The role of public relations as a tool for achieving effective healthcare management in Nigeria
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY Healthcare is a service to the sick, the mentally and physically incapacitated members of the society who need medical attention and help. This service is provided by health institutions called hospitals, clinics, medical centres, etc. These health institutions are either publicly owned i.e. government hospitals, or privately owned. Other than public hospitals which are supported by the government, private health institutions, i.e. private hospitals and clinics, are business enterprises, which must be properly managed if they must survive, grow and prosper. Weihrich, Cannice, and Koontz (2011) assert that ?the term enterprise refers to a business, government agency, hospital, university, and any other type of organization? (p.5). Like any other enterprise, private hospitals must be managed to generate the revenue and profit for business survival, growth, and expansion. ?Effective management?, according to Weihrich et al. (2011) ?is the concern of the corporation president, the hospital administrator, the government first-line supervisor, the boy scout leader, the church bishop, the baseball manager, and the university president? (p.5). Continuing, Weihrich et al. (2011) say that ?management is the process of designing and maintaining an environment in which individuals working together in groups efficiently accomplish selected aims? (p.4). This definition is supported by the definition of management in 1918 by Mary Parker Follett who defined management as ?the art of getting things done through people? (Holt, 1993, p.3). This is because management according to Drucker (1968) ?is the specific organ of the business enterprise specifically charged with making resources productive, that is with the responsibility for organized economic advance? (p.14), which is the supplies of economic goods and services. In doing this, the business enterprise must produce the profit required to cover its future risks and maintain intact the wealth-producing capacity of its resources (Drucker, 1968). To achieve the required minimum profit, the business enterprise must have a purpose. Drucker says there is only one business purpose: ?to create a customer? (p.52). According to Drucker ?it is the customer who determines what a business is? what the customer thinks he is buying, what he considers value is decisive? (p.53). 1.2 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM: Consumer marketing entails identification of customer wants and needs, and satisfaction of such at a profit. This requires the deployment of the 7P?s of the marketing mix ? product, Price, Place, promotion, People, Process, and physical evidence. But private hospitals are forbidden to use media advertising, which is part of promotion, by the code of medical ethics in Nigeria. The product of a healthcare provider, hospital for example, is medical service; and a medical service is intangible. This intangibility creates a problem. According to Asiegbu, Igwe, and Akekue-Alex (2012) ?intangibility of services poses some serious challenges for marketing. One is that a potential customer cannot examine a service before buying it, so the marketer must provide cues about the qualities and benefits of the service? (p.137). This is because the production of services and their consumption is sKehinde/Public Relations As A Tool For Effective Healthcare Management immediately measurable and forms an instant feedback to company operation. This is the reason in private healthcare service delivery, there is the need for merging the Product, People, Process and Physical evidence so that both medical and nonmedical staff that relate with patients can demonstrate appropriate professional competence, wear the right attitude, use requisite gadgets and adopt appropriate procedure when handling patients. This is even more so as hospitals are forbidden to use media advertising to attract patients. In this way, healthcare service delivery can be tangibilized to provide time, place, form, and psychological utilities that satisfy the goals of both the patient and the healthcare provider (Asiegbu et al., 2012, p.137). 1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The general objective of this study is to examine the role of public relations as a tool for achieving effective healthcare management. However, the specific objectives of the study are: (i) To examine the relationship between good public relations and patients? satisfaction with the way they are attended to at the Ibarapa Polytechnic Health Centre; (ii) To find out the relationship between good public relations and patients patronage retention by the Ibarapa Polytechnic Health Centre. 1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY ABSTRACT The application of public relations to health care marketing is a new phenomenon. Interestingly, readers will find that public relations are not an activity to be left to a particular group of people called public relations practitioners. It is an activity to be embraced by everybody working in any healthcare institution for the achievement of the organization?s objectives. It should also be noted that without good public relations, activities in the marketing area might fail an organization. Accordingly, understanding the role of public relations in any organization is imperative for management and workers. Additionally, it is hoped that findings of this research will be beneficial to other health institutions who have not embraced public relations or who have not understood how it works as they will realize that their un-competitiveness is because of their poor PR. We also hope this study will ginger the federal ministry of health to take steps and urge all medical institutions in Nigeria both private and public to establish public relations departments in their respective organizations. Since healthcare public relations is new and growing, public relations consultants would benefit by widening both their experience and the breadth of their clientele through making foray into this specialized area. The general level of quality health service delivery will also rise as competition intensifies and patients get better healthcare service, which benefits society. 1.5. Research Questions 1. What is the relationship between public relation and health institution management? 2. What role does public relation play in improving the service delivery of health institution in Nigeria? 3. What are the factors inhibiting the effective practice of public relations in health institution? 4. How can public relations practice be enhanced in health institutions? 1.6. SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THIS STUDY Actually, the scope of this study should have been designed to cover various health institutions but due to inadequate resources, the researcher had to use Nigeria health sector as the main unit of analysis. It is a statement of fact that the average Nigerian researcher is constantly faced with a gamut of interacting variables that tend to impede his/her efforts at promoting learning and improving the functional knowledge of people. Consequent upon the foregoing, the researcher also had to contend with some problems which include the following: 1. Inadequate finance – This was perhaps the greatest problem the researcher encountered because it hampered easy movement around the study area. 2. Time constraint – Due to the time limit attached to the submission of this project report, it was impossible for the researcher to cover wider grounds. 3. Indifferent Attitude of Respondents- Some of the respondents exhibited some form of lackadaisical attitude in completing the questionnaires and were reluctant to grant oral interviews. This seems to be a confirmation of an argument by Ene Essien (1979) that ?the main problem associated with the collection of primary data in Nigeria is the reluctance of interviewees to respond to simple questions since such will not put a meal on their tables?. As a result of this, therefore, the researcher had to make conscious efforts to disabuse such respondents? unfounded prejudices in order to get them respond positively.