Recently I’ve had quite a bit to do with organisations providing services to the healthcare industry. It’s been really quite interesting to note the wide range of views that prevail with regard to how health professionals view the importance of timely communication to their patients and clients, and the method by which that communication is delivered.
Some organisations believe they should ‘ask their clients’ (the doctors, dentists, nurses, practice managers, chiropractors, osteopaths, phsyios, pharmacists, vets and other health professionals who use their services) ‘what they think they need’, and then make entire business decisions based on this feedback.
The trouble with that logic is summed up by that old chestnut, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. You think the way you’ve always done things in your business/profession/industry is fine – until you get left behind by competitors doing things a faster, easier, cheaper, more customer-friendly way.
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As consumers, time-wasting or inconvenient practices annoy us when we’re used to enjoying ‘instant’ in much of our everyday lives. Who can imagine life without online shopping or mobile banking or even their Fitbits now? Think of the impact Netflix has had on its competitors in a short space of time. I don’t watch much TV, but I’ve barely watched anything on free-to-air TV since Netflix became available and I was seduced by the any-time-it-suits-me, ad-free, binge-watching possibilities of entire TV series or movie marathons.
I meet with many organisations that are just not getting how much mobile technologies and apps are impacting on their own daily lives, and extrapolating that to the lives of their customers, or in the health space, patients.
Let’s take the typical family doctor. According to the National Health Performance Authority Report released this year, one in every eight Australians sees a GP at least 12 times a year. The elderly, those with chronic health conditions or families with young children are often more frequent attendees.
Typically a visit to a GP involves calling for an appointment, waiting while the receptionist checks the doctors’ availability, maybe getting an appointment at a time that suits, turning up at the appointed time, and often waiting a long time until the always-busy doctor has caught up enough to see you. If you’re lucky, you might get sent a reminder SMS about your appointment in advance, which the practice has paid an external provider to send to you.
From the practice’s point of view, their front office staff will spend the vast majority of their day taking patient calls and booking in appointments, then confirming these appointments in various diaries. And that’s all they’ll have the time or resources to do usually.
Now imagine the same practice where the patients have downloaded the practice’s app, with full booking functionality, and each patient could automatically choose their doctor, select an available appointment and book it in directly with the clinic and into their own calendar. No call, no waiting and no reminder required. And if you needed to reschedule or cancel, you could also do that through the app.
From the clinic’s point of view, an app’s many features open up a whole new world. Easy directions, health fact sheets to download, practitioner profiles, e-commerce options and more. Free push alerts to promote new services, flu shots, weight management services or holiday opening hours.
The potential for cost savings and efficiency gains are huge. Not to mention increasing revenue opportunities.
In an increasingly instant world (hello Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram) where mobile reliance continues to grow and dominate other methods of communication, the health industry needs to jump onboard and give the people what they’ve been conditioned to expect: instant, easy two-way communication that works for everyone.
Dennis Benjamin is the founder and chief executive of mobile apps specialists AppsWiz and the Informatel Group. He is an expert in the areas of mobile trends, mobile apps, apps for businesses, entrepreneurship, and startups.