‘Old School’ thinking ruins the Digital focus of Kenya’s Medical Industry

14 October, 2018

Kenyan Hospitals have been topping News headlines for all the wrong reasons, from the Rape of Mothers in the Maternity ward to surgeons operating on the wrong patient's skull, mothers losing their newborns after childbirth to hospital linked child trafficking rings & inflated hospital bills. All these points to an Industry who's lengthy, acute & accurately chronicled credibility challenges spell more gloom than bloom for Kenyans.

Patient Rating System

A man walks into an executive private hospital in Nairobi & gets booked in to see the doctor. He walks in and finds a young man sitting in a white coat and a laptop on the table. No sooner has he told the young doctor his ailment than the young doctor begins to punch in his computer keys and Voila! he begins to explain his diagnosis. "Mzee you need to stop taking alcohol and cut down on your meat affinity." The old man is bewildered and in crispy tone retorts, "young man I am a vegetarian and I have never drunk alcohol all my life, can you get me a senior doctor?"

That the leaders of Kenya's medical fraternity in all their bourgeois have left the plight of sick and desperate Kenyans open to abuse and at the mercies of such quarks. Goes to show the minds of these leaders are not in tune with the digital way of the 21st century.

Meanwhile since Uber came this shores, Kenyans have experienced such professionalism among drivers of this (taxi) kind of public transport. The power that all-important driver rating at the end of a ride puts in the hand of the customer, is something these leaders of Kenya's Medical industry should borrow a leaf from. A driver knows that customer consistent rating below a certain threshold set by Uber puts their job at a risk.

Similarly, of Kenya's about 8,200 registered doctors and about 4,900 licensed health facilities according to the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board. Progressive digital practice should have seen the unveiling of a public portal where patients, who suffer or are treated to healing at the hands of these doctors. Can rate and give their feedback on their experience with the doctor or at the medical facility. Once these doctors, health facilities (and Insurance Companies) know that their patient's feedback has the power over the validity of their practice licenses, they would take their work more seriously. It would bring transparency to; service pricing & expertise based on experience.

However all we have are ratings and reviews on the Facebook pages and Google Business profiles of the more progressive private practitioners to go by.

You see, unlike the financial industry, where competition is very high with company shareholders demanding profits, therefore forcing participants out of their comfort zone hence the high adoption of innovation. Kenya's Medical industry is its polar opposite, no advertising allowed, most are registered as NGO's so no profits to report needed. The acute shortage of experienced specialists, means the laws of supply and demand are highly skewed in favour of the supply (experienced Doctors) against the demand (patients), given the very high demand for quality treatment services. However seeing as there is no evaluation/rating system word of mouth is all there is to go by, therefore no external checks and balances to the quality of service offered.

Digital Diagnosis a Content Marketing Strategy

For most Kenyans when it comes to having questions answered, Google is our Friend. More so when one feels ill, or has an ill family member or loved one. The first step for most is self-diagnosis. However, sadly for most time, very rarely will the Google Search results include content from local medical practitioners.

The irony is, while most medical facilities have Websites & Social Media (Twitter & Facebook) pages. Majority (over 99%) have no blog, and for those who have, most have used them to publish articles of periodic announcements related to the institution’s products or services, with none of them making any effort at publishing helpful /educative content.

Kenyan hospitals & medical institutions need to leverage this as the focal point of their digital strategy.

In 2017, at number 9 of the Top 10 'How To' searches on Google in Kenya was, "How to get pregnant." However, despite quite a high number of highly specialized & experienced gynaecologists in Kenya, there is no Kenyan website publishing this kind of content. Top Sites with helpful answers to this being international websites such as WebMD & Baby Centre. When you modify the search to "How to get pregnant Kenya" again top results of Kenyan websites include diaper brand Huggies, articles on local media websites such as Nation, Tuko & Standard. Again no local hospital / clinic or specialist website / blog.

