It’s Time to “Mobilize” your Medical Practice – With or Without a Good Website

Dentist as workThe fact that your office probably has a sign asking patients to stay off their cell phones at the front desk  and in examining rooms is but one indicator that almost everyone these days is walking around with a mobile device.

A  “mobile device,” for nearly half of all adult Americans refers not to a mere telephone but to any hand-held device providing portable internet connectivity. It is projected among major research groups that within a year or so, consumers will do more of their web-based activities via these devices than by sitting down in front of a computer.

The ubiquity and frequent accessing of web-based activities (nearly one-third of smart phone users access their device before rising every morning) is changing how people use the internet, this presents an exciting opportunity for health care professionals that by-passes all of the typical headaches and costs of establishing and maintaining a website.

Having worked with a web development agency since the early days of the internet, I have personally helped partner groups , chiropractors, dentists, clinics and opticians create websites for their practices. These have ranged from a few simple informational pages to sites with massive archives of medical information, partner biographies, appointment forms, and so on. However, even after investing substantial dollars in building their sites, the practices were left with a nice online brochure for providing basic information to patients, that, in most cases quickly became neglected and ended up as  static pages that are just…there. Rarely visited.

Sure, there are some more ambitious practices-I’m thinking in particular of a major dental group locally-that really throw resources at maintaining an unparalleled web presence in their community – chock full of specialized videos, social media tie-ins, child activity pages, and so on.

But here’s the emerging reality of how Americans are using the internet.  Remember, they are on their mobile devices now…and their preference, according to several recent surveys, is to use and interact with specific apps as opposed to what we think of as “traditional” websites. (Yes, there is a bit of irony in referring to websites as “traditional”.)

The term apps, of course, is a shorthand for “applications” or mini-programs that are integrated for use on one’s smart phone or tablet and provide a well-defined set of information and convenient functionalities to suit the needs and wants of the person using it.

Whether you are interested in star gazing or bird watching, sports scores or stock quotations, there is an almost breathtaking array of apps to choose from. And  most are available for free or very nominal cost.  And now comes the rapid emergence of apps tailored to business and professional services. 

Why should this be of interest you, in terms of providing benefit for your patient practice? Here are a few reasons for giving your patients – and the public from which you hope to draw new patients- a free, classy, and full-featured app designed around your services:

  • Patient convenience – an obtrusive mobile app on their smart phone gives them a way to instantly communicate with your office, without looking up numbers, or for that matter, even getting on the phone. They can set their next appointment online with a touch or two on their screen
  • You have a way to reach one or all of your patients with instant text notifications – important announcements about your practice, change in hours, new services offered, vital public health information, and reminders about their next appointment
  • Patients have a way to initiate instant referrals to their friends and colleagues through the app’s social media links
  • Create online forms for information you need from them, or even feedback surveys to help you improve patient services
  • GPS turn-by-turn directions to your office for new patients or patients visiting new locations you may have
  • Online ordering and payment if you offer special health care products, or simply as a way to pay their bill

And that’s just a short list of features available through your practice’s own branded mobile app.  The important message I want to communicate here is that unlike a typical website, which could possibly provide many of the same features if you spent the time and effort to build such a site, a mobile app like I’m In Marketer for Medical Practices comes with everything built-in, can be set up within days, and the cost is trivial compared with web development and related fees.

Another difference is that the mobile app lets your patients connect with your world instantly – your practice is right at their fingertips. No waiting for web pages to load or wasting time trying to navigate through pages of irrelevant information.

Should medical practices, dentists, chiropractors, and other healthcare providers even have a website? I think the answer is still yes – and definitely one that is optimized for mobile viewing  (which is for another article). But by making your mobile app your main “go to” for patients you will be leveraging the fact that their mobile device where they are much of the time. A clean, easy-to-use app that can quickly enhance your profile, provide convenience and build confidence within your community of patients is a smart prescription for maintaining the health and growth of your practice.

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