How Physicians Can Tap Into the Mobile User Market

October 9, 2012

Studies show U.S. consumers are snapping up mobile gear. Practices should take note.

In the first 12 weeks of being a first-time mom, having mobile technology was a godsend.

When my son made duck noises in week 3, I used my smartphone to record him at 4 a.m. so I could share said noises with his pediatrician (who assured me he wasn’t turning into a duck). I’ve also shared photos of my son’s soiled diapers to make sure certain colors weren’t cause for alarm (they weren’t). And when I got a fever, I was able to use my iPad to quickly find the nearest 24-hour pharmacy, while on the phone with my physician, so he could prescribe antibiotics.

It turns out that technology-wise, I’m part of a growing trend.  

A newly released survey of more than 3,000 adults in August and September by Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that:

  • 85 percent of American adults have a cell phone;
  • 45 percent have a smartphone; and
  • 18 percent have a tablet computer, such as an iPad.

The growing population of mobile consumers means great opportunities for physicians who are ready to jump on them. The first step: thinking about the ways in which mobile technology can enhance the quality of care, or boost patient traffic.

Silver Spring neurologist Andrew Barbash relies on his personal smartphone, tablet, or netbook, depending on the circumstance, to engage with patients and other caregivers. He leverages these devices as a single point of collaboration, through a service he uses called NowDox, to do important tasks. These include capturing recorded images or videos on the mobile device and then securely posting in virtual private workspaces to easily share with patients on site as well as with remote family caregivers. 

"As a stroke neurologist collaborating with a care team, we have a great need to reliably know that we can interact with a patient's family whenever it's important for us," Barbash told Physicians Practice. "Because such a high fraction of people across the social continuum have these devices and the connectivity needed, we can now be confident that we will be successful in engaging patients, caregivers, and any interested clinical colleagues in effective collaboration and communication."

Peter Hudson, an emergency medicine physician turned co-founder and CEO of iTriage, told Physicians Practice his Denver-based technology company, which makes a mobile/Web location-based application that helps consumers find nearby hospitals and medical offices, has seen an uptick in business among practices over the last year. The business model offers healthcare organizations looking to target consumers while they’re on the go a service that enhances mobile-search listings and gives patients appointment-booking capabilities.

“People are using mobile devices way more than PCs and laptops, and mobile users are very focused on functionality to solve needs,” said Hudson. “If I were a hospital or physician office I would be very interested in picking my mobile partners as quickly as possible to leverage that trend.”