Walk down any street and look around. Where you see people, you see people on smart phones. Digital devices have become ubiquitous, and according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, a whopping 96% of U.S. adults now use a cell phone of some kind, and 81% of those are smart phones. We are an on-the-go society increasingly consuming information on-the-go as well.

This has changed the way in which consumers engage as customers with healthcare organizations. Payers and providers can take a lesson from other industries that have transformed digitally to meet their customers’ expectations.

For payers and providers, the important role of mobile continues to expand. U.S. adults expect their healthcare providers and insurance companies to meet them where they are. They are on their phones and they expect to find you there, and if you aren’t, they’ll use their smart phone to look for your replacement.

But the benefits to the provider and payer are worth the effort needed to embrace digital transformation. Doctors surveyed as long ago as 2015 said telemedicine was a better way to address chronic care and that wave of endorsement has only surged since then. With chronic care now costing the U.S. 70 cents of every healthcare dollar spent, the country needs to get in front of chronic disease and there’s no better way to do it than by engaging with patients/members in their daily lives.

Healthcare is facing increased competition and must prepare to engage an empowered consumer/patient like we see in industries like retail and banking. Mobile is a ubiquitous channel for healthcare organizations to provide engagement and personalization. A solid, digital, mobile-first infrastructure can give providers and patients a strong customer base and improve their ROI. Patients who engage with mobile healthcare apps tend to feel more ownership of their health and may decrease their chances of needing chronic care by engaging in apps about fitness, health and wellness, as well as reminders and suggestions about appointments, check-ups and check-ins. And while two-thirds of U.S. hospitals offer mobile apps, Accenture say the response from healthcare providers has been “woefully inadequate” with hospitals only engaging less than two percent of their patients using mobile apps. Accenture warns providers to “up their mobile game” or risk losing customers/patients to digital health disruptors.

The digital health disruptors in the market are paying close attention not only to what customers want, but also working hard to ensure the functionality and user experience align with innovative design.

Efficacy and Access

Mobile stands to improve the efficacy of care as it also works to help address some of the gaping holes in U.S. health that comprise the social determinants of health, such as lack of access to reliable mass transit to bring the patient to the doctor. With mobile, the doctor can go to the patient, instead of vice versa, and often at considerably lower expense for both the payer and the patient! Goodbye cancelled appointments or long office visits that result in lost pay for many Americans. Hello, timely advice and care that can address issues before they become chronic.

Slowing Disease Prevention and Progression 

With 100 million Americans now either diabetic or pre-diabetic, there’s no better time to talk about what can be done early in the cycle to prevent or slow the disease progression. Personalized suggestions, menu apps, friendly reminders about exercise and eating right are just small examples of how mobile can move the needle in the right direction for those not yet diabetic. For those who are, the growing availability of mobile apps to help monitor glucose, as just one example, are not only convenient, they can also be lifelines for the patient.

Discharge Information for Patient and Caregiver

An important aspect of reducing re-admissions that are costly to the provider, the patient, and the payer, is to have the patient understand what they need to do when they get home. Using mobile to remind patients about medication schedules and provide simple, plain language about what they need to do, what meds they need to take, and why, as well as what they need to file with their insurance company, can increase the health of the patient while reducing the number of readmissions.

Understanding Benefits

People lead busy lives today. Working America suffers from time poverty. If they can quickly pull up their phone and understand what their healthcare benefits are and how to use them, they are more likely to make intelligent choices that can improve a payer’s ROI and a patient’s health. Meeting healthcare consumers where they are via mobile results in happier, more engaged consumers. Rather than logging on to clunky portals from their desktop, or worse, navigate a voicemail labyrinth of long hold times to understand what benefits they have and when to use them, they can connect real-time, with ease on their smartphone.

Competing for Search 

So many Google searches include the terms “near me,” and healthcare searches use this term as well. Whether looking for urgent care, doctors, dentists, or other care, consumers are using their phones to search for care near where they are when they need it. An antiquated website with complex terms is not only hard for consumers to navigate, but also will result in poor search results for the “near me” quest.

Improving Clinical Trials

One of the struggles most hospitals and research facilities have is not only finding the correct number of trial participants with the correct genetic requirements to get to a high enough N for statistically significant results. It’s also been a challenge historically to get participants to consistently engage in the program. There’s drop off in clinical trials where participants stop coming and this slows the time it takes and raises the cost to bring solutions to market. With mobile, clinical trials have lower drop off rates. Trial leaders can reach out to participants on their device, get accurate real-time feedback, and make completing surveys a breeze.

And while these are just a very few of the many ways mobile can benefit payers and providers, it doesn’t mean it’s all blue skies moving your organization to a mobile-first mindset.

Here are three pieces of advice for those preparing for digital transformation efforts:

1 -Think Compliance First

All too often teams get excited and start designing a mobile-optimized website without thinking about the complex regulations healthcare must abide by. Compliance and security must be at the heart of everything you do, so learn who the experts are who can give you solid advice about how to create a cloud environment that is secure and meets HIPAA compliance requirements in the beginning of your build, not the end.

2 – Know Your Customers

It’s imperative in a mobile setting to be able to create and offer content that includes the full customer journey. You’ll want to understand what your customers need to know and when, and have it handy in clear language with compelling graphics. If you haven’t done persona work, it’s time to get started.

3 – Bring in a Multi-Functional Team

This is not a project to be relegated to a single designer. You’ll want to build an ecosystem of connected patient or member facing tools that work with a significant amount of complex data. Use design thinking and pragmatic design constructs, and always consider scale. Think about interoperability and how you’ll connect the patient/member to their data, as well as how to make that connection easy and visually appealing.

Remember, consumers want to be met where they are, and they expect it to be intuitive to get the information they want.

Building a Strong Foundation

Sometimes, teams are focused on a web page rather than taking the time to ensure they have access to good clean data. They can transmit it safely back and forth between the payer or provider and patient within compliant frameworks, and they have taken the steps to really think like their customers to anticipate what they’ll need just before they need it.

It may be something as simple as providing a checklist for incoming patients to a hospital with what to bring, where to park, where to check in, what to expect, and forms they can pre-complete online to save check in time. Consumers expect personalization and engagement these days, and if you can’t give it to them, they will certainly use that phone to look for someone who can.

Healthcare organizations should ask themselves whether they really can go it alone, as most do not have the internal resources to create the digital infrastructure at scale effectively and efficiently. Know when to bring in an expert so you can continue to focus on providing patient care or member resources. The cloud is a wonderful opportunity for healthcare to embrace digital transformation, but you’ll want a partner versed in every aspect of how to build and maintain an environment that provides the customer experience you want while still protecting sensitive data while meeting compliance framework criteria.