The Role Of Public Relations In The Marketing Of Hospital Services (A Case Study Of Park-Lane Hospital Enugu)

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The Role Of Public Relations In The Marketing Of Hospital Services (A Case Study Of Park-Lane Hospital Enugu)


Abstract


Public relations as a marketing function is an extension of the societal marketing concept which focuses every marketing decision on customer satisfaction, and welfare of the firms larger public which is designed to enhances the image of the organization in the minds of its various public.

It is the aim of this research work of find out if hospitals do make use of public relations as one of their marketing strategy for customer satisfaction and enhancing the image of the organization in the minds of its public. This research work has five chapters.

Chapter one contains a general discussion of what public relation is all about as has been said by different authors. It went further to state the problems to be studied and why this study was carried out, the scope and limitation of the study, and finally, the proposition and the definition of terms.

For the literature review, a number of past related literature examined by other studies as it relates to the role of public relations in marketing of hospital services are highlighted also.

The third chapter, deals with the design of the study, the method used in collecting relevant data. It equally treat the way the questionnaires were distributed and the treatment of data.

In chapter four, the data got from the research survey were analyzed and interpreted. Also, similar questions on both questionnaires were compared.

Finally, chapter five contains the summary of finding conclusion on the research and recommendations made by the researcher.

For hospitals to enhance the image of their organization in the minds of its public, hospitals should put the recommendation made in this study into use for it will not only satisfy services offered to their customers but a continuous increase in the number of patients that do patronize their hospital and an increase in profit.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Before now, hike in 1960’s public relation practice was not popular, only a few Nigerians knew what public relation was, until the recent past when public relations practice and public relations programmes and activities were considered as the powerful tools for co-ordinating human and business image. The knowledge of public relation diffused fast in Nigerian society because of the economic, social and political programmes of activities were in a state of constant change.

Public relations as marketing function is an extension of the societal marketing concept which focuses every marketing decision on customer satisfaction, and welfare of the firm’s larger public. A relationship between a firm and its numerous public such as customers, employees, and the community at large, which is designed to enhance the image of the organization in the minds of its various public (Engle, Warshow and Kinnear P. 568).

Public relation can improve the image and reputation of a company which according to the institute of public relation as “the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain metal understanding between an organization and it’s public”. As a managerial function according to Philip Kotler (1997: P. 6.71) is involvement of a variety of programme designed to promoter and protect a company’s image or it’s individual product. “According to Canfield (1992: pg. 58) Public relation” is the management function which evaluates public attitude, identities, the policies and procedures of an individual or organization with public interest and executes program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance”.

Kam Affong equally defined public relation as “the process of assessing consumer wants, establishing communication and fostering good will so that consumer wants can be profitably statisfied from the foregoing the hospital management should be capable of assessing and analyzing the wants of their customers, information pass from the hospital to the customer, from customer back, thereby fostering the mutual understanding of both parties. Whether hospitals make use of effective public relations is yet a problem to be unrevealed.

A present women once came to deliver in one of our hospitals and asked the nurse on duty to take her to labour room because she is weak. The nurse replied in a harsh and hostile tore “if you like crawl to the labour room, after all she did not impregnant her”. Some doctors, nurses and staff are sometimes non chavant to patients welfare, harsh to patient, some hospital have recorded the greatest number of death, and some charging exorbitant price, some unqualified personnel, and some demand payment first before treatment. These and many other reasons may be accountable for the preference of one hospital over another. So, hospital management should be conscious of every thing they do because they depend on the public for their profit and should satisfy their consumers. There fore, the management should understand that public relation as a marketing promotional function if practice well will help them to guard their image jealously and maintain favourable relationship between the hospital and its public, there by creating good will for themselves.

“Public relations is too important in a firms total communication and promotional effort to permit it to be either negative and damaging or indifferent to the point where the public know little or what the company is doing, what it stands for and what it is trying to achieve”. (Rom Markins (1979:521) so the hospital should blow it’s trumpet very well “effectively”, and if poorly managed, will find it fruitless to get it’s good will no matter the promotional strategies it adopts. Once the consumer of their services finds out the doctor and nurses do not cater for their interest, they will give up their patronage to another hospital.

There should be constant communication among the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, drug suppliers, patients and the public at large so that, the hospitals good deeds will get to the public and take the credit. The hospitals therefore need not advertise for patients or customers but there area other effective ways of making patients to come to your hospital and that is through public relations.

