousa and Alves (2019) mention different marketing types related to healthcare and remark that patients usually know little about different spheres of care due to the lack of need. Therefore, medical marketing often remains out of sight of the consumer until an actual need arises, which will entail the need to purchase a particular product or service. As a result, until the moment when the patient needs urgent help, he or she will not have the desire to think about which clinic is more profitable or whose level of service is higher. Thus, one of the tasks is to not only create sustainable promotion mechanisms but also educate the population about the appropriate categories of care and treatment.
Based on the foregoing, one can note that the main purpose of marketing in medical organizations is not to promote and sell services but to diagnose people’s need for health services. Influencing this need, increasing it, and predicting are the elements of successful marketing planning. Today, proactivity is a relevant concept that implies educating patients in need for preventive actions rather than in the formation of a momentary need due to urgent problems (Arias et al., 2018). A proactive approach increases the level of respect for the clinic, loyalty, and trust, and the patient becomes a regular client in prevention but not just in treatment.
Roles of the Healthcare Manager/Administrator
A healthcare manager or administrator is a responsible position that is based not only on control over existing assets but also on monitoring numerous aspects of public health. According to Pean et al. (2019), from a marketing perspective, the ethical functions of a given position are to be respected as essential factors of promoting relevant goods and services. A healthcare administrator involved in marketing activities has no right to create conditions for capitalizing profit as the main objective, which contradicts not only social but also Christian values. The role of a marketing manager allows for the introduction of advanced operating principles, optimization of the resource base, the transition to innovative assistance schemes, and other useful initiatives. At the same time, one cannot compare this position with that in the trade market. The task of any healthcare system is to create conditions for comprehensive medical and preventive care for the population (Haque et al., 2019). In case of a shift in values, a medical institution under the leadership of an incompetent administrator can turn into a commercial organization, which violates the biblical canons dictating the main medical theses.
As a result, a healthcare marketing manager is an official who oversees different nuances of providing medical services to the population. In addition, this position involves searching for rational algorithms for attracting patients and promoting various products and procedures. As Ali and Anwar (2021) note, marketing creativity is an essential property that proves the professionalism of a healthcare administrator. Therefore, this role is significant in the field under consideration.
Marketing of Medical Services from a Strategic Planning Perspective
Within the framework of strategic planning, as a valuable methodology that allows building and consistent work algorithm, the marketing of medical services can be considered as a series of initiatives aimed at achieving specific goals. McIntosh and Bouteri (2017) state that healthcare, like other industries, requires structural assessment when commercial aspects are involved. Identifying the key objectives to achieve, building tactical mechanisms for promoting services, and controlling demand shape the basis of marketing steps in the medical sphere, which corresponds to the idea of strategic planning.
Strategic planning includes a set of measures to create sustainable development steps with the rational use of available resources. Dixit et al. (2019) analyze this concept from a healthcare marketing perspective and note that one of the manifestations of a strategic approach is control over medication sales in the target market. Assessing the financial capabilities of target patients, creating demand, and other activities allow implementing the necessary objectives successfully to promote relevant products and services. As Vermeulen et al. (2019) argue, healthcare managers and administrators analyze reports, make forecasts, conduct employee education, and work on many other tasks to ensure strategically sound marketing. Thus, the effective analysis of different aspects is the key to sustainable marketing projects in medical institutions.
The peculiarities of provider-patient interaction, modern market relations, and some other aspects form the modern industry of the marketing of medical services and dictate the principles of commercial communication in healthcare. From a Christian perspective, ethically fair norms determine the nuances of employees’ work in this field and do not allow uncontrolled activities to capitalize on profits as a key objective. The factors influencing the nature of marketing in healthcare largely depend on the resource base, demand, available innovations, and many other criteria. The task of a professional administrator is to control all the nuances that can help develop the marketing base of a particular clinic. At the same time, such a manager should ensure that the organization has not stopped providing effective care and preventive assistance. In the marketing of health services, the concept of strategic planning is applied successfully. In case of adequate initiatives and appropriate interventions, for instance, making forecasts and analyzing the resource base, marketing success is likely.
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