According to Juniper Research, there were 44 million medical app downloads in 2012. This is expected to rise to 142 million by 2016. 80 percent of physicians are now using mobile technology to provide patient care. In spite of these trends, studies have shown that only a small percentage of doctors and health care systems are actively recommending health care apps to their patients.
Most people have their mobile phones on them at all times. 25% of Americans now access the Internet only via mobile device. Mobile allows you to stay connected with your patients anywhere, anytime. Here are some top ways you can engage patients with mobile apps:
- Schedule appointments
- Send appointment reminders
- Medication, contact lens replacement and vitamin re-order reminders
- Bi-directional communication
- Remote patient monitoring
- Social media connectivity
- Marketing / promotions
The EyeXam mobile application is the first app in eye care addressing all the features listed above for patient engagement. Through its partnership with Eyefinity, EyeXam has over 28,000 eyecare professionals listed in a GPS-based directory. With over 1 million consumer downloads, the EyeXam is a powerful tool to stay connected with a patient base that is increasingly moving to mobile. Read more »
Looking for ways to stay connected with your patients between visits, while making the in-office experience more interactive? Mobile is the most dynamic and ubiquitous communications channel available today, and easily integrates into existing traditional marketing channels. Check out Seeing is Believing – optometry’s first virtual conference dedicated to teaching practitioners about online tools, techniques and technology. Here’s a sneak peak at some of the topics I’ll be discussing as part of my presentation – Mobile Marketing and Communication – Go Where the Eyes Are!
We love text messaging! Everywhere we go we see people feverishly tapping away on their mobile devices. What was once just for personal use is slowly finding a place in our practices, mostly for things like appointment reminders and alerts (ie. “your glasses are ready for pick-up”). But what about SMS as a marketing tool? SMS marketing is permission-based, meaning patients must opt-in to receive your messages. As opposed to mass marketing like e-blasts or direct mail, permission-based marketing creates opportunities to define a niche market and design marketing campaigns specific to that group. Got a dry eye specialty? Vision therapy? Sports vision? Looking for ways to build awareness and attract new patients? I’ll discuss a few ways to get people interested in joining your “mobile club”.
QR codes are basically a link that connects to digital content when scanned with a smartphone. They are a fun and interactive way to direct people to your website, Facebook page or even Youtube videos. They are also a great way to drive sales by making your optical more educational. For ex. “scan the image to see how sunglasses protect the eyes from harmful UV radiation”. I’ll provide a list of free informational vids you can use in your optical. Read more »
EyeXam is currently the #1 app on the App store when searching for “eye exam” or “eye doctor”.
From a consumer standpoint, consumers can download the free app to conveniently communicate with VSP offices. The most popular and highly-rated features of the app include appointment scheduling anytime-anywhere, instant messaging offices to ask questions, place optical and contact lens replacement orders, set personalized reminders, view on-going promotions for eye-related products and receive notifications from VSP offices regarding upcoming promotions, sales and trunk shows.
From a practitioners’ standpoint, the EyeXam Dashboard will connect the eyecare provider’s office with new and existing patients by providing valuable information about perspective patients who are in the area looking for eyecare providers and have looked at the practitioner’s profile. This enhanced marketing tool is crucial in the eyecare providers ability to expand their practice. Offices who subscribe to the mobile platform can promote sales at their offices, send reminders to their patients and communicate with their patients via EyeXam without bombarding their email and text message inboxes. VSP providers are already listed in the mobile app and can take advantage of the app’s great features by upgrading their profile for a low monthly subscription fee.
More information about EyeXam can be found at: http://www.eyexam.com
QR codes are still a bit of an enigma for many people. If you’re one of those people, you might think that most people share the same indifference toward these funny looking bar codes. However, you might be surprised to hear that more than 50% of smartphone owners have scanned a QR code (ComScore), and they have grown by 120% from this time last year (NeoMedia).
Any smartphone equipped with a camera and a QR reader can scan a QR code, which serves as a link connecting you with digital or web content. This technology allows you to interact with your patients and customers on a higher level. Patients can scan these codes to learn about your products or services in a more interactive way. Consider placing these in your optical or dispensary inviting patients to scan the code to see a video on the benefits of polarized lenses, progressives, etc. Although we train our opticians to discuss these benefits, people tend to have a stronger emotional reaction to visual imagery. If patients can “see” the value, they may be pre-sold before even sitting down with the optician.
Showrooming is when a customer enters a brick and morter store to touch and feel the product and then goes online or to a big-box competitor to purchase at a lower price. While this is most common with electronics and retail clothing, I think its nonetheless worthy of our attention as online frame vendors become increasingly prevelant. Research has shown that the longer you can keep customers in your business and engaged in the products you sell, the greater the chance you will keep the sale in-house. Click HERE to see a quick video on QR codes and the showrooming effect.
Make it Easy!
A few suggestions on QR codes: If room permits, provide brief instructions for your tech-averse patients (ie. visit scan.mobi on your smartphone and download the QR reader). Also, let them know what will happen when they scan the code. Don’t simply assume they will scan it just because you placed it there. Lastly, consider that people who scan QR codes are on their mobile phone. Don’t send them to your desktop website. People on-the-go have short attention spans and want quick info, a full website does not render well on a 3 inch screen. Now if you have a “mobile website” – that’s a different story!
