The other day, an office colleague got sick. A severe case of food poisoning left the poor guy in a very weakened state. He was asking around for what medicines should one take for curing his symptoms when I remembered telenor’s new service. Thinking this would be a good time to test out just how well the service operates, I suggested he call it up and ask. My reasoning was, their advice on medicine’s would at least be better than what any one us could offer. My colleague also had a telenor number with quite a bit of balance as well, so that wasn’t an issue.
I wasn’t surprised when i heard the first traces of reluctance in his voice. Even though he was feeling very sick, and asking everyone not even remotely qualified in medicine for help, the very thought of calling up an unknown doctor wasn’t even acceptable. He started making excuses like, how would they know what i’m going through, they wont be able to test me and the most stressed upon reason, they wont know which medicines suit me.
All of his objections made sense, and so i let the matter drop. After another half hour of discomfort though, he got up and asked a fellow office worker to take him to the E.R. at PIMS. After an hour of waiting around in the line, his condition finally got the better of him and he went directly home to sleep it off, without medical supervision.
All of this got me thinking, just why doesn’t a service, which sounds helpful, is backed by a team of registered and experienced medical professional seem to appeal to the masses. Here’s my take on it…
The Problem with TeleDoctor
The teledoctor service doesn’t have a human face attached to it, and its not personal enough for people to even want to consider it. From the reactions of my colleague as well as a few others i’ve seen, its still considered to be largely staffed by amateurs posing as doctors, and that since its a telenor service, then making money is more important than good service. The e-Health initiative is almost hidden behind the big persona (not the postpaid variety though) of telenor as far as their ads and other promotions go.
The fact that people would say that they will not take advice from a doctor who doesn’t know their history or conditions, who cannot do any tests on them, or one who is not physically present will then proceed to go to an unknown doctor in an ER, or take advice over the phone from friends, or ask for medical advice from colleagues and other non-qualified people tells me that teledoctor cannot be trusted because its just not credible or personal enough.
How should you go about fixing it? Well, my take is, create awareness and trust among the people you are trying to reach. And that will *not* happen by taking out full page ads in the national dailies. You need to find a way to become a part of the lives of the immediate people you are trying to reach. Find out where most of your demographics are and target them specifically. (Sounds MBA’ish no?).
Basically what i’m trying to say is, reach out to ‘current’ patients! People who need this service now! And where else can you find a large number of current patients but ER rooms at major govt. hospitals! Setup stalls in these hospitals giving an alternative to people waiting in line to be seen by a doctor by using the teledoctor service. Tell them that they can get either a initial diagnosis (which they can compare with what their physical doctor says) or get a second opinion afterwards (and compare again) to get a better indication of whether they’ve been checked out thoroughly. If the diagnosis is similar, you’ve built up a point of trust, if the diagnosis is not.. then let them go for a third opinion. Once you build up enough of these points of trust, you’ll see the service being picked up, since people love to talk about how good ‘their’ doctor or ‘their’ hospital is. I’m not really sure why, but its a fact.. anyone who has been cured by the advice of one doctor will keep on advocating them for life. Become ‘their’ medical advice service and you’ll see the numbers going up.
In short, reach out to patients and give them a trial of your service at no-charge. Dont make them pay for the first time they use it, instead make it easier for them to overcome this barrier by allowing them to totally disregard what the teledoc’s say, in favor of their practitioner. When both diagnosis are similar (or the e-health doctor’s is right) people will have a smaller resistance the next time a trip to the ER is warranted, in calling up teledoctor. And this time, they’ll actually pay for it. (P.S for readers who will debate this, this solution is not for physical issues such as cuts and bruises or fractures. Yes, i understand that.)
Oh, and one more thing… if you must advertise this service, keep telenor in the background and the e-health initiative in the spotlight! Remember, telenor is corporate, hence bad… e-health is an initiative, hence good. You want good to be associated with the good, not the bad right?