For all you keeping track of my previous posts, you can find a list here.
To anyone with a smart phone (over 50% and climbing) or a tablet, stating that a patient portal is mobile is like saying that the sky is blue. Of course it’s mobile. Why wouldn’t it be. A very large portion of potential users will use that channel. However, if you look at a wide range of vendors who provide “out of the box” patient portals, you see a large majority who claim mobile support by letting you view the site on your phone. (Warning: keen eyesite or a lot of pinching and zooming needed.)
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Today, most users will have a computer at home. The day will come when a significant percentage of users have only a smartphone or a smartphone and tablet as their main computing devices though. Why would a plumber or carpenter or someone else whose main job does not warrant an expensive desktop or laptop want more than a smartphone or cheap tablet?
A true claim to mobile support implies that a web site recognizes the channel (smartphone or tablet) you use and restructures the content of the site in such a way that you can easily see and interact with the site. Mobile support does not necessarily imply that every feature and function on your normal site be replicated in a mobile interface. As a matter of fact, given that adding mobile support typically adds 30% to the cost of your project, you may be forced to be strategic in what you do. So let me give you a few examples.
- Symptom checker: You are out and about and your son bangs his head at soccer practice. This might come in handy to determine whether you want him to walk it off or take him to the nearest clinic or emergency room.
- Nurse Chat. You need a little more information and some professional help will determine your next course of action.
- Find a doctor, clinic, or hospital. This is especially useful to hospital brands with multiple locations.
- Schedule an appointment. Yes, this would be used most of the time from a desktop computer but most consumers are smart enough to know that a walk in clinic or an appointment in 2 hours costs them at least $200 less than heading to the emergency room now.
- Locations and maps. This might even be neatly integrated to your phone
- If you are one of those hospitals who also runs a health care plan, then consider putting the member id card out there first
- Notice that all of these examples focus on what a patient will do while not at home or at the office.
Now for the things that would be good but not as important:
- View and pay my bill. I almost put this in the more important list because mobile payments keep increasing in priority. But for now, this example has less importance than the others. That said, the time is not far off where you will not only want to give them a nice mobile interface, you will also want to interact with the mobile payment features of a phone. Warning: extra security may apply.
- View my medical record. While still important, I’m willing to bet this will occur less often when patients are mobile and more often when they have access to a larger screen.
What’s least important for a mobile user? It’s the items related to non-critical information. Every site has it. About us, why we are great, the fact that one of our hospitals is in the top 10 in the nation in some category, etc. All of this is great information. As a matter of fact, all of that content can be relatively easily converted to a mobile interface. So it has less to do with overall effort and more to do with the prioritization of your limited funds to support your users.
Here’s the bottom line: Sophisticated users have already reached the point where a non-mobile interface to a site is expected. Within a year or two, the majority of users will reach that point. Then most of your users will view your site with annoyance. Annoyance will breed contempt. Contempt will mean they don’t want to visit your site and consequently, may be less inclined to think of you when they have healthcare needs. Given the challenges hospitals already have in gaining mindshare over the many other hospitals and with the doctors who make recommendations on where to go, annoyance and contempt represent tipping points where you will not receive a visit.