Tap Your Way Into the Health App Consumer Market

Hippocrates once said: “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” And as smartphone and tablet technology evolves and puts knowledge literally into the hands of consumers, Hippocrates’ concept of “opportunity” may be a whole lot closer. And this is good news for marketers.

A Marketer’s Playground

In 2008, the number of smartphone subscribers was 15 million. That number almost doubled in 2009, reaching 26 million, and is expected to grow to roughly 142 million by the end of this year, according to experts.

A recent report by research2guidance – a research and consulting company that specializes in the mobile market– predicts that by 2015 an estimated 1.4 billion people will use smartphones and that one out of three people with a smartphone will have a health-related app on their phone. That’s roughly 500 million people, folks! But the buck doesn’t stop there. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report claims that 41 percent of 2,000 consumers surveyed said that they would “prefer to have more of their care delivered via a mobile device.”

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 17,000 smartphone apps have been filed under healthcare and fitness categories since September. This is a clear indication that healthcare providers and consumers are embracing smartphone apps as a means to improving healthcare. The way I see it, pretty soon it just won’t be calorie counters and workout trackers driving consumer mobile app behavior.

Keys to a Winning App

I believe that mobile apps present marketers with a great opportunity to develop a different kind of consumer experience that is much needed in the healthcare industry. The key to a winning app is simple: make your app interactive and use it as a portal to push information, reminders and resources to the customer, so that it becomes a “must-have” tool in their life.

Right now, the best kinds of apps are the most specific apps. Something to remind a person to take a pill is more helpful to more people than an app to track the workouts that might only appeal to a fitness buff.  A good example of an organization that has hit the jackpot is WebMD. The WebMD app has been downloaded four million times since it was launched. Why is it so popular? Because WebMD gave patients exactly what they wanted: easy-to-use, patient-centric tools that make managing their health easier. This app is loaded with helpful features like the Symptom Checker, in which users can select a part of the body that is troubling them, choose their symptoms and learn about potential conditions or issues.

As you have probably guessed, the opportunities in mobile technology are endless. Consumers want more and this is where marketers can really make a difference. The healthcare industry, which has never been at the vanguard of marketing initiatives, may be best positioned to leverage one of the most important tools to build and cultivate consumer relationships.

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(PART II) Facebook Works for Hospitals: 10 tips to get you started

Here are five more tips on how to effectively use Facebook:

