My eight-year-old neighbor has a smartphone. My partially blind elderly aunt has a smartphone. The President of the United States, for the first time ever, has a smartphone. And if you want qualitative evidence that more people are using the devices, 17% of U.S. adults used a smartphone in 2009, up from 11% in 2008 and 7% in 2007, according to Forrester Research.
In response to this upward trend, forward-looking hospitals are beginning to focus their marketing efforts on mobile technology such as mobile-specific websites, geotargeted mobile ads, and custom smartphone applications.
Southern Regional Health System in Riverdale, GA, created a mobile-friendly site in January so smartphone users in the Atlanta area could access key information without experiencing the delays that often occur when accessing a non-mobile website on their phone. If a user on an iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm, Android, or other type of smartphone navigates to www.southernregional.org, he or she will be automatically directed to the health system's mobile-specific site.
"Patients are using the site on the go—whether they have a medical condition they need to address or whether it's top of mind," said Marcus Gordon, who was strategic marketing manager for the 331-bed hospital; he has since become director of marketing and public relations at Atlanta Medical Center. "We're also seeing the mobile-specific website as a conduit for finding physicians and physician offices and directions."
Two months after the mobile-specific site launched, Gordon found that smartphone visitors accounted for 2.5% of overall traffic. By August, seven months after it launched, mobile visitors accounted for 5% of the site's traffic. Gordon expects mobile traffic to continue to increase.
"The utilization of mobile technology and platforms is being steadily adopted in most demographic segments," he said in the October issue of HealthLeaders magazine. "For us, it plays a big part in our communications—and moving forward in most organizations, especially with integrated marketing campaigns, it will have a role."