The historical background of the park lane hospital: The hospital was established in 1930 as a nursing home for colonial masters and in 1952 blacks were allowed to be treated, because it was ment for the whites. In April 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War. It was converted into a general hospital and its expansion started in may at the same year and between 1978 and 1982, the surgical word, eye clinic, pediatric ward, plant house, mortuary and four new blocks of consulting rooms in the OPD were constructed and commissioned.

In 1985, a new phase of development with a 52 bed surgical ward, ante-natal clinic and a maternity ward. Also in August 1999, a school of nursing had been opened to train nurses for Enugu and other states, 5 bungalows were completed in preparation for the accreditation of the hospital for training of house officers. In September 2001, the premises was tarred, and the number of doctors had to be increased to 27 with about seven consultants in all aspect of medicine and in 2003 another building was elevated and yet to be completed and commissioned by the state government.

Administration

The hospital is headed by a medical/chief executive under him are the following units:

  1. The medical doctors
  2. The laboratory unit
  3. The pharmacy unit
  4. The medical records unit
  5. The nursing division
  6. The x-ray unit
  7. The administration and other units

A new patient first goes to the receptionist of the hospital and obtained a card at prescribed fee with the card he/she goes to doctor on duty. After consultations, he/she goes to the dispensary of the pharmacy to buy the prescribed drugs.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

Public relation is in the service industry, and medical doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff which are been produced from our universities may or may not have taken some course in marketing, business administration, psychology and human relations to prepare them at least to identify consumers needs understanding them as hence satisfy them effectively. In this regard, blame for poor public relations practice have been placed on the inadequate training given to these doctors, nurses and other medical staffs.

It is also evident, that the consumers (patients) are becoming more and more knowledgeable, patients have often been complaining of inadequate attention, poor quality of medical services, unreasonable hospital charges and above all, sheer exploitation. Now patients (consumers) now resort to self medication, using of Natural herbs and even sworn never to approach any medical doctor or nurse for help. Our general hospital, has been accused of hoarding drugs and selling them in an open market for a higher profit margin. As a result of this, high incidence of death has been recorded in our hospital, increasing the country’s death rate. This situation has attracted the attention of the researcher who is bent among other things on finding out better ways of satisfying these consumer (patient) and hence improving the hospitals image through public relation.


1.3 Significance of the Study

The most outstanding hope of this study is that it’s findings will be of immense benefit to medical practitioners, students and others who may not have has a course in public relations. The findings are further anticipated to help the park lane general hospital and other practicing managers especially those who are in the hospitals and similar field in seeing the customer as the king. Also, the study will be of tremendous help to the general public, and to organizations in maintaining metal relationship between them and their numerous customers.

The study will also be of immense help to the government in caring out or executing any programme that will effect its people.

Also, the study will be of benefits to the customers in maintaining good relationship with the organizations that renders services to them. This will enhance understanding between the organization (hospital) and it’s customers.

Moreover, readers of this research will also benefit from it. This will help enlightening them on the roles and importance of public relation in our society.

The study will also be of immense value to the researcher because it will make her to know more of what she did not know before conducting the research work. The researcher will also use this work as a reference whenever the need arises.


1.4 Objectives of the Study

  1. To find out the level of attention given to patients in our hospital.
  2. To examine the efforts which the hospitals are making to see that good relation is created and sustain between them and their patients.
  3. To find out whether the hospitals have good relationship with the publics.
  4. To create adequate awareness of this hospital.
  5. To ensure arouse interest of the consumers (patients)
  6. To stimulate or create action among the consumers (patients)
  7. To help in satisfaction of the consumer and thereby leading to profitability of the organization.

1.5 Scope of the Study

The study centers on one hospital “park lane general hospital at G.R.A. Enugu. However, the study was carried out in Enugu metropolis to enable the researcher get adequate infacts and come up with a dependable solution to the problem.


1.6 Definition of Terms

Paramedical Staff:

This refers to other staffs in the hospital apart from doctors and nurses that helps in running and providing services to their consumers (patients).

Societal marketing:

According to )P. Kotler) is a management orientation aimed at generating customer satisfaction and long-run consumer and public welfare as the key to satisfying organizational goals and responsibilities.

