Does your website meet mobile standards?

Posted on November 9, 2010

When a friend of mine recently found himself in need of an urgent care center while traveling with his family, he pulled out his new Evo and its Sprint Navigation tool to help him find the closest health care provider. Five minutes later he was in the lobby of a walk-in clinic; within an hour he was back on the road.

His experience made me realize that as more and more people upgrade from standard cellular phones - remember the ones that only make calls? - to those that do practically everything or have an app that does, it becomes vital that all hospitals have an updated mobile strategy.  And I don't mean that you force mobile users to browse through your existing website on their smart phone.  It's time for a separate mobile strategy that is automatically loaded when a mobile user goes to your homepage and that targets certain optimizers to drive traffic to it.

If you think you don't need a mobile presence, try to do what my friend did and find the closest urgent care or emergency services using a smart phone. Not surprisingly, I found a website called findurgentcare.com which was either a sponsored site that only showed fee-paying facilities, or simply a poor effort to show nearby options.  While it's a strategy worth consideration, it's not very consumer-friendly.

Chances are most people without a navigation service will start with a search engine - luckily those sites already have dedicated mobile platforms - that will yield multiple results to pick from.  When you click on anyhospitalusa.com, you're forced to navigate through a complex website designed to show viewers every capability, provider and historical fact (if you aren't sure how mobile-friendly your website is, go to www.mobiready.com and run a free test).

As you're doing this, remember that your 12-year-old son just slammed his hand in the car door and needs bandages, stitches, maybe even an x-ray. You're out of town and have no idea where to go. Do you really want to deal with a complex website?  Of course not.

Instead, when someone tries to find your services from their mobile device, your mobile site will have the most likely sought after information available on the home screen - things like phone numbers, addresses, hours and maybe a capabilities overview. Follow that with links to text pages that include the more detailed information found on your regular website or an easy-to-use search feature.

Keep in mind that urgent and emergency services are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways people interface with your website from a mobile device.  Many consumers do more surfing with their mobile device than their home computer, especially with the introduction of the iPad and other similar devices. By getting your site mobile ready, you'll make sure not to lose those potential patients and maybe attract some new ones.

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Should govt. take “happy” from Happy Meals?

Posted on November 16, 2010

mcdonalds

Get ready for McDebate over the next year as San Francisco lawmakers try to ban Happy Meals.

An ordinance approved last week - and already vetoed - would prevent restaurants in the City by the Bay from including free toys or other fun items in children's meals with more than 640 mg of sodium, 600 calories, or 35 percent of its calories from fat; the meals also need to include a fruit or vegetable serving. Supporters point to health statistics that they say prove the negative impact unhealthy fast-food meals have had on childhood obesity.

When I first heard about this, I could feel my blood pressure rise - and not because I shook too much salt on my large order of fries just hours before. My angst was from the idea of government telling a business how to market its product. After all, Happy Meals have to be considered one of the greatest marketing strategies in history. For the past 30+ years, the pioneer McDonald's and its fast-food rivals who have failed to duplicate its success have enticed sales with the perfect combination of the four P's: product, price, place and promotion.

Was it possible that government was going to pull the plug on this bit of genius?

I decided I had to read the ordinance [www.sfbos.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=37154] instead of just the news stories [www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/cityinsider/detail?entry_id=76704].  To little surprise, the "Happy Meal Ban" reported in the media was actually presented as the "Healthy Foods Incentive Ordinance."

Here's the part where the lawmakers try to convince us they aren't overstepping government's boundaries:

"By enacting this ordinance, the City seeks to regulate the sales practice of restaurants physically packaging or tying a free toy (or other incentive item) with unhealthy food for children. The City does not seek to limit or regulate any speech, communication or advertising on the part of any restaurant in any manner. Nor does the City seek to ban entirely the practice of tying free toys with children's meals. Rather, the ordinance allows restaurants to engage in this conduct so long as the toy or incentive item is tied with a meal or single food item that meets specified nutritional standards. By limiting this sales practice to healthy food, the ordinance seeks to encourage and increase the likelihood that parents will make healthier choices for their children when eating out in restaurants, and to encourage and increase the likelihood that children will make healthier choices for themselves at restaurants."

Look, the lawmakers' intentions are noble - fighting childhood obesity is something many of us in healthcare have targeted for years.  We've worked with schools to provide healthy meals, educated parents about including fruits and vegetables in their children's diets and partnered with community groups to encourage more physical activity.

Next I tried to rationalize this new law by comparing it to government's efforts to regulate alcohol and tobacco.  Advertising limitations and other restrictions have certainly made an impact, but people are still choosing to smoke and drink. The impact on non-smokers has been proven and I'm all for steps to limit exposure in public places.  I also have no tolerance for drunk drivers and support tougher enforcement and penalties.

But armed with the additional research and significant time to ponder, I'm still convinced that the San Francisco ordinance is out of line.  Applying the same logic used in drafting it, one could create a law preventing children from using McDonald's Playlands unless they ordered a healthy meal first.  Wouldn't that be a classic government move - banning exercise?

Look, I'm all for trying to reduce childhood obesity - each of us should encourage our children to make healthy choices.

I'm guessing that the much-anticipated veto announced Friday by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom won't be the last move in this political chess game scheduled to take effect in December 2011 (supporters claim to have enough votes to overturn the veto and lawsuits would seem a likely next step). Frankly, I'll be shocked if it goes into effect and is enforced as originally passed. After all, I can't be the only parent who feels he doesn't need the government to decide whether to let his daughters order a Happy Meal.

I know there are certainly different perspectives on this issue.  Let's hear them.   Where do you weigh in? Please post your comments.

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Print ads should have a place in your plan

Posted on November 22, 2010

live-strong

As we enter the biggest print advertising week of the year, it's a perfect time to remember that you shouldn't let the multi-inch-thick stack of ads in this week's editions make you think that newspapers are making a comeback. But that doesn't mean that you should ignore the medium either.

In fact, in some rural communities print advertising is still the medium that brings the best bang for the buck.  Here's why:

1)       Penetration.  Weekly publications can have penetration rates that eclipse 90 percent.  That means you can hit your entire target market without having to spend across several mediums. Being able to save those dollars for future campaigns can pay dividends later in the year.

2)       Cost.  Since you're still talking about relatively small circulation, the rates you pay aren't as high as you might think.  And even though you can afford full-page ads, you don't have to - people read everything in these publications.

3)       Frequency.  Even if you're choosing a weekly, you can get the message across several times to your target audience in as little as a month. Try equaling that success in another medium.

4)       Visibility.  In small communities, it's important to be visible - especially when hospitals from larger cities are trying to lure your patients away.  Again, since everyone is reading the weekly paper, make sure they're reading about you.

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