Meanwhile, if you are a parent and have been to any of the top Kenyan hospitals, they must have pitched you their maternity packages on a flier. But none of these hospitals is creating such content that would help them attract the very patients they seek. This approach is called Content Marketing. Its rule of thumb is, "Content that HELPS sells, Content that SELLS doesn't."

Content that HELPS sells, Content that SELLS doesn't.

For an industry with so much information & some of the top minds in this country, they do very little of sharing (information). Yet this, despite the 'No Advertising' rule, is the very strategy that would endear you as a doctor/hospital to new patients as they would identify you as a subject matter expert/authority.

However, in a country that is taking a lead globally at innovations such as Mpesa, could this lack of digital adeptness be a more telling sign of the slack in our Medical Industry's leadership? With the Government exploring to market Kenya as a Medical Tourism destination, this could be some of the reasons it would be hard to appeal to a global audience.

As an industry, even their journal still has an 'old school' approach. When you search for 'Kenya medical journal' on Google what is available is the East African Medical Journal, where the 'Current Issue' according to the one on the University of Nairobi Portal is a 2010 volume which you can't read online, you can only download a PDF. Meanwhile the one on African Journals Online (AJOL) the 'Current Issue' is a Vol 94, of 2017.

In stark contrast when you search for 'US medical journal' you find The American Journal of Medicine has it's own website, where the 'Current Issue' is Volume 131 of October 2018. It is more updated, Free content is available in full text articles readable online or via downloadable PDF. Paying Subscribers have access to multimedia content such as podcasts, videos & slides among other paid content. They even have Social Media channels on Facebook, Twitter which they use to distribute their content to increase public awareness of the issues covered and increase industry engagement.

Flier Websites & the Patient Journey

Convenience: As patient as soon as I identify what ails me, I begin to search for a hospital within my proximity. Normally this is easy as Google Maps has got me covered.

However after Google refers me to your hospital/clinic website, once there I would like to know more about your hospital/clinic, such as where it is located, what are working days and hours, who are your doctors, what are their qualifications, what helpful information do you have about your understanding of my ailment, what is the experience of other patients at your centre, how I can get in touch with you, can I book an appointment online?

However, most Kenyan Hospitals/Clinics have what can be classified as flier websites. A flyer is a simple form of marketing which is non-interactive, and as traditional as they come. It just packs all the information that they need you, the reader, to know. In this day & age of the Digital world, such a website is no longer sufficient.

The patient journey should have a digital touchpoint at every step. Where you can book an appointment Online selecting a date & time of your convenience. The Hospital/Clinic reaches out to you and confirms this booking. Closer to your appointment date you receive a reminder call or SMS since most of us forget to tend to forget such. Also in case, you have any questions you need to ask the Doctor you should be able to engage them directly & get feedback either via Chat (On the Website or on the Clinic's/Hospital's Social media pages) or Email. There should also be a Blog packed with consistent helpful content around their areas of practice.

After a patient has been to the Clinic/Hospital, they should be added to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, where periodic follow-up is made. This follow-up is first to get feedback about their treatment experience at the Clinic/Hospital which could be solicited via SMS, email or a Survey form on your website or a Review on your Social media pages. It could also be helpful information relevant to their ailment in form of a periodic email. This could also be shared through Social Media. Such has been my experience at The Periodontist one of the very few who are an exception.

In the future, however, I would look to finding a hospital/clinic who have Membership plans (loyalty program) for their patients. After all, it is the onus of Kenyan medical practitioners to train Kenyans on the importance of having periodic medical check-ups. Not as is the trend where most Kenyans will only visit a doctor once in pain, which normally is the last step of the problem which could have been identified and resolved earlier before it got worse. Sadly though, the cost of treatment in Kenya is very prohibitive hence this trend, well thought out Loyalty programs could see the industry buck this trend. It would help most Hospitals/Clinics improve their cash-flow problems, disentangling themselves from the ugly painful clasp of insurance companies and hence more affordable services for their patients.

Obviously most hospitals would need help to achieve this, so here's a quick contact for that.