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Mobile health care marketing: Weighing risks and rewards

Hospitals have engaged fewer than 2 percent of patients with their mobile apps.

Still, new research from Accenture has found that 54 percent of patients would like to use their smartphones more to interact with health care providers.

How can communicators narrow this sizable gap?

Hospitals must address patient frustration with proprietary settings and poor functionality. “Mobile health app usage has grown rapidly over the past three years, but the response from health care providers has been woefully inadequate,” according to the study. It goes on to say that evolving consumer expectations and what’s being delivered are not in sync.

Consumers said they want health care apps to address the following three priorities. However, Accenture says only 11 percent of providers have proprietary apps that meet consumer needs:

  • Access to electronic medical records

  • Ability to book, change or cancel appointments

  • Option to refill prescriptions


As marketers and PR pros strive to improve digital interactions with patients and communities, consider this statistic from Accenture: Seven percent of consumers have switched health care providers due to substandard engagement. Similar to disgruntled customers who leave cable TV and cell phone service providers, this switching could translate to a loss of more than $ 100 million in annual revenue per hospital.

Smoke, mirrors and mobile

A post on said that although several marketers—including Web MD—have made a strong push for health care apps, doctors and providers must roll out a greater presence on mobile and SMS to connect with consumers.

Research from Kentico, an e-commerce and health care marketing company, found that 40 percent of respondents have experienced difficulty in navigating health care sites on their smartphones.

Jim Panagas, director of public relations at Kentico, said websites that aren’t optimized for mobile will deter repeat visitors.

“Establishing mobile-first options on health care sites should be a top priority for marketers. Possible features could include a chat box to speak to a live representative, filtering tools to sort through based on ailments and a user-friendly interface,” according to the post. 

[RELATED: Get advanced video training from Red Bull, one of the leading content creators on YouTube.]

One recommendation from Accenture is for providers to partner with tech companies such as ZocDoc for appointment scheduling or InstaMedGo for bill payments. Isn’t is easier—and more enjoyable—to market the overall patient experience strategy when it’s a positive one?

A disconnect between monitoring and marketing?

Fitbit has enjoyed an impressive marketing ride, but there are some bumps in the road. In California, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the company over its heart rate monitoring.

Plaintiffs and other consumers claim that the “PurePulse trackers consistently misrecord heart rates by a very significant margin, particularly during exercise” and is inaccurate to a dangerous degree.

In a statement, the company said it will vigorously defend the suit, adding:

“Fitbit trackers are designed to provide meaningful data to our users to help them reach their health and fitness goals, and are not intended to be scientific or medical devices.”


The price of overpromising in health care

Though some organizations and providers may appear to be faltering on results delivered, the Federal Trade Commission is focused on potentially misleading language from marketers and advertisers.

Last week, the FTC slapped Lumosity, an online digital health company, with a $ 2 million fine toward consumer redress. Commissioner Julie Brill issued a statement that Lumosity had made false and unsubstantiated marketing claims that its “brain training” program would:

  • Delay age-related decline in memory

  • Protect other age-related cognitive conditions

  • Reduce cognitive impairments associated with various health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and stroke


Brill had a stern warning for marketing professionals in health care: Don’t overstate the benefits of products or misleadingly imply that improvements in a game or app can transfer to real-world benefits. Brill said creating health and wellness apps that don’t have scientific evidence to back up marketing claims won’t be tolerated.