  1. How to promote your hospital on Facebook – If you hope to be viewed as a thought leader and industry expert, you will need to do more than regurgitate facts and links – you will need to create your own content in the form of blogs, videos and eBooks. Your content should invite interaction and encourage sharing. Ideally, your blog posts or videos will offer valuable information that users will want to share with their friends. The key is to offer stimulating content that engages followers and viewers in ongoing communication that benefits all participants.  Because you can see daily what consumers are saying about you and your competition, it’s important to stay on top of those comments. You can protect your brand reputation by monitoring what patients and consumers are saying, and then, decide how – or even if – you want to respond. If there are many negative comments you can lessen the impact of by explaining what really happened instead of letting rumors get out of control. Because you can follow what people are saying about your competition, you also can work to improve those issues in your own hospital. Break stories about your hospital, especially awards, community events, special patients (if they’ve given you permission to do so), new employees, new procedures and equipment, and so on. You’ll garner great publicity for your hospital while promoting your hospital’s services lines, new technology and special events. Remember to cross-promote your material. For example, don’t just leave all your YouTube videos on your YouTube channel. Put them on Facebook, too, for the greatest exposure and availability.
  2. How hospitals can use Facebook Ads – On Facebook, running down the right-hand side of the page, are advertisements that are carefully chosen to suit particular things of interest for the Facebook fan/user. Hospitals are able to reach a highly targeted market when Facebook users fill out their profile, answering questions about what interests them and what things they enjoy.  Every piece of information in a profile helps hospitals advertise to their exact market, including age groups, genders, income ranges, geographic locations and general interests. Hospitals, therefore, can decide which market they want to target, and then design ads that will appeal to those consumers/patients. Facebook Ads are really much easier to set up and less expensive than their counterpart, Google AdWords. Rising competition for privately insured patients and the growth of a smart-shopper mentality among health care users is creating an environment where you MUST advertise if you want your hospital to survive. Tell the consumer about your hospital and your statistics, advertise some of your surgeries or special healthcare benefits and clinics, tell prospective patients about the care they’ll receive – all of these can be done in just a few, choice words with a graphic of your logo or picture of your hospital or staff in the Facebook Ads section of Facebook. These ads are affordable and can also be used to get more people to “Like” your hospital’s Facebook page.
  3. Getting your employees to be careful what they say on Facebook – Today, many hospitals have a written policy specifically about social networking that states “patients have the absolute right to receive care without being the subject of a Facebook discussion.” Most hospitals insist that this language really only reinforces the long-standing standard for health care professionals of not discussing patients in off-duty conversations. If your hospital doesn’t have a policy about what your employees can and can’t say on Facebook, you need to immediately develop one. You will save yourself many hours of worry and the possibility of lawsuits from patients and others. Employees shouldn’t be forbidden from talking about their workplace online, but what they say should be carefully monitored. Fortunately, it’s easy to monitor any online references to your hospital by setting up Google Alerts (see my previous blog post in June) or Twitter search queries. Social media operates in real-time and comments require an immediate response; so it is critical that you know what is being said.
  4. How hospitals can overcome Facebook criticism – Social media values honesty and transparency, so it’s a good idea to just turn a cheek and let people post criticisms. On the other hand, you can explain away a criticism by explaining why you handled something the way you did, and you can post a disclaimer, giving you the right to delete offensive comments or comments that violate someone’s private information. Make sure you monitor your Facebook page on a regular basis so you can respond to negative comments. Address negative comments before they get out of hand and make sure you explain policies and procedures. However, if you get rid of all the negative comments, people will think you are manipulating your page to only state the positive and this can work against you as much as the negative comments! Be sure to treat any negative comments as an opportunity to turn around someone’s negative perception to a positive one.
  5. How your hospital can use Facebook to communicate with patients during bad weather conditions – We’ve had some devastating weather all throughout the United States – floods, hurricanes and tornados, earthquakes, dangerous snow and rainstorms and other types of inclement weather. These conditions make it harder for your patients to get to the hospital. It would be terrible if they came to one of your clinics only to find it closed. Your Facebook page can help you communicate with your target market and give them vital information regarding the weather and your facility’s reaction to the weather.  For your emergency room, for example, you can post updates on your page to let patients know what the average wait time is. They can then decide if they absolutely must make it in, or if they can wait it out. If your hospital is part of several affiliate hospitals, or if you have a nearby urgent care center, you can suggest that your patients go to another hospital emergency room, clinic or urgent care center where the wait is shorter or the road access is not so.  You can also post helpful tips for what roads to take to get to your facility, how to shovel without injuring your back, staying safe in the snow, how to drive on ice, or how to drive through flooded streets, and so forth. While these tips are not about services you provide at the hospital, they show your patients that you are a part of the community and that you care about their safety. This can go a long way to keep your patients thinking about your hospital throughout the day and week.

For other tips on how to effectively use social media in support of your hospital’s marketing efforts, please feel free to view one of our On-Demand Webinars. Our latest workshop is: Blogging for Hospitals. Check out www.waxcom.com for access to this and other complimentary web workshops that you can view at your convenience.

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Google+ Got You Going in Circles?

The sort-of soft-launch, of the sort-of beta, of the almost-ready-to-go Google+ is underway. Millions have been asked to participate as testers, and millions more have been invited to join over the last few weeks as the next best thing since Facebook hits the market. The big question: Will this whole thing ever catch on? And if it does, what does that mean for marketers?

So far, Google+ has only really introduced features they feel are an improvement upon Facebook, the 800-lb gorilla in the social sphere. One of the biggest nuances is the use of “circles” versus lists for simple grouping of friends, family and co-workers. This allows easier sharing with select groups. This is a nice feature but hardly enough to get the approximately 750 million Facebook members to switch to Google+. Early adoption is already taking place but moving the masses will be the challenge.

