Healthcare Not Yet Mobile: PCs Still Dominate the Market

For all the talk of smartphones and tablets, you’d think every American plugs into an iPad after work each day and that millions of PCs currently sit in the corners of our homes gathering dust. Yet a recent survey conducted by Makovsky reveals that most Americans will stick with Old Reliable when it comes to their most significant expenditures: healthcare.

Despite the vast technological advances driving the evolution of healthcare around the world, healthcare communications remains a very traditional field. The message to PR pros operating in the industry is clear: Most patients prefer old-school human interactions—and tech tools will not necessarily win the day.

We have no doubt that, at some point in the relatively near future, medical research conducted via smartphone will be so easy and common that everyone from your little brother to your grandmother will wonder why they didn’t start doing it sooner. But the Americans who spend the most money on healthcare aren’t quite ready to make that leap just yet.

Here are some of the survey’s key findings:

  • The more often customers visit doctors, the more often they conduct online research (no real surprise there as hypochondria doesn’t discriminate).
  • Americans in their 30’s are more likely to turn to online communities for information on health care—just like they are with everything else.
  • 90% of customers use personal computers while only 11% use tablets or smartphones. Still, those who do use other tools are more enthusiastic about conducting research online—while many smartphone/tablet users begin researching conditions as soon as symptoms appear, most PC users don’t begin browsing for information until after they’ve received a diagnosis. (This is a hint at what’s to come.)
  • Customers are even more skeptical of traditional advertising and promo materials than they used to be. When it comes to Facebook pages, for example, content from Pew Research Center gets far higher marks than anything produced by pharmaceutical companies or peers.
  • While patients/consumers are more likely to visit pharmaceutical sites on the advice of a friend or colleague than a message heard in a TV ad, they’re also more likely to trust the information they read in a press release than any similar information they find on company websites or social media outlets. This one really did surprise us.
  • WebMD is by far the most-accessed online resource. Wikipedia is second (which may be a worrisome thing), and health magazine websites have emerged as major players in the digital research game. Sounds like a new source of publicity and revenue for titles like Women’s Health.

…and here’s the infographic!

PR pros in the healthcare field: In light of these findings, do you think healthcare companies are focusing too much on mobile strategies? Do they need to slow down and wait for consumers to get comfortable with new technologies, or do they need to continue promoting mobile tools to help the public get up to speed?