By Jenn Riggle
QR or “Quick Response” codes have been around for a while, but they’ve only recently gained mainstream acceptance and seem to be popping up everywhere – on store displays, book covers and hospital newspaper ads. In fact, a new study from Mobio Identity Systems, the company that developed the Mobio app for Android and iPhone, reported that QR code use is up 1200 percent in the past six months.
The thing that makes QR codes so attractive is their simplicity and low cost. Marketers can create a code with one of the free QR code generators and insert it into their marketing materials, whether they’re community newsletters, brochures, direct mail pieces, newspaper ads or billboards – essentially inserting a website link into the copy. The code serves as a hyperlink in printed material. People simply scan the code with their phone’s reader to activate the link.
And people are using their phones for more than talking or texting to friends. With 17 percent of Americans having smartphones, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 29 percent of Millennials feel comfortable using their smartphones to find health information. This number is going to continue to grow, so it’s important for hospitals to remember that for some, smartphones are serving the role that used to be held by a PC.
QR codes help simplify one of the biggest marketing challenges hospitals face – how to break down their silos and integrate social media with their ongoing marketing efforts. For example, a hospital can:
- Link a newsletter article about its cardiac services to a YouTube video of one of its physicians explaining a new cardiac procedure
- Include a link to the hospital’s find-a-doctor tool in a direct mail piece about its primary care physicians
- Place a code on a billboard for the hospital’s sleep program that links to its website for more information about sleep apnea.
One hospital, TriStar Health System in Nashville, recently announced that it will begin incorporating a QR code in its Fast ER Wait Times campaign to link consumers to information about the average emergency room wait times at hospitals in Middle Tennessee. This puts real-time information in people’s fingertips when time matters most.
But if QR codes are the bridge between the real and digital world, hospitals need to think carefully about where they want people to go. Ideally, they should follow the advice of Pete Townsend and “Go Mobile,” directing people to a mobile-friendly version of popular sections of their website.
The good news is that more and more hospitals are developing mobile-friendly webpages. For example, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia launched a content-rich mobile site late last year that helps people use their smartphones to:
- Find the address and directions to Jefferson’s three Emergency Departments
- Choose a doctor that’s right for them by using the easy to navigate “Find a Doctor” function
- Make an appointment by connecting to 1-800-JEFF-NOW
- View a map that provides walking and driving directions to all campus locations
- Find out the hospital’s visiting hours, as well as information on Jefferson’s departments, services and programs
- Locate nearby restaurants, hotels, shops and attractions
The basic idea is to give people the information they need, when they need it. By creating QR codes that link to their mobile or social sites, hospitals can efficiently face their industry’s marketing challenges and maintain a competitive edge to reach their consumers.