The variety of medical care types and forms gives rise to certain problems in conditions of market relations between patient and physician. At first glance, the disease prevention medical activity in terms of market relations is not compatible with the economic production feasibility and the medical services providing. In fact, in the case of increasing the number of healthy people, the number of classical medical needs (needs for treatment) decreases. Furthermore, with lowering demand for medical procedures, the market becomes less preferred. Disease prevention should be the main objective of healthcare marketing, which remains the major part of the health care system because it ensures the development of the health system.
To confirm it, the researches about general information regarding healthcare marketing, its directions and marketing segmentation, and distribution of health services should be investigated.
General Information about Health Care Marketing
Healthcare marketing is a special kind of modern marketing, which can be understood as a complex process of planning and production management economic feasibility, pricing and promotion of health services, which are based on the concept of strategic and operational marketing in medical activities.
Marketing in the healthcare sector can be divided into five different branches (Berkowitz, 2011):
- Marketing of health services;
- Marketing of drugs;
- Marketing of medical equipment;
- Marketing of medical technology;
- Marketing of scientific ideas.
In order to modernize health care system five modern marketing concepts, one can use them in conjunction: strategic marketing, integrated social and ethical marketing, marketing mix, and marketing of relations.
At the microeconomic level of the health care system modernization, the functional significance of the following concepts can be emphasized from a healthcare position: marketing-mix, relationship marketing, integrated social and ethical marketing. Simultaneously, integrated marketing is aimed at meeting the patients’ requirements and applying health services.
Marketing-mix is a specific combination of marketing tools, which is aimed at achieving the goals of demand management and includes the medical services pricing, distribution channels, and promotion. Relationship marketing is the process of creating new values of interaction and the derived benefits’ sharing. Social and ethical marketing refers to the study and formation of patients’ needs, Their satisfaction, in turn, resulted in enhancing the role of the population health state with the most effective methods, techniques, and general promotion of the preventive health care.
Thus, marketing health care system has a functional significance for the healthcare and for diseases prevention.
Preventive-orientated medical activities (production and sale of preventive non-therapeutic medical services) are legitimately associated with market segmentation. Therefore, the healthcare market segmentation researches should be explored.
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Segmentation of Healthcare Market
First of all, it is referred to the process of consumers’ classification into groups with different needs and requirements, characteristics and behavior. In fact, the healthcare marketing essence does not negate the preventive orientation of medicine; however, it gives there one of the key locations and values in market relations. The preventive medical services and the marketing system’s objective function is called clinical examination. It forms their particular niche in the segmented market.
Medical prevention and medical examination of market conditions are the specific market segments of medical services. They are powerful tools for identifying the clients’ hidden health needs. Therefore, comparing the demand and supply volume of the health market, their features allow differentiating it into three clearly allocated segments.
Haimowitz believes that the preventive health market segment can be called a market, which is dominated by supply and demand for preventive health services. The consumers in this market are characterized by a health quality high degree and desire to increase it (Haimowitz, n.d.).
The medical market segment is a type of health market, which is dominated by need, demand and supply with treatment procedures. This part of the health intervention is very high. Such a market is significantly correlated with the population incidence and morbidity (Haimowitz, n.d.).
The social segment of health can be described as the market, which offers medical and social services aimed at maintaining the level of consumers’ health services, which cannot objectively be changed into improving the quality of life (Haimowitz, n.d.).
The market study of health, in particular, the selection and relation of market segments, methodologically allows the activity correlation of subjects in marketing systems of medical services (Haimowitz, n.d.). Using this approach, it is logical to identify priorities and offers of the consumer’s demand for the certain set of medical services — from prevention to treatment. There is a tendency of health market orientation to a specific demand of the individual consumer/patient or the state level structure: local, regional, and federal. Thus, the ratio of preventive, medical, and social segments generate the variety of health markets and marketing systems, which increases the functional significance of healthcare marketing.
While exploring and comparing two market segments of medical services. medical and preventive, one may notice that the true formation of consumers’ demand increasingly occurs only with the provision offering of preventive health services. It arises when the market objective function of medical treatment can be paradoxically associated with consumers’ demand decrease (reduction in the potential buyers’ incidence). That objective inverse relationship of supply and demand in the medical services market is a specific entity of that market’s segment. Its viability, necessity, and the healthcare providers’ desire to work in this market segment rely primarily on strong confidence about the natural level of pathological population conditions. It, in its turn, gives rise to medical needs (Haimowitz, n.d.).
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The forming and saturation of health services, which are aimed at disease prevention and health preservation, allow standout emphasizing of the characteristic and specific market features of healthcare prevention. These should also include the following aspects (Eckrich & Schlesinger, n.d.):
- The extremely attractive market segment in terms of industrial health mission.
- The potential buyers’ needs for medical preventive services in this market segment is highly dependent on its personal, individual, cultural, and national characteristics and traditions as well as on the specific medical and social problems, corresponding to demand drop or increase.
- A large proportion of the potential customers’ for preventive health services belongs to the category of hidden needs.
