Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Branded care

When I was young, we went to the local doctor whenever we fell ill. Usually there were 2-3 doctors in each locality - with strong supporters and equally strong detractors for each of them. We were loyalists to them, steadfastly refusing to change in the face of conflicting opinion from well wishers and the like. But, on occasion we would sneak from one to the other for a "second opinion". 

If your situation got complicated, there was the neighbourhood pathologist or a clinic nearby run by one "famous" doctor where other doctors came on appointment. And worse than that, there were hospitals. 

In this niche have stepped in the hospitals, corporates and then some. In Bangalore for instance, Manipal, Apollo, Narayana Hrudalaya and Fortis, say are the biggies in terms of hospitals. They are not the only ones with reputation in this space, but these are the ones who have stepped into this health care business. 

So, there are many Apollo clinics or Manipal Cure and care in places that act as feeders for hospitals - potentially though not necessarily. These clinics also do not depend on doctor reputations unlike the clinics of old and are instead more process focused (or so I presume) and a majority of doctors are younger (solely my experience). Also, they are great when it comes to the regular diagnostics, but when it comes to something complicated, a visit to the hospital may be mandated. 

In clinics like these, also rides the reputation of the hospitals themselves - more than the doctors. In a way this is the corporatisation of the medical business - a move away from the individual reputation driven clinics. And the multitude of clinics means better reach for the common patient as well. What the local doctors to do to survive them will be interesting - will they join them or stay as a solo force?

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