Mobile optimisation: health check
- 22 September 2015
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The rise of the ‘smartphone society’ means mobile optimisation is a must for many organisations. In the healthcare sector, it also presents opportunities for innovation and more effective engagement with patients.
Not so long ago, SMS alerts to remind patients of appointments was the cutting edge in mobile healthcare interaction. Now, with the widespread adoption of smartphones, tablets and other connected devices, mobile technology is transforming many aspects of healthcare for practitioners and clients alike.
There has been rapid growth in the development of healthcare applications to aid and support clinical practice, to take advantage of the capabilities of smart devices to provide real-time data and near-instant access to information.
From remote patient monitoring, record maintenance and access to patient history to patient management, information gathering and medical training, there is a fast-expanding resource of apps that can help with clinical decision-making, administrative tasks – and, importantly, patient interaction.
But the penetration of smartphones and tablets in the UK has also changed the expectations of clients accessing healthcare services. As in many sectors, users increasingly demand always-on connectivity and access to user-friendly services from their touchscreen devices.
A third of internet users see the smartphone as their most important device for accessing the internet, according to Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report – overtaking laptops for the first time. The report also notes the spread of smartphones among older users, with ownership in the 55-64 year old age group more than doubling since 2012, from 19% to 50%.
This ‘mobilisation’ of the internet presents challenges for healthcare systems around the world that are facing funding and financial pressures because of increasing demand from ageing populations. However, it also presents opportunities to use mobile optimised platforms to drive innovative improvements in healthcare delivery for both patients and providers. As such, it could not only improve patient experience and clinical outcomes, but also have a significant impact on costs.
Improved communication between healthcare providers and their patients should result from mobile optimisation, making services more responsive to patients’ needs.
“Any provision of healthcare information needs clarity, and optimising for mobile means that content providers have to now meet these requirements,” says Justin Berkovi, Director of Venlo Digital, a digital strategy and creative consulting firm working with leading healthcare providers in the UK.
“It forces ‘best practice’, which in turn allows for the best form of communication to the public. Whether it is the ability to book a consultation online easily via a mobile form or respond to patient queries on social media, mobile devices have facilitated patient interaction with their healthcare provider.”
At the moment, more than 70% of people go online for health information, and the past few years have seen a huge shift towards queries coming via smartphones and tablets. Engaging effectively with clients, via whatever medium they choose, is critical. “The benefits of mobile optimisation ensure that clients deliver their key messages effectively for their public without worrying about device compatability,” says Berkovi.
“Service providers have a strong case to revamp their online provision for existing clients who need updated websites or landing pages, and solutions can be examined or edited easily – from and to mobile devices.”
“The impact of mobile on the healthcare sector has the potential to be both profound and transformative,” says Kat Holt, global marketing manager of business communications solutions provider Esendex, who has significant experience within the UK’s public and independent healthcare sectors.
“Patient outcomes and the measurement of clinical practice is one area, but the applications are endless. You could utilise mobile optimisation to undertake clinical assessments, offer patients automated diagnosis tools right through to the delivery of therapies or the monitoring of long-term conditions and relapse prevention. If you could take a patient’s familiar companion – the mobile device/smartphone – and gently guide that patient through a simple and intuitive experience on their phone, then you are creating an immersive customer-based experience that benefits both patient and provider.”
Mobile optimisation is, of course, becoming more important across the board for organisations that need and want to communicate effectively with their audience using the mobile medium. “People have higher expectations of rich content, and optimisation of these facets is crucial to delivering a decent standard of information,” says Berkovi of Venlo Digital.
“Videos, images and diagrams will be expected to work on retina screens, so the general quality of provision has to far higher than it used to be. Clients now expect higher levels of user experience – an important consideration when delivering content that is easily absorbed by patients.”
For healthcare providers, online media will increasingly form a strong element of any healthcare decision-making process. “Therefore, health professionals are providing clearer websites with simple designs, better user experience and more video content,” say Berkovi. “Service providers have to ensure that their deliverables meet these new requirements – for example, Google now favours mobile-optimised websites.”
Ensuring a site is optimised for all types of smart device, and not just a particular operating system or platform, is also essential. “Each month brings a new way of accessing information,” says Berkovi. “It is not enough to simply provide a responsive website mimicking the desktop variant – consideration must be taken for the type of content provided, how a lot of important text can be duplicated on a small screen and also what new technologies are emerging.”
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