Mobile and Healthcare: the big opportunity

Google may have just killed off one of its most ambitious projects to date, Google Health (which essentially sought to remake healthcare delivery for the Web age);  but this action is far from indicative of a quiet but growing bold, new digital transformation-of-sorts taking place within the healthcare industry.

While experts cite Google’s backtracking of its healthcare project due mainly to a lack of its internal focus; certain stakeholders in other areas are actually beginning to examine new strategies – particularly across mobile –   with laser-like intensity, ushering in what could soon become one of the largest digital business and cultural opportunities of this decade.

The trick, however, will be in developing and applying the right approach.

But to understand where one is going, one has to first understand; as they say, where you have been.

Prior to recent months, the healthcare/pharmaceutical industry had been essentially lethargic in terms of recognising and adopting the paradigm shift that other industries have confronted and profited from in the last few year or two.  And it was a quite curious pace given factors ranging from that of healthcare ranking as the number 3 most popular on-line activity after email and search (across generations) to the consistent increase of smartphone penetration in this country.  Physicians who were early adopters of such digital platforms are now united with the wealth of consumers who are poised and ready for greater healthcare engagement via the mobile front, yet they are basically left to stand marking time as the industry works to move through sporadic and somewhat unimaginative approaches to date.

Interestingly enough, this void of implementation coincides simultaneously with changes in the pharmaceutical industry ranging from the rise of more cost-efficient generic drugs (threatening revenue) to limited physical access to physicians (threatening marketing capability).  Thus it seems to be an ideal time to off-set some of these challenges by utilising mobile devices particularly since the platform affords a true opportunity to directly engage with HCP’s and patients not only to increase brand awareness and sales but simultaneously to effect a revolution in improvement upon patient therapy adherence and broader societal health education overall.  Just imagine a stronger more productive nation as a result of empowering consumers with compelling education, explanation and information about their bodies!

However,  the mix of mobile and healthcare is not without its challenges given both arenas operate within unique regulatory environments.  But one of the greatest challenge just may be within the healthcare industry itself, for at the same time great opportunity exists there also exists a vital need to push through the perception that mobile is simply a stand-alone tool, an add-on.  Far greater, it’s about using the technology as an integration point and work to:

  • capitalise more effectively on mobile web by focusing on design and content to encourage regular visits and, thereby, interaction
  • create more engaging mobile SMS campaign (and leverage SMS capability at HCP conferences) to build mobile databases
  • extend mobile applications for health monitoring (noting that this action can not only serve as a marketing tool for driving consumers to mobile Web but can even become a new revenue source, itself)
  • distribute QR tags for clinical trial recruitment in a unique way
  • associate with new but parallel communities across to better educate through lifestyle envelopment

….and more.

The benefits?  Of course, spend is reduced and  patient results can be improved through better heightened communication.

While several companies have made attempts at using such emerging techniques to create success metrics, the next step just may be adjusting executive management perspective a bit further.  The healthcare industry will need to shape its communication in a more contemporary and dare we say, entertaining manner, if it actually wants to keep its brands top-of-mind and create breakthroughs in education messaging.

Further, given the unique one-to-one messaging capability afforded with mobile, the one-size fits all approach that is currently prevalent in healthcare messages across digital platforms is a particular deterrent in the progress of this potentially powerful movement. Companies that succeed in  communicating  in an organic manner tailored for various demographics will be those that win.

We stand upon the threshold of change in healthcare as it pertains to digital communication. But to reap the full business benefits; it will be about engaging, listening and analysing across mobile in ways which have never been imagined.  Those challenges met, our society will then be able to actually move to a new levels in healthcare through the power of a little thing called mobile. And we’re only now at just the tip of that iceberg of opportunity.

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