Why Your Hospital Marketing Needs a Mobile Strategy and How to Get Started

mobile marketing for hospitalsThe tools of hospital marketing are always adapting to the nearly ubiquitous Internet, but if you don’t already have a mobile strategy, you’re going to need one. The reason: The smartphone is a small and highly mobile computer that puts the Internet into nearly everyone’s pocket.

A Mobile Strategy? When healthcare marketing budgets are tight and resources are stretched, who needs “one more thing?” Perhaps you already have a mobile strategy, and if that’s the case, you can grow from there. But if you’re on the sidelines looking for justification, take a few quiet moments to digest the following numbers.

Internet access is already a mainstream fact of life for most American households. But the Internet-once heavily anchored to a desktop in the family room-left the building ages ago via portable laptop. And now, even a notebook computer is not as close, convenient and immediate as a smartphone.

About one third (35 percent) of American adults, says the Pew Internet Project, own smartphones. (We wonder if that isn’t a conservative finding.) The numbers run even higher in upscale and educated demographic groups.

What’s more, some 87 percent of smartphone owners access the Internet or email on their handheld, according the Pew report. The smartphone is becoming the device of choice for going online-25 percent of users mainly use the smartphone.

Doctors are at the front of the mobile revolution. Today, nearly 65 percent of physicians use smartphones, according to Manhattan Research, with nearly all of them (95 percent) going online for clinical content. By 2012, physician smartphone adoption is expected to reach 81 percent penetration and about half of this group will expand the use their devices to include administrative functions, learning and patient care.

Within the next two years, half of all web traffic will be from mobile devices. And by the end of the decade, mobile devices will be the primary connecting point for the Internet, experts predict. We’re talking about smartphones (iPhone being one of the leaders of the pack), as well as the new wave of tablet devices (where iPad is a big hit). The social media phenomenon-including Facebook and Twitter-is increasingly accessed from mobile devices.

Six questions to help you start thinking mobile.

Get started on a new or revised hospital marketing mobile strategy with the help of these six questions. Everyone’s plan will take a different shape, but here are some challenge questions to begin the process.

  • Have you seen yourself as others do? Are you communicating on the small screen? View your online marketing and communications through the lens of a smartphone. (Better yet, use several different makes and models of mobile devices.) The popular Apple iPhone 4 screen is 3.5 inches, while the Samsung Infuse 4G-also highly rated-presents a 4.5 inch screen. Is your healthcare mobile media optimized?

Review your hospital blog, your hospital Facebook page, your Twitter profile/picture or logo, enewsletter and/or email, and all other online communications. If your website is a few years old-before the rise of mobile’s popularity-it’s time to rebuild or start over with mobile viewers in mind. Let us know if you’d like a candid website review.

  • What mobile-friendly features or services does your audience want or need? Many hospitals are beginning to flex their digital marketing messaging using online and mobile technology to communicate with their various publics. What does the public/prospective patients want that could be added now or in the future? You may want to survey the crowd.

Some examples-for now or soon-include website and text messaging of hospital ER and department waiting times; text reminders about medications; exercise or smoking cessation support; mother and family (neonatal) programs; and medical appointment and follow-up reminders.

  • Do you need to create and distribute hospital or program apps? Maybe not. Smartphones use medical and health apps, with some devoted to a particular need such as a diet, exercise and weight reduction regimen. The cost of creating one or more custom apps for a hospital may not be practical for small audiences or localized purposes.
  • Are you using QR codes? Now that many smartphones have Quick Response code readers, QR codes are claiming a spot on print and other healthcare marketing materials. The boxy code links to a mobile webpage. An app can be added to smartphones if the QR reader is not pre-installed, as it is with many new mobile devices.
  • Thought about mobile advertising? Approach cautiously. Delivering ads via smartphones and mobile applications seems like it would be a winner with a highly targeted medical advertising. But surprisingly, this sector hasn’t taken off as rapidly as other channels. Give us a call before you buy into mobile advertising.
  • Is your healthcare mobile strategy flexible? Technology, it seems, moves at the speed of light, and there’s always something new on the horizon. Is your mobile strategy ready to accommodate inevitable change? Does your mobile strategy allow for location-based mobile apps and marketing, video chat, video sharing, multilingual messaging, interactive games or other likely advances? How can your mobile strategy support your hospital’s strategic plan in the next one, three and five years?

We’re here to help, so let us know what you see by looking at your hospital marketing through a 4.0 inch mobile display.

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Lonnie Hirsch

Lonnie Hirsch

Director, Hospital Division at Healthcare Success Strategies
Lonnie has consulted for over 2,000 health care clients during his 20-year career, and co-founded Healthcare Success Strategies with Stewart Gandolf. He writes for many healthcare publications, and also has spoken at hundreds of venues nationally. Today, Lonnie leads our hospital division.
Lonnie Hirsch
Lonnie Hirsch

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