Marketing is the buzzword these days. 30 years back, when I began practice in this city, there were very few private hospitals, nursing homes and laboratories. And those few that existed did not feel the need to market their services in the manner that is being done now. Some of us had a side lab, an X-ray and an ECG machine and these were quite sufficient to handle almost all of our patients. The notion that ‘more labs, more hospitals, more doctors, more specialists will mean more patients’ was unknown to us.
May be we lost some patients for want of sophisticated equipment [CT and MRI] and procedures [endoscopy, angioplasty, thrombolysis], but saved many despite not having these. Now it is tough not to do a TMT [exercise electrocardiogram or stress test or treadmill test] in a young man with indeterminate chest pain or a CT[computerised tomography] in a person with headache. Adding to this there is the menace of high-pressure salesmanship. Let me narrate a recent episode.
That was an unusually busy day and the lady must have waited a while before coming in. Smartly attired in a business suit, she said as an opening gambit, 'you have a lot of nice patients'. She must have meant neatly dressed [wealthy?] patients. My reply was a smile. She said that she represents a diagnostic service provider and went on to explain the various facilities and the services of the many well-known consultants of the city that are available there. So far so good. Now came the acme of her sales pitch, it was direct and to the point. For every patient sent to them I would get 15% commission. My expression was blank. She waited for a minute for a response and seeing that none was forthcoming, she upped it to 20%!.
I felt sorry for myself. Despite my best efforts to keep these executives at bay over so many years, these never take no for answer and I have this unpleasant job of explaining time and again, why they should not see me. It was now my turn to tell her why I don’t take cuts or commissions and thanked her for taking time to come and see me. She looked a bit disappointed but thanked me for my time and went away. I sat back thinking about this widely spreading malady in the profession.
There was a knock on the door and the young woman was back. ‘Sir, she said, I just talked to my chief, he has agreed to give 25%, and we cannot go beyond that!’
She must be a firm believer in the dictum, ‘every man has a price’
My declining even this offer must have made her wonder how and where she went wrong?