The Impact of Mobile on Healthcare

A few months back, I was sitting in the emergency room with my parents when the ER doctor asked my mother, “what other medications is he on?” referring to my father. As she scrambled to search for the lengthy list, I wondered, two things: why aren’t all his multiple medical records linked digitally yet? and why rely on a piece of paper, when her phone is in her lap? This experience was a personal reminder of the impact and opportunities presented by mHealth (Mobile Health) which is becoming a central focus for
the health care industry.

Widespread adoption of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) among patients, caregivers and Health Care Professionals (HCPs) presents a unique opportunity to impact patient care and influence positive outcomes. The technical power, potential and the intimacy attached to this screen demands
new rules, solutions and thinking from brands as to how they view their roles in developing solutions and applications for healthcare.

Mobile devices are obviously used for entertainment, connection and education. They are increasingly being used to track health-related behavior, such as exercise, weight loss, blood pressure and calorie intake. Significantly, they are also being used by HCPs for professional purposes – in between or during patient consultations for information and diagnoses.

The mHealth (Mobile Health) industry is exploding with developers and publishers proposing solutions for patients and caregivers utilizing the power and personalization of mobile. Yet many marketers are in the early stages of developing purpose-built solutions for these devices, or just dipping their toes
into advertising on mobile. It is time for pharma marketers to start keeping up with our customers! The content being consumed, search behavior, and app interactions are unique to each device. So, a “one size fits all digital” really doesn’t apply.

Think New Media Opportunities

We should be cautious to think of it as another, smaller ad opportunity.

As media buyers, we have to (re)invent. We have to be bold in approaches and test engagement and invent new pricing models. We have to work with publishers on pricing and inventory. When looking at channel mix, how do we justify time spent on a device vs. media spend when the creative is not optimal?

Think New Creative - The implications on creative is significant. Many marketers have moved quickly from mobile friendly, to mobile optimized. Responsive design can be used to deliver better information but we can’t just transfer all content or solution to mobile unless it is truly designed for mobile. Resizing existing creative to fit a tablet or smartphone isn’t exactly the answer due to both the smaller size and regulatory limitations in our industry. Just like the web itself, we should think of our creative in terms of providing tangible value for mobile, not only in terms of messaging. The opportunities for engagement are incredible.

Think Integration. Don’t think of yet another separate strategy for mobile. These platforms need to quickly be integrated into a broader communication plan, not as one-offs. Fit the pieces together and have them support one another. For example, creating content to specifically influence point-of-care
conversations that end up in a real dialogue about care between a patient and a physician.

The opportunities to improve healthcare through mobile are immense. They will add great value to healthcare marketers’ relationships with our customers. But we have to invent, integrate and think specifically for these devices. Hopefully one day soon my mother will download that note app for her smartphone.

Christopher Andrew, Senior Vice President – Media, Digitas Health

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