The growing importance of brands in the healthcare sector
The Indian healthcare sector is expected to reach market size of US$ 500 billion by 2022. The key the key contributors to growth are rising income levels, greater health awareness, increased lifestyle diseases among the urban population, and improved access to insurance amongst others. As of July 2021, as per the data available, the number of medical colleges in India stood at 558, 393 Ayurveda, and 221 homeopathy Government recognised colleges were operational. As of April 2021, over 75,500 Health and Wellness Centres were operationalised in India.
The healthcare industry is broadly comprised of
- medical devices
- clinical trials
- medical tourism
- health insurance
- medical equipment
The article focuses on changes in the Healthcare industry since Covid 19 pandemic that has brought consumers’ attention to their health and wellbeing. Further stay-at-home orders or lockdown imposed by the governments has resulted in increased technology intervention into the health sector concerning the delivery of health care services. The disruption caused by Covid has brought about wholesome changes in consumer behaviour, persuaded doctors, and hospitals to become tech-savvy, prompted pharma companies to invest in digital therapeutics, and regulators to be flexible.
Telemedicine regulations impact on healthcare companies
The introduction of telemedicine guidelines in April 2020 has given flip to investment in this sector both by the state governments and private sector. A report suggests that by September 2021, the Health Ministry’s eSanjeevani telemedicine service crossed 12 million teleconsultations since its launch, enabling patient-to-doctor consultations, from the confines of their homes, and doctor-to-doctor consultations. Many private hospitals have launched specific platforms for telemedicine consultation and many new and existing platforms expanded their reach, notable among them being Practo, doconline, TeleVital, expressclinics, and others.
The e-Pharmacies in India emerged around 2015. The launch was met with scepticism from brick and mortar (chemist) shops but with have gained traction rapidly and disrupted the market with Covid19 acting as a catalyst. Currently, there are close to 50 e-pharmacies in India. As India went under lockdown during first and second wave of Covid 19, realising the importance of e-pharmacies, the Central and State governments took immediate steps to classify them as an essential service. The government also promoted e-pharmacies and their associated services through the Aarogyta Setu Mitr portal on the Arogya Setu app. These measures turned out to be greatly beneficial for growth of e-pharmacies. The sector was able to achieve a 2.5X growth in households using their service with an estimate of 8.8 million households in June’20.
The e-pharmacy sector garnered $700M in investments in 2020 alone. Pharmeasy, Dhani, 1mg, and Netmeds, are some of the leading pharmacy chains vying for a share of this opportunity. Also, some of the large companies recently made a foray into the sector, with Reliance Retail and Tata Digital picking up controlling stakes in Netmeds and 1mg respectively.
Selecting a trademark
Healthcare companies still have quite a bit of room to grow. Therefore, branding may not be on the top of their business agenda in terms of budget allocation necessary to build the brand and the perception of the company as trusted, caring, knowledgeable, and experienced. As with any other business, the right selection of a brand goes a long way in building a strong brand image. The businesses would be advised to choose an arbitrary or coined word though the temptation is to go for a descriptive or suggestive word for better association with the business. In particular, during the launch, many stakeholders tilt towards adopting a name that describes or identifies the services.
The spectrum of distinctiveness, as elaborated below, not only applies at the time of selection of a brand but also during its growth phase. A strong brand is not only easier to protect but also help build strong recall by the consumers.
Logos and Visual Identity
It is widely accepted that a logo is instantly recognizable, which is why it is such a powerful tool when it comes to brand recognition and helps to differentiate the products and services from the competitors. Thus, healthcare companies often create their visual identity by using a logo in colours that help them build trust and affinity with their customers. The brand identity including your logos, educational material, services brochure, the website must be deployed with the utmost consistency in terms of colours and other branding elements for better recall and trust.
Whether it is your brand, logo, or visual identity it is important to undertake clearance to determine similarity with prior registered brands and those in use. The business would be advised not to embark upon an expensive promotion campaign to promote its brand, logo, and visual identity and at a later stage face a possible infringement or unfair competition claim. The rebranding because of infringement action can be quite expensive and result in loss of reputation.
Domain names and App names
As consumers today gather information about your company and its services through online resources, your domain name must be aligned with your brand. Thus, when selecting the brand name make sure to check the domain name availability. While many domains name extensions (TLD’s) have been rolled out, .com remains and is still the most popular and credible domain name extension. A domain search will also provide a company a fair idea of whether identical or similar domain names are in use and accordingly assess the risk before investing in launching the website.
As the healthcare companies especially those providing telemedicine services, operating e-pharmacy, or diagnostic services create Apps to connect with customers and deliver services, they must search the Android Play Store, Apple Play Store, and Microsoft Store to identify any apps with similar names and reserve their names. Apple play store and Microsoft store allow you to do so after creating a developer account. On the other hand, Google Play Store does not allow you to ‘lock up’ a name for an Android app! Google at times allow duplicate names as well. At the same time, Google’s Developer Policy Center has a regulation mentioning “We don’t allow apps that use another app or entity’s brand, title, logo, or name in a manner that may result in misleading users…”,
The golden rule for selecting an app name/title is don’t take your app name/ title lightly, and don’t select a that can be easily confused with an existing app. After all, name is the key to consumers discovering an app and the first impression it will create. The process of clearance should be linked to trademark selection as Apps for healthcare service providers are an integral part of their branding exercise.
In today’s digital-driven environment, as with any other sector, embracing social media for business and marketing has become necessary. Health care organizations, including hospitals, health systems, aggregators, e- pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, patient advocacy groups, and others are using social media for many purposes including
- communicating with the community and patients;
- enhancing organizational visibility;
- marketing products and services;
- running marketing, promotion, and fund-raising campaigns;
- providing a channel for patient education; and
- providing customer service and support.
The Facebook page name is allocated on the basis that it has not already been taken by someone. Further, the policy provides that ‘Usernames’ shouldn’t impersonate someone else.
Before setting up a channel on YouTube it is advisable to search the web in general and YouTube specifically to make sure your channel name isn’t already in use elsewhere. Here are some guidelines provided by YouTube and the don’ts to be followed when selecting a channel name and to avoid any issues with existing channels
- Channels with the same name and image as for another channel, with the only difference being a space inserted into the name or a zero replacing the letter O.
- Using someone else’s real name, username, image, brand, logo, or other personal information to trick people into believing you are that person.
- Exactly matching a channel description to another channel.
- Setting up a channel using the name and image of a person, and then pretending that person is posting content to the channel.
- Setting up a channel using the name and image of a person, and then posting comments on other channels as if they were posted by the person.
- Channels claiming to be a “fan account,” but posing as another’s channel and re-uploading their content.
- Channels impersonating an existing news channel.
Privacy Issues and building brand trust
To sum up
Healthcare companies operate in a competitive environment where branding is becoming more important than ever. Patients have become empowered in the new information age. The well-informed consumers and digital healthcare brands are redefining the healthcare industry both from operational and behavioural aspect. Thus, more than before healthcare companies need to invest in branding to stand out from the crowd and develop meaningful, lasting relationships with their patients.