From my perspective, the opportunity lies in the power of Google’s other services.  For starters, you’re tied into Gmail while on Google+, offering easy access to an already trusted communication tool. Add a sprinkle of Google Maps, a dash of media and games from Google Wave and Buzz, a touch of Google Offers for daily deals and you have the recipe for successfully attracting consumers. The cherry on top will be access to Google Apps and mobile integration.

So far, from my personal experience with the platform, the “circling” of specific groups and ability to combine Facebook and Twitter messaging tools makes Google+ intriguing. As a marketer, though, what remain unanswered is how they aim to tackle profile pages for businesses and what advertising options will exist.

Recently, Christian Olsten, a product manager on the Google Plus team, posted: “We have been watching Google+ take shape over the last week and we’ve seen some really great companies get involved. But frankly we know our product as it stands is not optimally suited to their needs. In fact, it was kind of an awkward moment for us when we asked Ford for his (or was it her?) gender!” To put it gently, this doesn’t sound like they’re quite ready for advertisers yet.

What is set, though, is the opportunity for marketers like us to utilize the product as a consumer to see the possible platform benefits for your business and clients. So, be an early adopter or search the web to get invited by someone who is and check out “Hangouts,” send out a “Stream” update to your co-workers, hold a meeting via Google Talk and most of all … get a grip on those “Circles.” Give it a shot and share your thoughts with us!

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Facebook works for hospitals: 10 tips to get you started

As Facebook gets ready to go public with a value of more than $100 billion, more and more hospitals are using the social network and finding that it is a positive addition to their hospital promotion and social media involvement. As of June 8, 2011, statistics show that

  1. There are 1,018 Hospital Facebook pages and
  2. People spend more than 700 billion hours PER MONTH on Facebook. Facebook pages serve as an inexpensive model for hospitals as a marketing strategy. In the middle of economic instability, hospitals need to find inexpensive methods to promote their facility, get more patients and educate the community.

However, a recent survey proved that many hospitals were still not doing too well with respect to their Facebook usage. According to healthcare social media expert Ed Bennett:

  • 63% had no unsolicited feedback or questions on their pages
  • Fewer than 40% of hospitals posted daily
  • Only 5% used the wall to post upcoming events
  • 80% had no discussions on their discussion board pages
  • 58% did not allow members to share photos on their Facebook page
  • Only 49 hospitals (40%) uploaded video directly onto their Facebook page
  • 92% did not integrate traditional advertising into social media
  • Most hospitals (86% or 104) did not integrate blogs into their Facebook presence
  • 70% of hospitals had fewer than 1,000 likers/members
  • Only 10 hospitals integrated Twitter into Facebook
  • 90 hospitals (75%) did not integrate their clinical services into Facebook

In order to help hospitals overcome some of these social media mistakes, we have come up with 10 Top Tips for Using Facebook Pages that hospitals will find easy, educational and rewarding – to help get them up and going on Facebook quickly and easily, and to help hospital administrators get the biggest bang for their Facebook time and money. Here are the first five:

