Hospitals, healthcare providers should be smartphone-friendly

Last night, on the weekly Health Communication Social Media tweetchat, one of the discussion topics was the impact of the increased proliferation of smartphones in regards to health communication. If it is an opportunity, how can hospitals and providers tap into it? If it is a potential problem, what can they do about it?

I take the former view. With 54% of all mobile phone sales in the U.S. now being for smartphones, hospitals and healthcare providers need to become smartphone-friendly.

They don’t necessarily need to go out and develop their own apps for smartphones, though that’s something they should consider if they find it is the best way to reach their patients. But hospitals and larger medical practices should, as a start, build smartphone-optimized versions of their websites.

I’ve been a smartphone user for a few years now. If I’m away from my computer, it makes it relatively easy to look up information online. But websites that are not smartphone-optimized take a long time to load and are difficult to view on smartphone screens. You may also not be able to use all the features of the website on your smartphone.

I can read the New York Times in a smartphone-friendly format. Why shouldn’t I be able to get information on hospitals or healthcare providers the same way?

I understand that, especially in these difficult economic times, this may be beyond the budget of smaller practices. And even if they could financially afford it, it may not make business sense if its customers/patients don’t use smartphones heavily. After all, any business purchase decision has to provide some kind of a return.

But the larger practices, hospitals and healthcare systems that serve large numbers of people should do this. For them, it does not require that large of an investment. And it would help them better reach a public that will only increase its usage of smartphones.

What do you think?

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About Joshua Brett
I am a native of Chicago, but have lived on the East Coast for almost 20 years. After starting my career as a news reporter, I moved into healthcare marketing, first with a small hospital, then with a small pharmaceutical development company and now with a chain of businesses that are working to improve access to the health care system. In May 2011, I completed my Masters Degree in Communication Management at Temple University, and I enjoy helping businesses, particularly healthcare ones, identify, tell and leverage their stories to achieve their business goals. My related interests are in messaging and framing in politics and in the use of social media platforms (including blogs similar to this one) by the healthcare industry to engage patients directly, drive them to healthcare providers and make them more educated consumers when they do so. Unlike my previous, disorganized, scattershot attempt at blogging, I hope to make this attempt more focused. We'll see what happens.

2 Responses to Hospitals, healthcare providers should be smartphone-friendly

  1. Krista says:

    Good points, as always Josh! I think with more affordable SmartPhone options (through MetroPCS and Criket), it’s easier for anyone to own and operate them. In fact, some hospital programs are trying to reach and educate their patients using this technology. Temple University Schoo of Medicine received a grant from Verizon to use email in order to educate patients about health issues. (full story: http://www.temple.edu/medicine/verizon_foundation.htm) While it’s only email at this time, it doesn’t mean that an educational app in the future is that far off.

    • Joshua Brett says:

      Thanks Krista, and great to see that Temple is doing this. As I wrote, though, healthcare providers and hospitals don’t necessarily need apps right now. But a smartphone-optimized website is a must for any hospital or healthcare practice of any size.

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