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Hospital in malls?

Is it better to have the health care facilities right inside malls?
By Entrepreneur Staff |

Shopping malls seem like the worst place for a medical emergency to happen. Imagine rushing someone to the hospital— but first, you need to get to the parking area, find the exit and negotiate traffic. That would be one nightmare of an emergency.

But just like putting an eraser right at the top of a pencil, placing health care clinics or specialty clinics inside commercial areas like malls is a stroke of genius. It is no longer uncommon to find medical establishments in malls.

“Not only medical clinics, there are also dental clinics, physical therapy clinics, laboratories, and others that are based in malls,” says Dr. Anna Marie Diaz, clinical operations manager for health care firm Fortune Care’s Shaw Boulevard (Pasig City) and SM Megamall (Mandaluyong City) branches.

Not only does having clinics in malls make health care more accessible, it also makes it less intimidating. On your way to your health provider, you are not confronted by the sterile disinfected smell of hospital corridors, but rather the scents “of shopping and brewed coffee” as it helps temper “hospital phobias,” notes Dr. Nilda Shattock, a Filipina pediatric specialist now based in the United Kingdom.

Unlike traditional stand-alone clinics set up by doctors for their private practice, mall-based clinics would have some of the vital services available in mainstream hospitals such as diagnostic services, says Dr. Charmagne Anne Sunico, a retainer physician for health-care firm Intellicare.

Diagnostic services include laboratory work, CT scans, ultrasound, endoscopy, and even minor surgery and dialysis— perfect for pre-employment medical checkups that could be required by businesses within the mall itself. Almost everything a hospital provides is included except confinement, because malls do have to close at night, after mall hours.

Diaz doesn’t see medical commercialization as a bad thing, as it leads to competition—which then leads to these clinics outdoing each other in terms of quality service and competitive pricing. Thus, for a mall-based health clinic commercial viability and quality services have to go hand in hand. “You can’t have one without the other,” says Diaz. “For any business to succeed, you always have to maintain high standards in the delivery of any service, health care included. You have to have qualified, competent, professional medical staff, and since we are in the era of commercialization, they not only have to be qualified, they also have to be well-versed in customer care, knowing the needs of the customer and striving to provide not merely satisfactory service, but excellent, even legendary service. That’s our mantra in Fortune Care, to always try to go the extra mile in anticipating and providing what the customer needs.”

Obviously, setting up a medical business from scratch would require some hefty capitalization, such as the resources of established hospitals and healthcare companies. Initial assets in this line of business do not just include waiting rooms and equipment. A constant investment must be made in training and retraining the medical staff, and getting licenses and certification in administering certain treatments (like, say, dermatology). Still, some doctors may pool their resources together to have a small practice of their own, set in malls as well. Doctors Diaz, Shattock and Sunico agree that the prospect of setting up shop amid such a large volume of people is too great an opportunity to miss.

Like in any market competition, cutting edge is the name of the game. Beyond the general medical care people have come to associate with hospital care, commercial health care plays a neck-and-neck race of who has the latest training, equipment and breakthrough procedures—and what better way to make it known than through advertising.

Before, doctors and medical professionals had their reputation, track record and referrals to go on for attracting patient-clients. Nowadays, through advertising, anyone can claim credibility in performing procedures and their efficacy—with the right packaging, endorsement and graphic displays such as billboards and print ads.

That’s why it pays for client-patients to shop around before undergoing any treatment—and for entrepreneurs in medical businesses to have the credentials to back up their claims (or face possible malpractice raps), warns Diaz. “Unlike other commodities, where a consumer can just demand for a refund if they are not satisfied, the consequences for bad medical services are more dire—anywhere from disfiguring to fatality,” says the Fortune Care doctor.

This article was originally published in the April 2011 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines.

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