Healthcare + Mobile

Posted by on Jan 28, 2012

This week HY Connect attended the Mobile Healthcare Communications conference in New York. The conference featured speakers from hospitals, drug companies, brands and agencies all talking about one subject: Mobile and how it changes the healthcare landscape.

Being a creative agency with big healthcare clients and an eye towards the future of mobile there was plenty of delicious information for us to analyze and absorb.

Some highlights and quotes:

  • 91M mobile consumers – 61M using it for healthcare
  • People are using mobile for healthcare research anywhere. Including at home
  • Consumers and Physicians tend to ‘snack’ on healthcare content on their mobile phone and use tablets for complex research
  • Insight: 3 Clicks on Smartphones = Natural limit reached for physicians information gathering process on smartphones
  • We haven’t seen an age bias in physician use of mobile
  • 30% tablet penetration in Doctors now, 50% by 2013.
  • 88% of teens using SMS. It’s their chosen communication platform. And those numbers are above 50% even for the older audiences
  • Community = A place where people share information that is important and relevant to them. Not just a group of similar people
  • Approach digital communities just like you would a traditional in-person community.
  • Communities must be nurtured, tweaked & cultivated to be successful. Moderators must know audience, subject matter & constituents.
  • If you want engagement you must simplify your process, be accessible on mobile, and keep your communication loop open with SMS.
  • Lap-Band approached web presence “mobile first” and had 70% increase in registrations after redesign.
  • According to Google in 2011 of the 26% of consumers who purchased on their mobile device, 68% did so after doing a search on their device triggered by traditional media.
  • 82% of smartphone users use device for email. To keep email blasts valuable, keep your subject lines short.
  • An app isn’t always the answer – mobile health users use WEB (61%) more than apps (32%)
  • 74% of consumers of pharma use online sources – mobile web is low hanging fruit.
  • Mobile phones, unlike pricier tech, is utilized across income levels.

Perhaps the two biggest takeaways:

  • Mobile is about being accessible. Mobile Web and SMS are the best channels to look into because they are the most accessible.
  • Mobile is now part of the consumer’s purchase and information gathering process. To be successful it has to be part of the mix. But all the other marketing channels help to funnel the customer and can not be ignored.

Now as tasty as that information is it’s not nearly as good as what can be done with it.

So, if you want a deeper dive – grab some coffee and settle in while we go through this cornucopia of mobile health insights and case studies:

Multi-Screen World
There are 91 million mobile consumers in the US. 61 million of them are using their mobile device in some way for healthcare. For some it’s just a simple information search and for others it’s their way to monitor and track their condition. in fact the list of health related activities happening in volume on mobile devices is extensive. News, meal planning, symptom research, locating doctors and clinics, researching and managing insurance, exercising and searches of all shapes sizes and complexity. And that’s just consumers.

The physician audience has truly embraced the idea of mobile and are ‘über’ users. They’re using devices for all the reasons consumers do but also for patient care, managing prescriptions, research, reference materials and accessing and updating health records. They’re even using tablets to help educate patients using photos and video when giving a prognosis.

However none of this is happening on a single type of device. Both consumers and physicians are using their phones for simple tasks and tablets for more complex activities. Tablets tend to be used more like a computer – browsing, researching, reading and writing. While smartphones use is leaning towards focused, goal and time oriented tasks. But regardless of which device they’re using both consumers and physicians are trying to get the same information and are spending time on both devices throughout the day.

81% of tablet owners have a smartphone. 93% of people who have a tablet OR a smartphone own a computer. The iPad has only been out for 2 years and already 25-30% of physicians have one and that number is expected to jump to 50% by the end of this year. Their multi device use is leading physicians to expect important information will be available cross device. 52% of doctors polled expected that the information they want and need would be available regardless of the device they use.

Mobile Options are Expansive – Focus for Success

In 2011 $3.3 billion was spent on mobile advertising and that number is expected to be $20.6 billion by 2015. The global mobile audience is 5.3 billion users and only 1 billion of those are mobile web users. Meaning that for the majority of those mobile users SMS is king. And the numbers say the same thing.