  1. How to set up your Facebook fan page the right way – Go to www.facebook.com/pages and click on “Create Page” in the upper right hand corner. Select a category from the list (such as “Company” or “Organization”) and fill out the information they are requesting. Don’t use the word “Facebook” for your Facebook page name. Upload a picture of your hospital or your logo, so that “friends” can immediately recognize that this is YOUR hospital’s site.  Use a 200×600 image – 4MB max – (the largest you can use on Facebook) so you will stand out from the crowd. Click on “Edit Page” under your picture or logo and fill in the information requested. Make sure you include a URL on your Facebook page that will link back to your website because ultimately, you are trying to get people to come to your website, where you have more control over content and services, than on Facebook.
  2. How to get more fans on your Facebook page – By using social media to provide accessible and accurate information online, hospitals can establish themselves as experts and ultimately attract more patients. An easy way to start is to get multiple influential users to invite all of their friends to become fans of your hospital’s page. If you can get 20 people each to invite 100 users, and encourage those users to invite their own friends, you’ll start to see growth. Encourage fans by holding contests, giving rewards for joining, etc. Facebook does have some specific rules about this so make sure you aren’t violating any of them. Put a link to your Facebook Page everywhere you can – on your website, on your blog, in emails you send to your employees and patients, on your TV, print and other advertising, on your press releases. The key is to funnel subscribers to the page so that growth starts to increase naturally by virtue of more people becoming fans.
  3. Creating great hospital-related Facebook graphics – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a large gallery of buttons and badges that you can use on your Facebook page. These buttons and badges are really just small web graphics or images that share info about health campaigns and causes. You can go to the CDC “Gallery” and copy, cut and paste the assigned code for the button or badge you want, right onto your website or Facebook page. There are buttons for campaigns such as Product and Food Recalls, How the Flu Virus Spreads, Foodborne Illnesses, Food Poisoning, and more. Consider getting your Facebook professionally designed so that your brand standards are consistent, visitors see you as professional and your overall marketing strategy is reflected in all that you do.
  4. How to integrate video into your Facebook page – Online video sharing can be a great way to exchange information, share personal stories and engage audiences. Because anyone with internet access can upload, view, share and comment on video footage, video sharing is becoming immensely popular. You can create videos in-house or with the help of experts. But either way, make sure they are relatively short and engaging. Facebook tells us that to upload a video, you should:
  • Go to the Home Page
  • Click the “Photos” filter on the left side of the page
  • Click the “Videos” sub-filter
  • Select which type of video you want to make. You can choose “File Upload” to upload a video from your drive, “Mobile Video” to upload a video from your mobile device, or “Record Video” to record a video with your webcam
  • Follow the on-screen directions for your particular upload type
  • A successful video upload will generate a story about your video and store the video permanently in My Videos

5. When is the best time to reach out to your fans on Facebook? – Activity peaks at 3pm EST, but the strongest involvement takes place between 11am and 8pm. This makes sense as many people interact with Facebook during work hours. At the same time, it also means your messages have higher competition during those hours. This is a wide time frame and the risk of that 11am post disappearing down your fan’s wall by 8pm is relatively high. On the other hand, posting at the height of the activity period means you stand a better chance of being seen. The most activity occurs on Wednesdays and the least on the weekends, though you’d be OK to post on any weekday. These times were brought to light in a study by VITRUE, a social media company that aids brands in building their customer bases on social networks. The firm has determined that, on average, a fan base of 1 million translates into at least $3.6 million in equivalent media over a year. (This is just part one… be sure to check back soon for five more helpful tips for hospitals getting started with Facebook)

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Unexpected new sources of financial and potential market share growth

Are you getting your share of the new screening funds made available earlier this year?  Not only is this an excellent opportunity to earn some additional, incremental revenue, but there’s a chance to reach out and attract new patients and physicians as well.

Starting earlier this year, millions more Americans are able to get free preventive care, including hearing-loss tests for newborn babies, depression screenings for adolescents and bone-density scans for women at risk of osteoporosis. This according to a January 2011 Wall Street Journal article, which reports that nearly 80 percent of adults between the ages of 20 to 80 are candidates for at least one preventive test or service.

A provision was included in the new health law that requires Medicare and new health policies to fully cover 45 preventive screenings and services with no patient copayments or deductibles. This was created because of the growing concern that Americans aren’t getting the preventive care they need. These screenings are shown to be the most effective in early detection and prevention of disease. In addition to the tests and screenings mentioned above, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says additional tests and preventive measures include:

Diabetes: Adults with blood pressure above 135/80 should be screened for type 2 diabetes, even when there are no symptoms of disease.

Aneurysm: Men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked at any time in their lives should have a one-time ultrasound screening for possible abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Folic-acid supplements: Women planning to get pregnant are advised to take a daily folic-acid supplement of 0.4 mg to 0.8 mg.

Sexually transmitted infections: Those sexually active adolescents and adults at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections should receive high-intensity behavioral counseling to help prevent these diseases.

Dozens of tests are under review to determine whether current recommendations regarding effectiveness need revision. These include, oral, skin, ovarian, prostate and bladder cancer and the use of vitamin supplements in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

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