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How providers can capitalize on consumers’ preferences for mobile connectivity

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Mobile devices will be the chief mode of access for the Internet, accounting for three out of every four minutes of connectivity in 2017. That forecast was made recently by Zenith Media, a unit of Publicis, a global marketing group. That represents a seven percentage point rise from this year’s 68 percent. It also projects mobile Internet usage will reach 79 percent by 2018, nearly doubling since 2012.

Gartner, the technology industry and advisory company, estimates that 50 percent of all digital commerce in the United States will be transacted on mobile devices in the new year.

None of this should be surprising. Marketers have always shown a savviness to engage customers in ways that reflect their preferences. Evidence of that, as well as a further indication of the importance of mobile, is another data point in Zenith’s forecast. It reports mobile advertising will overtake desktop ad spending next year and will account for 60 percent of all Internet advertising, making it bigger than newspapers, magazines, cinema and outdoor advertising combined.

As a healthcare administrative executive concerned about operational and financial performance, you might ask, “What does this have to do with me and my institution? I have nothing to do with marketing.”

In this age of patient engagement, every healthcare executive is involved in marketing to one extent or another. After all, we increasingly refer to patients as healthcare consumers; people who are actively involved in decisions about how their health is managed, procedures are handled, when they elect to have them and how much they are willing to pay.

The prevalence of high deductible health plans has placed a far larger financial responsibility in the laps of consumers, and when it’s their money, they want things done their way.

I’m not suggesting the mobile platform is devoid of any healthcare-related connections. To the contrary, there are reported to be 165,000 mobile health applications available for download worldwide. While many of the publishers behind these apps are starting to see sustainable businesses emerging, virtually all of the programs available have nothing to do with collecting patient financial obligations.

Approximately 150 healthcare leaders from both the private and public sectors told The Economist’s Intelligence Unit the top challenge facing healthcare for mobile health technologies is an institutional bias and conservatism within the healthcare establishment.

Underscoring this unwillingness to embrace change for the benefit of the organization and its customers is a key finding of the Deloitte US Healthcare Consumer Survey. It noted 70 percent of respondents prefer to get bills electronically. Despite that, 87 percent of healthcare consumers in America still get their bills in paper form.

Because that is not to consumers’ liking, and regardless of your job title, you must see that as poor patient engagement.

Outside of healthcare, mobile bill pay continues to experience robust growth according to Fiserv, a financial services technology company. It reports that 65 million US households now have a smartphone and pay an average of two bills a month from their phone.

Consumers are interested in technology that helps them easily manage their lives and reduce hassles, such as digital bill pay reminders, Fiserv notes. “Bill pay alerts become a digital ‘parent,’ providing useful nudges before consumers miss a payment.” In fact, the company found that 66 million online households are interested in setting up bill pay due alerts to streamline and simplify their finance routines and prevent late payments.

“This practice can help break down the barriers to e-bill adoption and help billers increase the likelihood of customers activating the service, as due-date alerts are often tied to the receipt of an e-bill. Seventy-seven percent of respondents interested in receiving alerts say the functionality would enhance customer satisfaction,” notes the report.

Before you complain “that’s not healthcare,” PatientPay, a company that offers electronic healthcare patient payment solutions, has been recording about 25 percent of payments coming from healthcare consumers across the country via their smartphones every month this year. If tablets are added to the equation, that percentage is a good deal higher.

Before you contend that this transition is too difficult to accomplish, know that adding an email-based patient payment option for your healthcare consumers needn’t hurt your current workflow or take many months to integrate with your information infrastructure. Importantly, it will improve the overall customer experience. And that will lead to more collections.

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