The Affordable Care Act brought with it many changes. Most noticeable was the shift into consumer-based healthcare. This kind of shift wasn’t particular to the healthcare industry. Over the last decade, innovations in the digital realm have allowed businesses to reach consumers over a variety of channels, day and night. So much more has become available to buyers than ever before. With the ever advancing digital marketplace, most of it could be purchased from the comfort of home with the click of a mouse.
What does it all boil down to? The power is not in the hands of the salesman, or business owner. It’s in the hands of the consumer. One might say the power is literally in their hands, as many of the transactions described above are executed with handheld cellular devices (fancy for cell phones…). They are, in fact, a highly preferred avenue for purchasing, making payments, and booking appointments, and are vital to on-the-spot research and decision making.
To bring it full-circle, the consumer is at the center of all healthcare services, and a streamlined, positive digital experience makes a big impact in their decision making process. Mobile Health (also referred to as mHealth) has steadily been on the rise, and will only continue to grow.
Be accessed everywhere
Many people are, in general, plugged in almost everywhere. While most mobile use takes place in the home, usage is on the rise everywhere from workplaces, to restaurants, to bus stops. Operating systems of popular cell phones are capable of certain things a common PC simply is not. During slow periods, long lines, or times of boredom, people choose to fill their empty minutes with mobile browsing. They may even use these minutes to research physicians in their general area, make appointments with said physicians, or even try and pay for services they’ve already received…
By now, you’re practice has an appealing and accessible website (or it had better, considering how much we harp about this). But is it mobile-friendly? If not, it needs to be optimized for mobile access. Going forward, such sites will be more favorably indexed in search engines like Google. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it will soon see a decrease in rankings and you can lose potential patients who carry out an online search before visiting a physician. Speaking to that last point, yes—a great number of patients do use online searches prior to their visit. In addition to search-engine anonymity, failure to implement mobile-friendly content can also negatively affect your practice’s reputation online.
Reach them anytime, anywhere
Patients can and should be reached through e-mail and social media. But as we mentioned above, there is a limit to what a PC or laptop can do, and to what it can offer marketers. Mobile channels, however, utilize an array of important features such as push notifications, SMS, and geo-location service. Then there is, of course, the convenience of being able to use mobile applications and internet services any place we want.
Smart Phone usage and sales will continue to rise in the coming year, and mHealth app use is expected to rise along with it. This is tremendous news for private medical practices looking to expand their patient base. Where there has been a significant uptick in health services for baby boomers and early Gen Xers over the last several years due mostly to age, physicians can now expect to target much younger demographics. Why is this, exactly? It’s simple: smart phone use is highest among 18-35 year-olds.
Making a strategy
So let’s assume your website is mHealth compatible. Good. But what about the rest of your practice? Can patients schedule appointments on their mobile devices, receive push notifications, or make payments? Are they able to set up a chat with someone on your staff to learn more about your practice? In a previous post, we discussed the benefits of remote patient monitoring, and its ability to help physicians treat chronic illnesses. mHealth also makes possible various telemedicine services such as video consulting, or access to nurse lines after hours.
What services should you offer? The answer is whatever the majority of your patients seem to want. You can find this out simply by asking them, or by linking your practice’s website to various third party survey tools. Once you know what these services are, you must decide what is both practical and affordable for your practice in the long run. Figure out how much room there is in your budget, as well as the resources you need to help you accomplish your mHealth goals.
| HCRC Staffing | Brian@hcrcstaffing.com | www.hcrcstaffing.com