By Jenn Riggle
The popularity of the iPhone and Droid phones are being driven by people’s desire for features and functionalities – and for easy-to-use mobile apps. Physicians, like everyone else, want to have information at their fingertips, which is why they’ve been so quick to adopt the iPhone (and now the iPad).
It’s clear people want to access information on the go. Now hospitals need to find a way to make it happen.
And while many hospitals have blocked their staff from accessing social media sites via their PCs, they’ve found they can get around the barricade by using their smartphones.
To meet this demand for mobile technology, a California hospital recently purchased 100 iPads to replace laptops to help its clinicians check e-mail – as well as X-ray images, EKG results and patient monitoring programs.
There are also a handful of hospitals, including Mayo Clinic, that have developed mobile apps to make it easier for consumers to access health information (while also increasing their mindshare).
But hospitals shouldn’t despair. They don’t need to develop an app in order to have a mobile strategy. Here are some things they should think about:
Mobile-Friendly Website: While mobile apps are great, they are designed for people who have smartphones, like iPhones, which only reach 25 percent of the population. Instead, hospitals should develop a mobile-friendly website that can be easily viewed by Internet-enabled mobile phones, with simply graphics, larger type, etc. More and more, people are going to the Internet for health information. And if they’re using their mobile phone to search the Net, your website needs to be easily viewed by a smartphone.
QR or “Quick Response” Codes: I like to think of these as providing an evolutionary path to mobile apps. QR codes are like the bar codes you see on products you purchase the store, except these square codes can be read by a QR reader you install on your smartphone and link you directly to a mobile-friendly web page. These are a great way to provide additional information, but don’t require that people remember a complicated URL.
Even though QR codes have been around since 1994, they still haven’t become mainstream because cell phones don’t come equipped with QR code readers – and the ones that I’ve downloaded onto my BlackBerry aren’t very reliable. However, Blackberry Messenger 5.0 includes a QR reader, so this may be the first step toward the readers being pre-installed on cell phones. Once this happens, I think you’ll see more of these square codes popping up on marketing materials, billboards and T-shirts, taking the place of URLs.
Electronic Medical Records (EMR): The Obama Administration has made the adoption of electronic medical records a major priority, and it appears they may also help hospitals fully integrate a mobile strategy. Most of the major EMR vendors now allow clinicians to use their smartphones to access their systems, even if it’s via the Web. And according to Barry Runyon, a research vice president at Gartner Inc., there are new client applications designed for smartphones that give users direct access to these systems. For example, EMR vendor Epic Systems released its iPhone Haiku earlier this year and is developing Canto, a native app for the iPad. This integration will become easier as client interfaces become easier to use and smartphone manufacturers continue to improve screen resolution and boost memory.
Hospital Lab and Billing: A recent survey of NCR Corp. reported that half of U.S. consumers would like to be able to use their mobile devices to manage their healthcare accounts and pay bills online. In addition, 60 percent would like to pre-register for appointments and receive lab results online via their mobile phone.
Marketers have always been focused on creating the right message. But in the world of social media, it’s becoming clear that the medium is as important as the message.