In 2011 8 Trillion text messages were sent. Which comes out to 60% more SMS traffic than voice traffic. SMS use is extremely high among teens and 20 something’s (88% are using it) but the number of people using SMS is over 50% even at the 45-55 demographic. The time to open on SMS is also substantially faster than email. With the average text message being read within 4 minutes of it being sent. While email’s average time to open is over 48 hours. But how you use that technology is what makes a difference.

This is well represented in two SMS based case studies that were presented: Mount Sinai Hospital’s Text in the City and Johnson & Johnson’s Text4Baby.

Text in the City is an SMS service provided by Mount Sinai in NYC that targets health information at the high risk teen audience. Mount Sinai knew that teens have different health questions than an older audience, things like sexual health, mental health, substance abuse and preventative care. They also knew that while teens have a high need for this health information they didn’t feel comfortable with or know about the information channels available to them. Their answer was to use modern communication channels like SMS, Twitter and blogs mixed with grassroots advertising efforts like flyers, handouts and word of mouth to get teens engaged. The core of their service was based on SMS, they provide teens with a number to anonymously send in their questions and concerns about a wide variety of topics and provided answers from real health professionals real-time via text message. They also gave teens the chance to sign up for birth control reminders.

Over their limited 6 month pilot with no traditional or wide reaching promotion they netted almost 300 users who engaged in almost 500 SMS chats. At the end of the 6 months over 70% said that they loved the service and wanted it expanded to cover more topics and add more functionality. Mount Sinai is now expanding the program. You can find out more about Text in the City on their blog ( or twitter feed (!/textinthecityNY)

Text4Baby is a service offered by Johnson & Johnson that focuses on pre and post natal care. The service exists almost entirely via SMS. Expectant mothers join the service and provide their baby’s due date. Text4Baby then sends those mothers-to-be timely information about the needs of them and their babies up to a year after the baby is born. All the content is generated by trusted health partners and encompasses everything from tips to health related polls.

Since it’s inception over 270,000 people have signed up for the service with 45% of the sign ups happening in the 1st trimester, over 24 million messages have been sent and 96% of their users say they would refer it to their friends and family. Johnson & Johnson partnered with Edleman to create the service and got support from organizations like the US Dept of Health, White House office of Science and Technology and the CDC. In their metrics they’ve found that over 39% of users contacted a service or called a phone number that was provided in the text messages and that number jumped to 53% for users that are uninsured. You can find out more about text4baby on their website –

Both of these services show the power of the right information focused to the right channel and right audience. But focus isn’t limited to SMS.

A common theme of the presentations was the role the mobile channels and the mobile web plays in communications. Many of the presenters shared stories of how their brands found a significant business benefit to not only making information and functionality accessible to a mobile audience but using mobile as a blueprint for their overall customer experience. One in particular that showcases this rather well is Lap-Band.

Lap-Band is a stomach banding weight loss surgery. As with any device there are many objectives to communicate, information to provide and consumer needs to fulfill. To address these lap-Band initiated a 3 channel mobile strategy:

  1. A LapBand app for people who are using or considering the procedure. This app allows users and potential users to get answers to their questions, track their progress and provides engaging extras like a “transform me” function to show what you might look like after the surgery. (App Information:
  2. A mobile optimized website that “trimmed the fat” from their web experience. It focused on what people new to the brand would need to know first: attending a seminar, learning about the product, insurance/payment options and finding a surgeon. But then they took that one step further: Using their new mobile site as a template they rebuilt their main web presence after that model. Employing a truly “mobile first” approach to their web presence which netted them a 70% increase in seminar registrations. (Website:
  3. Once they had someone engaged in attending a seminar they used SMS to further strengthen the engagement by sending out reminders and micro-surveys both pre and post seminar. This kept the communication loop open so users didn’t forget about the date and could reschedule easily if need be. Which meant that more people attended the seminars. (Seminar Information:

By approaching the many channels within mobile with focused objectives Lap-Band was able to increase user engagement, brand awareness, customer leads and sales.

Thanks for reading this week’s Digital Download. As always – let us know if there are any topics you’d like to see covered or reach out with any questions/comments you may have.