It talks on satisfying customers and company needs, the organization must preserve and enhance the well being of the society.

Marketing Mix

It is the term used to describe the combination of the four variable, which constitute the core of a company marketing system i.e. the price, product, promotional activities, and the distribution system (place).


Chapter Five


Discussion of the Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations

5.1 Introduction

This chapter provided a discussion of the findings, conclusions. and recommendations of the study based on the analysis of the research data presented in chapter four.

Study had set out to examine the role public relations play in the management of health organizations in Kenya with Park-Lane Hospital as a case study.


5.2 Discussion of the Findings

Management’s Views on the Role of PR

Park-Lane Hospital Managers in the study sample were aware about the important tole PR play in an organization. 87% of the respondents indicated that PR was very important in an organization- Seital (1987) states that for a hospital to succeed in its objectives; it has to be properly “positioned” through well thought out PR efforts, With regards to the tole PR plays in an organization, the management respondents enumerated key roles of PR to an organization as: To protect and improve the Hospital’s image, make the hospital’s services known to the publics and for the hospital to understand its publics, The data gathered therefore shows that the hospital’s management was not in the dark about the role public relations play in an organization.

Communication with Publics

Relations activities are aimed at carefully selected groups of people who are subdivisions of the greater general public (Jet*ins 1998). At Park-Lane Hospital, management respondents indicated that the organization had put in place techniques to communicate with both internal and external publics. From the study, it was revealed that newsletters, meetings and telephone were the most preferred methods that management utilized in communicating to employees.

100% of the management respondents indicated that the organization conducts induction training to new employees. The purpose of these induction courses was to introduce the new employees to the organization’s goals. principles and vision, This view was corroborated by employees in the study sample who concurred that the induction courses they received assisted them in their work at the hospital.

From management respondents also indicated that they utilized reports, bulletin boards, church gatherings and conferences to communicate with external publics.

Place and Position of PR at Park-Lane Hospital

In order for PR to play its proper function in an organization, it is prudent for that organization to place PR at the core of all its activities. A company cannot decide whether or not it will have public relations since it is omnipresent and ubiquitous in all a company’s activities (Black 1972). One of the objectives of this study was to identify the place and function of PR at Park-Lane Hospital From the study, all the six management respondents indicated that PR is a management function. This concurs with Robinson (1966) who states that a public relations practitioner is part of the management team of the organization he is associated. The management of Park-Lane Hospital recognized the importance of PR to an organization especially when it is recognized and placed in the tight position in the organization

There seemed to be confusion about whether there were PR personnel at the hospital.

Some management respondents thought that the Executive Director, the Human Resources Director, Receptionists and secretaries were the PR at the hospital. Black (1972) indicates that even though the management team has corporate PR responsibility i.e each director is capable of handling elements of PR applicable to his field, However, it is more efficient to leave public relations to the professional extract. thus permitting the other directors to concentrate on their own spheres of work, study concluded that there were no professional PR personnel at Park-Lane Hospital. This was augmented by the fact that the hospital’s organizational structure lacked a PR department,

PR Planning, Coordination, Budgeting, Monitoring and Evaluation

It is the duty of the PR manager in an organization to plan, organize, staff, direct, coordinate, report and budget for the PR department. Public relations will analyze and interpret issues that might impact the operations and plans of the organization (Basavanthappa 2005, Baran 2004). The Data gathered from the Park-Lane Hospital management in the sample study indicated that the hospital lacked a PR policy and plan, organization did not set PR objectives. This was despite that the hospital was engaged in numerous PR activities which included: Free and subsidized medical outreaches in the neighboring communities, production and distribution of annual reports, calendars, brochures. and religious tracts; Collaboration with smaller health facilities in the region. Collaboration with the government, Nursing Council and a host of donors among other PR activities,

For lack of a PR department, the responsibility of planning and coordinating PR activities fell in the hands of the individual department responsible for a particular activity. Thisled to conflicts and blame-shifting in case an activity was not successful

Even though 50% of the respondents indicated that there was a PR budget, the other 50% of the management respondents indicated that there was none or uere not aware of a PR budget- Since issues like budgeting of an organization’s activities are assumed to be issues of discussion in management meetings, it was the conclusion of this study that ‘here was no set budget for PR activities.

