As any executive knows, smartphones are becoming an increasingly important part of life. They are often the first thing you check in the morning and the last thing you look at before you go to bed. And this usage extends beyond the executive realm to the lives of everyday consumers. In fact, 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 sites, 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 nonmobile website on their phone. If a user on an iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm, Android, or another 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," says Marcus Gordon, who was strategic marketing manager for the 331-staffed-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. In August, seven months after it launched, mobile visitors now account 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 says. "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."
One such hospital, Harbor Hospital in Baltimore, has used geotargeted ads in a recent campaign promoting its emergency department. Using geolocation technology, the 193-staffed-bed hospital's ads will appear on the mobile versions of popular news and consumer sites for smartphone users in the area.