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Mobile Medicine: How Associations Help Tech-Savvy Doctors

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, February 2013 Technology

By: Katie Bascuas

Summary: Tablet adoption among healthcare professionals is changing how associations representing the industry are designing their websites.

Doctors are not usually trendsetters when it comes to the latest tech gadgets, but they are quickly adopting tablets and smartphones. According to a 2012 study by Manhattan Research, the rate at which physicians adopted tablets for professional use almost doubled from 2011 to 2012, and this trend is leading to changes in how healthcare groups, including associations, are designing their websites.

Frank Fortin, chief digital strategist and director of communications at the Massachusetts Medical Society, says he began seeing the uptick in mobile device usage when analyzing the open-rate metrics for MMS's newsletter.

"It wasn't a steady incline," Fortin says, "but there were moments when it seemed to jump, and the last really big one was toward the end of [2011] when, I guess, a lot more people started getting smartphones and tablets as gifts at the end of the year."

When considering the working style of most doctors, their quick adoption of mobile devices makes sense. Between traveling from exam room to exam room and training students, doctors are on the move, and tablets and smartphones allow them to easily access data, especially point-of-care information, wherever they happen to be throughout the day.

"Many doctors tend to use [the devices] to show patients videos, X-rays, or CT scans," Fortin says. "Imaging and most things are done digitally now anyway, so it really fits into the way doctors do their work better than a desktop computer might." Given the greater usage of mobile devices, MMS is updating its CMS to create a more mobile-friendly website, scheduled to launch next month.

When creating a responsive-design website, it's important to take into consideration what mobile-friendly really means.

"It's a matter of making some smart decisions about what kinds of content are appropriate to offer up to people on mobile devices on smaller screens," says Layla Masri, president of Bean Creative, a studio of interactive design and development experts. "Someone doesn't necessarily want to read your bylaws on their smartphone."

Take advantage of member surveys, analytics, and metrics to discover what users really use and need, Fortin says. "It really is thinking hard and using the information that you have at hand. … It forces us to look at what value are we providing to our member and how do they want that on a phone."

Katie Bascuas is associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: kbascuas@asaecenter.org

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