PR activities in the organization were to be monitored by the Chief Executive and the management team. However, the lack of a particular office to monitor these activities may point to the fact that some activities lacked monitoring to ensure their effectiveness. of the management in the study sample indicated that they were not aware of PR activities evaluation. Evaluation of any program is expected to be done before the onset of the activity. at the middle and after it has been concluded, Evaluation will ensure that mistakes, errors and omissions made in an activity are not repeated in following activities(Mulwa 2006).

Employees Views on Management-Employee Communication

Of the employees who formed the study sample, 62.5% had worked for the Park-Lane Hospital for a period of less than five years. This concurred with what was stated at the phase of this study that there was a notable high employee turnover at Park-Lane Hospital.

100% of employee respondents indicated that they had received induction raining upon employment, they were not regularly briefed on the hospital’s intended activities and changes. They were also not informed of the part they were to play in those activities and changes, To promote a positive external PR, an organization must have a sound internal PR. Employees form the most important constituent Of any organization their goodwill is of paramount importance for the organization to succeed.

Jackson (2002) indicate that employees want to know the direction the organization is headed; why it is heading that way and the role they have to play towards that particular direction.

This study concluded that some of the failures of PR activities at Park-Lane Hospital could be attributed to the management’s failure to involve employees in the process of decision making and implementation of the hospital ‘s programs.

Majority Of the employees sampled indicated that management-employee communication strategies at Park-Lane Hospital were largely ineffective. This was attributed to a lack of a perorally formulated employee communication strategy at the hospital.

Clients’ Views on Park-Lane Hospital’s Image

From the sampled clients who formed part of the study, Park-Lane Hospital did not utilize the mass media (television, radio and newspapers) to make its presence known to the external publics. 60% of the sampled clients had heard about Park-Lane Hospital from friends and relatives. 10% were hospital neighbors and 30% were referrals from other hospitals,

The clients also not satisfied with the pace of treatment at the hospital. Staff that came into contact with the clients also lacked training in customer care. Only 7% of the sampled clients thought that reception at the hospital was excellent. However, the hospital remained a favorite of the majority of the sampled clients since from the data gathered, 79% indicated that they would refer Other people to Park-Lane Hospital- Thig meant that if PR was well organized and approached in a professional manner, the hospital would have improved its reputation and image and therefore it would have attracted a larger clientele-


5.2 Conclusions

The main objective of this study was to examine the role PR plays in the management of Park-Lane Hospital. From the findings, it was established that:

  1. The role of PR at the hospital was not well defined.
  2. Even though the hospital was engaged in numerous PR activities, there lacked a PR department to adequately handle these activities.
  3. Without professional PR personnel at the hospital, the task of handling PR was left in the hands of individual managers responsible for an activity.
  4. These managers lacked capacity in PR management, PR was therefore disorganized. done in an ad hoc basis and haphazardly approached.
  5. The hospital lacked a PR plan and policy. Thus planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of PR activities were poorly done.
  6. With no established tools for monitoring and evaluation. the success of a PR activity was gauged by the number of complaints arising out of the activity.
  7. There lacked specific goals for PR activities. The success of the activities could therefore not be measured for lack of benchmarks to refer to.
  8. Even though the hospital was in constant touch with various publics, it lacked a communication strategy to reach out to these publics. this meant that the publics found it hard to understand the organization.
  9. PR played an important role in the management of Park-Lane Hospital but it was not well defined and structured as a strategic management tool.

5.3 Recommendations

In order for Park-Lane Hospital to remain relevant to it various publics, the following recommendations were made,’
There is an urgent need for Park-Lane Hospital to establish a PR and Communication department. The department should be staffed with professional PR personnel to handle PR issues at the hospital.

The department thus established will be headed by a Public Relations and Communications Director who will sit in management meetings and report directly to the Executive Director. The person will be the link between the organization and its various publics and will come up with a PR policy document to guide all PR activities at the organization.

The department will carry out regular research among the hospital’s publics to determine the needs of these publics, It will also set up proper communication techniques for the success of the hospitals PR and communications campaigns, department will be responsible for protecting and improving the hospital’s image, identify PR challenges and look for opportunities that will create a niche for the hospital for the success of the organization, department will plan, coordinate, direct, budget. monitor and evaluate all PR activities. nurse activities will have set objectives that tally with the hospital’svision and objectives.


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