Turn Scans into Revenue
It should also be noted that a third of people who scan a QR code have a household income over $100K, so these might serve to attract consumers of a higher income level with greater spending power.
If you’re looking for ways to make your optical more interactive, click HERE to access a list of QR codes that link to educational videos. Take as many as you like – they’re free! (author’s note: I do have permission from the various companies to use / distribute these videos for patient education purposes)
About Steve: Steve Vargo, O.D., M.B.A. is in private practice in St. John, Indiana where he lives with his wife and 2 sons. He also founded iMobile Communications, and frequently writes and lectures about using technology for marketing and communication.
As part of an upcoming article in Review of Optometric Business on using mobile devices in an optometric practice, I reached out to my colleagues for feedback on how they are using smartphones and tablets to educate, inform and entertain. I’ve listed a few of the more interesting ways our fellow ODs are using this technology.
- Dispensary: Harry Wiessner, OD uses an Android Acer “slate” to take pictures of patients wearing different frames. It has a 10-inch screen and a front and back facing camera. After a technician takes the pictures, the patient can view themselves from different angles, plus the pictures can be sent directly to the patient or their family.
- Developmental Vision: Dr. Dominick Maino, developmental optometrist, uses the Parks 3 Step, Sight Selector and VisionSim from the Braille Institute to help diagnose problems, show patient examples and provide patient education.
- Entertainment: Jenny Carter, OD uses movies and games to help keep kids still while the parents or siblings are having their eye exam or choosing glasses.
- Translating languages: Dr. Mark Degainis recently used Dragon Dictation to communicate with a deaf mute. He dictated and the patient read the transcribed side of the conversation. There are also apps, such as Google Translate, that can translate words and phrases for almost any language. You simply speak your phrases and hear the corresponding translation.
- Clinical: Several ODs mentioned they use the smartphone to take slit lamp photos to educate patients or family members. You simply hold your phone up to the oculars and draw back to focus the image, or use hardware such as the iExaminer. You can take anterior seg photos through the slit lamp of everything from fluorescein photos of RGPs, corneal pathology, iris anomalies, lens changes, weiss rings, etc. You can even send the photos to the lab for consultation assistance.
These are just a few examples. Be on the lookout for the full article. Care to contribute? How do you use mobile devices in your practice?
Remember when cell phones were just, well…phones? Nowadays we increasingly rely on those little hand-held devices to perform everything from paying bills to making dinner reservations. People of all ages and economic backgrounds are becoming more mobile savvy. Mobile cell phones have become the epicenter of all digital convergence – fixed telecoms, the internet, banking, social networks, and even advertising are all migrating to mobile. Morgan Stanley reported in 2007 that 91% of the owners of mobile phones keep the phone within arm’s reach 24 hours a day, and Nokia reported in 2010 that the average cell phone user glances at his phone 150 times per day. In just over a decade, the mobile phone has become the most widely owned and used technology in the world.
While the primary use of cell phones is still communication, the past few years have shown a dramatic shift from voice calls as the primary use of cell phones to SMS (simple message service) texts. SMS text messaging is used by 59% of the planet’s population, and nearly every mobile phone is capable of receiving text messages. There are almost 3 times as many active users of SMS as there are total number of personal computers on the planet, and nearly twice as many people text than email. As more or our patients rely on text messaging as their primary means of mobile communication, it may be time to consider this a viable patient communication tool.
Here are 4 ways to connect with patients via text:
- Appointment reminders. Due to the time-sensitive nature of SMS texts, appointment reminders are ideal for this mode of communication. This will likely be more popular with the younger patients, although the generational lines are becoming blurred when it comes to texting. Most offices that offer text appt reminders also offer traditional methods such as email, postcard, or phone calls. Read more »
As most of us are aware, compliance can be a major obstacle in patient care, especially for chronic conditions such as glaucoma and dry eye. EyeDROPS is a free app that patients can download to keep track of all their eye medications and remind them when to take them. Recently I spoke with Thomas Harbin, M.D.,M.B.A., co-developer of EyeDrops – The Eye Drop Reminder App.
New Media OD: Let’s discuss the EyeDROPS app. What inspired its development?
Dr. Harbin: I have been practicing with a specialty in glaucoma for over 35 years and non-compliance has always been a huge frustration. We work with our patients, have written schedules and do our best, but the problem continued. After loading a number of apps on my iPhone, the light finally dawned on a way to help patients remember when to take their drops- develop an app!!
New Media OD: What features are available with this app?
Dr. Harbin: The basic version, which is free, allows the user to schedule all drops via a pull-down list and receive notification when a drop is due. Tap the screen; the event is recorded; and a pop-up reminds the user to close the eyes for a minute. The app keeps track of the number of drops used per bottle and warns when a given bottle is low. One can then tap to call the pharmacy.
We will soon release a premium version which will involve a nominal fee. With this version, the user will get weekly reminders of how well their compliance is doing and be able to send their compliance record to their doctor or concerned family member. They can record their personal eye health history- drops used in the past and reason for stopping, past surgeries and all other pertinent details. These details, including the ability to record IOP’s at each visit on a graph, will be synced between phone and website. There will be a chat room and games to stimulate compliance. Users of the premium version will be able to enter the schedule of a family member as well as themselves. Read more »