Digital marketing for good health
Considering that it is winter, a couple of sniffles and a runny nose aren’t usually out of place. What really is a surprise is the instant urge to reach out to a smartphone or a tablet and quickly Google the symptoms – runny nose, sneezing, so on and so forth. Within a matter of seconds, you have before you a possible list of diseases that could be ailing you based on the symptoms you entered in the search request. When digital marketing soothsayers predicted that mobile phones would take over the world, they weren’t kidding!
The foray of smartphones and social media into healthcare, though recent, has gained massive following. In fact, it has almost become second nature for people to research ailments on social media before consulting their doctors. According to this article on Mashable, “A study compiled by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group shows that more than 90% of people ages 18-24 said they would trust health information they found on social media channels. One in two adults use their smartphone to look-up health information.”
What’s more – healthcare services are also being reviewed online like all other service offerings. The aforementioned article on Mashable stated that “44% of people said they would share positive or negative experiences of a hospital or medical facility, and 42% said they wouldn’t hesitate to post comments about a doctor, nurse or healthcare provider on social media.”
Can hospitals and healthcare professionals afford to be far behind then? That would be just plain silly. In fact, over 60% of doctors believe that the quality of patient care is enhanced through social media. In this article, Dr Claire McCarthy talks about why healthcare really needs a boost with social media. To begin with, social media fosters relationships which are essential not only as a preventive wellness measure but also as a strong communication opportunity between doctors and patients. Secondly, social media’s propensity to provide real-time information helps in multiple ways such as constant monitoring of patient progress, gathering data for research and receiving alerts about disease outbreaks in different parts of the world. Clearly, more information means more power for healthcare professionals.
There have been quite a few instances of successful social media adoption by hospitals and doctors with private practices. The most prominent noteworthy of which was the MayoClinic which began with podcasts in 2005. In a couple of years, it moved on to create a presence on Facebook, then Twitter and began blogging as well. MayoClinic feels that this way they make physicians, researchers and experts accessible to a larger audience. Among private practitioners, one particularly interesting instance involved a surgeon tweeting about how he removed a tumor using a laparoscopic procedure. For him, Twitter was a much faster of publishing his findings when compared to traditional publishing of research papers.
There are, of course, the predictable challenges that hospitals and healthcare professionals face vis-à-vis taking their discipline online:
- There is a lot of “medical” advice on the internet, a lot of which is dubious in terms of credibility. The challenge for healthcare professionals, then, is to break through the sea of exaggerated lies and provide genuine pearls of expertise
- The legal consequences of divulging confidential medical information on a public forum by is a big no-no for healthcare professionals. This means that they must always be on guard to ensure that they don’t transgress the rules.
- The security aspect of patient portals is highly desirable and extremely crucial. Medical professionals need to keep this in mind while building a digital identity for their practice/institution.
However, all the caveats considered, more and more healthcare professionals are taking to the internet. Amongst social networks the most preferred are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and dedicated blogs in that particular order.
When it comes to smartphone applications, the healthcare industry is growing from strength to strength with newer, revolutionary methods of diagnosis and preventive wellness programs. Smartphone applications can now do a whole range of activities such as check blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar levels and more. The process usually works with the purchase of monitoring equipment (such as a blood pressure cuff) that can be plugged into iPhones, iPads or iPod touch. With the help of free apps, these equipments measure your well-being, maintain electronic records and even let you e-mail reports to your doctors.
The benefits of mobile health management tools are manifold.
- Facilitation of greater access to care for both physicians and patients
- Healthcare institutions enjoy much lower admin costs owing to easier processes such as data collection
- Patients enjoy a decrease in healthcare costs as they will be constantly aware of their health conditions which will encourage better preventive measures which in turn will lead to reduced hospital stays
As of September 2012, there were close to 40,000 mobile health apps available for tablets and smartphones according to the online health care education portal AlliedHealthWorld.com. Around 15% of the mobile health applications were downloaded by users between the ages of 18 and 29 whereas only 5% of those over the age of 60 had downloaded them. However, the growth in revenue brought by mobile healthcare applications is expected to exponential. This infographic demonstrates how in the US, smartphone apps are expected to bring revenue of approximately $11 billion dollars, a staggering increase from $1.2 billion earned in 2011.
Integrating such measures into healthcare practices is a great idea and must be considered for institutions that want to stay ahead of the curve when tending to their patients. However, execution is important. It is crucial to understand the needs of the target group and formulate ways in which their requirements can be best served with utmost operational efficiency and reduced costs. Creating such strategies requires a holistic analysis of the situation along with expertise to execute the right options. Here’s an example of how a healthcare provider enjoyed improvements in operational efficiency through careful strategizing and launch of a powerful mobile application.
Mobile health management tools have even captured the fancy of the young through gamification of health. Using apps that challenge participants to team up and improve well-being and fitness levels, marketers and healthcare professionals improve quality of life while encouraging the competitive spirit. So if you thought you could escape the digital marketing revolution in the healthcare arena, chances are you could be gravely mistaken.