Medical marketers move online to fool people into paying for dear, needless treatment

By The Beijing News – Global Times Source:The Beijing News – Global Times Published: 2016-1-12 20:53:01

Photo: CFP

 Hospital consulting companies are using social media to lure men into paying for expensive, often unnecessary, treatments at private hospitals that specialize in male health, especially sexual health.

These firms train salespeople to act like medical consultants or even doctors when communicating with people via social networking apps, including WeChat or Tencent QQ and to persuade them to see doctors at private hospitals, Fang Hui (pseudonym), an ex-employee of a Beijing-based hospital consulting firm, told the Beijing Times.

Fang's former employer is part of the Yingcai Hospital Management Group (Yingcai), which claims to be an enterprise that specializes in medical investment, hospital management and clinical medical services on its official website.

Yingcai also owns another hospital consulting company in Beijing and has used the two companies to hire a total of 600 people to pretend to be doctors or consultants to find "patients" for at least 20 private hospitals nationwide that are affiliated to Yingcai. These online marketers operate in some first and second-tier cities and they are now expanding to third-tier cities, according to Fang.

Tricks of the trade

Zhang Lei (pseudonym), a director of Yingcai, said that the consulting companies  train their employees in various methods of selecting "potential patients" and the skills to communicate with them.

They use social networking apps, including WeChat, Tecent QQ, and Momo to find potential patients and use various profile pictures on their accounts to attract different groups of people, Fang said.

A marketer is responsible for running at least 30 accounts on WeChat and Zhang Li (pseudonym), a Yingcai employee, has six phones to run more than 50 accounts at the same time.

Chen Minjia, an employee at a hospital consulting company, said they also use "marketing accounts on QQ" to contact "potential customers," which could add 200 to 300 people to their friend lists each day and send them messages automatically.

Using pictures of beautiful women doctors or nurses can attract men who are seeking affairs and when they start a conversation the marketer will guide the discussion toward health, including sexual health, Zhang Lei said.

The consultant may tell a man that intercourse should last for 15 to 30 minutes and imply that the "patient" suffers from premature ejaculation, while using medical terminology to enhance their credibility.

But several doctors who specialize in male health confirmed that the duration of intercourse varies due to personal experience and the environment.

The marketer then asks the "patient" to hand over his personal information and phone number, and books them an appointment with a doctor at a private hospital that cooperates with the consulting company, said Zhang.

The doctor at the hospitals will then seize the opportunity to induce the duped man to spend as much money as possible to "cure his disease," said Zhang Li.

Lucre for lies

The statistics from one of Yingcai's consulting companies show that it "developed" 949 people for four private hospitals that specialize in male health from March to December 2015.

Marketers earn 1,200 yuan ($182) every time they introduce a patient to a hospital and the average amount a patient pays for treatment is 6,000 yuan in first-tier cities, according to Zhang Lei. In the second-tier cities, a marketer can earn 600 to 700 yuan by "developing a patient" and hospitals make around 3,000 yuan per patient.

Almost all private hospitals are trying to copy this sales technique and online marketers are more sophisticated than the offline ones that were common previously, said Fang.

Yingcai has reportedly worked with four men's health hospitals in Beijing, almost monopolizing the market in the capital.

Yingcai is a member of the Putian (China) Health Industry Chamber of Commerce, a loose association of hospitals in which 98 percent of principal investors hail from the city of Putian in Southeast China's Fujian Province. The Putian association reportedly runs over 8,000 hospitals nationwide and controls more than 70 percent of the country's private hospitals.

The Putian association attracted national attention in April 2015 when many of its hospitals announced a boycott on advertising on the Chinese search engine, Baidu Inc. Baidu asked police to investigate Putian for its possible role in an alleged extortion scheme targeting the search engine's clients.

Newspaper headline: Doctor deceit

Posted in: Society

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