- The lack of consumers’ demand for the preventive health services market segment
- The demand and the transition of hidden needs is an urgent task for a manufacturer and seller. Consequently, the organizational forms of information transparency and education process are captivating the primary role of preventive marketing activity. Thus, the extremely high proportion of expenses on advertising and other means to influence a buyer is objectively defined in the prime cost of preventive health services.
- The unnoticeable satisfaction of the potential buyer’s latent needs and extreme remoteness of providing medical services can be also present. For example, it may be difficult to prove the necessity and appropriateness of the patient’s immunization (prophylactic vaccination).
- This market’s segment has the high degree of the potential clients’ differentiation (children with a high need for public immunization services, elderly people with the needs for dynamic monitoring and exacerbation preventing of the existing diseases, etc.)
- The strong influence of different, not directly related to medical activities factors, on the effective preventive health services delivery may also be the point.
The concept of marketing states that the key to achieving the goals of the organization is to determine the needs and desires of the target market audience. It also ensures the satisfaction with a more efficient and productive way than the competitor’s one. Based on this, it can be concluded that marketing essence of healthcare establishments (medical practice) within the preventive framework is the promotion of certain population’s studying, their dynamic health monitoring for early diseases’ detection. However, it should be also taken into account, that dynamic monitoring and comprehensive treatment, taking measures on improvement of living and working conditions, preventing the development and the spread of diseases, and increasing the life quality are important as well (Berkowitz, 2011).
Thus, the focus of preventive medicine at the marketing relationship is implemented within a certain segment of the healthcare market. Therefore, the distribution of medical services should be amenable to analysis.
Distribution of Health Services
According to the marketing similarity in terms of economic interest, supply and demand for therapeutic medical procedures are in contradiction with the preventive health services offering.
The conditions of the health prevention distribution services require the efficient organization of their outreach activities and sales with the help of the highly qualified medical staff. Berkowitz believes that the essence of health information within the outreach activities in market conditions is fundamentally different from the similar activities used in the classical system of medical education. Thus, it has objective marketing specifics (Berkowitz, 2011).
The successful factor in offering the distribution of medical preventive services is a concept, in which healthcare institutions (medical practices) are able to develop persuasive distribution techniques and demonstrations to dispel doubts and constraining motives of the patient. Therefore, it should be the allocation of hidden qualitative characteristics of the preventive activities. Thus, the definition of strategic and tactical goals of healthcare institutions (medical practices) in the medical preventive services marketing is seen in the field of public relations and the creation of organizational forms providing the main principles of achieving goals. Such activities could be successfully carried out by the structure of advertising and PR-agencies (Haimowitz, n.d.).
One should also take into consideration the idea that the activities in the field of preventive health care services under a marketing relationship is not highly preferred for providing such services in terms of economics. They are not always unambiguously positive for the humans. Preserving the quality of life should have the status of a national problem. Thus, the support of any constructive organizations’ and citizens’ association, which aimes at preserving health, is needed.
The idea that some of the profits from alcohol, cigarettes’, and gambling sales should be directed into preventive healthcare needs is also very important. The costs’ share of an unprofitable preventive healthcare activity should also be considered in the medical health services pricing.
Thus, the distribution of medical services is provided only with healthcare marketing. Due to this fact, its main directions should be described.
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Directions of Health Care Marketing
It should be mentioned that the directions similar to the described segments are becoming highly relevant in light of the problems’ nature of medical practice marketing (Eckrich & Schlesinger, n.d.):
- Prevention, preservation, and strengthening (quality improvement) of the existing health system;
- Supply and delivery of health services in order to provide medical care to the sick and injured population;
- Return of lost health and life maintenance.
From the standpoint of the humanitarian and economic mission’s marketing separation of health systems, this industry’s structural approach is quite logical: the preference is given to a humanitarian mission in the health conservation, maintaining life with high financial spendings (though this market segment is not highly preferred). It should be recognized that in case of the investment at the market relation framework, economic factors begin to play a predominant role (usually when the economic mission of health is compared with humanitarian) (Haimowitz, n.d.).
Separation of marketing health systems into specific segments, market research of these segments, and equity balance between supply and demand can characterize healthcare consumers in this segment in accordance with their health conditions as well as describe the specificity of a particular healthcare system. Thus, the healthcare system’s marketing can be uniquely represented as correlated with objective demographic data, morbidity and physical development.
Healthcare marketing is a specific kind of modern marketing, which provides medical services, pharmaceuticals, scientific ideas, medical equipment, and technology. The functioning of the health system’s marketing provides market differentiation to preventive, therapeutic (medical), and social segments. The separation of needs (lots of which are hidden) determines the specificity of the market supply and demand in medical services. However, in such a case, the distribution of the medical services is provided only with healthcare marketing within the direction of disease prevention. Thus, disease prevention is the main tool of healthcare marketing, exactly it ensures the development of the health system, which confirms the thesis of this research paper.
- Berkowitz, E. N. (2011). Essentials of healthcare marketing.
- Eckrich, D. W., & Schlesinger W. (n.d.). An application of the marketing concept in health-care services planning: A case report. Journal of Management and Marketing Research.
- Haimowitz, I. J. (n.d.). Healthcare relationship marketing.