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What's Best for My Hospital: An App or Mobile-Friendly Site?

By Kristen HicksOct 10, 2016

You know your hospital needs to be on mobile. It’s no longer optional.

Nearly a third of all internet traffic happens on mobile devices and about a third of people who own cell phones have used their phone to search for health information online.

The people you want to reach are on their mobile devices and you need to meet them where they are. So while there’s no question you need a mobile marketing strategy, the question remains about whether you should build a mobile app or stick with a website that’s optimized for mobile.

Benefits of a Mobile-Responsive Website for Hospitals

The first and most obvious benefit of going with a mobile-friendly website is cost. Obviously, there can be big differences in what it costs to design a mobile-friendly website depending on factors like who you hire, the complexity of your website and your goals for the site on mobile. But almost any approach you take will be less than building a mobile app, for which you could be looking at a minimum of $10,000 in costs.

At least as important in your considerations should be how people interact with your hospital’s online presence. When you think about how you use your mobile device, how often do you go first to the app store when you want information on a business? In most cases, the first place patients will go looking for you on their phone is a browser.

When they find you through their browser, they expect the website where they land to be optimized for their device: 72 percent of consumers want websites to be mobile-friendly, and 40 percent will hop over to another website if they find the experience on yours to be subpar.

If that’s not enough to convince you, having a website that looks good on mobile is important for SEO. Google announced in mid-2015 that it now considers a website’s mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor.

Conclusion: You definitely need a mobile-friendly website.

There’s no either/or here; this one’s a given. Bu there are some cases where an app could come in handy as well.

Times When a Hospital Mobile App Makes Sense

If you’re considering making the investment in a mobile app, then you should make sure you feel confident it will pay off. A lot of people download apps to use once and then forget about them. For the investment to be worth the cost and effort, your app must be something people will use more than once and it must meet needs that a mobile website won’t. There are a couple of cases where a mobile app makes sense.

When convenience is paramount

Texas Children’s Hospital offers a ParentAdvice Center app that includes a symptom checker, care guides and first aid illustrations, all alongside access to a parent’s particular patient portal and a listing of the closest care facilities in the Texas Children’s Hospital system.

This app makes a lot of sense for two reasons: It’s easily accessible at a moment when that’s a big priority for parents; and it makes navigating to Texas Children’s Hospital an easy next step. When parents have a crying or screaming child in their arms and are dealing with serious levels of stress that come with worrying over a sick kid, convenience matters. They could pull out their phone, type their child’s symptoms into Google and browse the results to try to find information that seems reliable. Or they can quickly pull up the app, find the information they need, and know immediately that it’s trustworthy.

Easy navigation from an app makes sense when a trip to the doctor is necessary, increasing a patient’s likelihood of always looking to TCH first when their child needs to go to the doctor.

Because this is a situation where convenience is so important, an app can be more valuable to the user than doing the work of navigating to the website.

When patients are likely to want frequent access

If you’re providing the type of information people will want to return to on a regular basis—in other words, something they won’t just download, use once and forget about—then an app may be worthwhile. Cleveland Clinic has created a number of apps that help patients develop healthier habits.

Their Stress Free Now app helps people get into the habit of meditating, something most people hope to practice daily. Their Go to Sleep app helps people track their sleep habits on the path to improving them. And their Healthy Brains app provides a fun way to keep track of your brain health.

While the apps superficially resemble commercial apps, people who download Cleveland Clinic apps know they're coming from an authoritative source.

People turn to apps rather than websites when they want something quick and convenient that they’re likely to access with some frequency. So if you want to provide patients with information on a consistent basis, an app makes sense.

If you’re worried about sinking a lot of money into developing a mobile app, don’t let it keep you up at night. You definitely don’t need an app for the kind of information that’s included on your website now—you just need to be absolutely sure that information shows up in a mobile-friendly format for the patients who search for you on their phone. That should be priority one.

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Additional Topics: Content and Design
The Author

Kristen Hicks

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and content marketer specializing in helping businesses connect with customers through content online.
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