The Art [and Science] of Mobile, Security and Healthcare Storytelling

Storytelling is the most common and memorable form of communication. In its simplest form, storytelling allows us to share experiences and create emotional connections. Today, many businesses claim that they’re storytellers, but few truly understand the art (and science) of storytelling. We’re fascinated with the science of storytelling, so much so that we’ve studied it for years. In our “2012 Prevailing Storylines Study,” we ranked the ten prevailing narratives that appear regularly in mainstream business media. But that wasn’t enough, so in our most recent study of industry-specific media, we trained our eyes on journalists covering mobile technology, IT security and healthcare/ healthcare IT, to look for patterns and potential differences.

The 2013 Prevailing Storylines Study looked at nearly 1,500 articles across 30 business and trade publications spread across three core markets: mobile technology, IT security and healthcare IT/healthcare. The study not only confirmed the prevalence of the ten recurring storylines/narratives, but also showed that certain narratives do indeed appear with regularity in each industry. Within media coverage of mobile technology, for example, “Things Not What They Seem” appeared most frequently. In coverage of IT security, on the other hand, “Recipe for Success” appeared more often, while in healthcare/healthcare IT the most common storyline was “New Kid on the Block.”

What this research showed us is that the science of storytelling is even more nuanced than we thought. In other words, there are enough noticeable differences at the industry level to recommend unique approaches to storytelling in these markets. And, if companies understand what narratives resonate most within their industry and within the media, they can better position themselves for continued growth and success.

Phil Greenough, CEO of Greenough 

With Great Potential Comes Regulation Uncertainty for Medical Mobile Apps

Photo: Drugsdb.com, 2012
Photo: Drugsdb.com, 2012

Ask the average smart phone user and he can probably show you a whole slew of apps he uses, providing a range of different services,  from keeping track of his schedule to streaming custom radio stations to paying for a meal with the scan of a barcode. But what about using your phone to monitor or diagnose your health? According to Research2Guidance, a mobile industry market research firm, approximately 247 million mobile phone users worldwide downloaded a health-related app in 2012. Health apps are on the rise, providing users with software to log exercise, count calories and even assess moles to decide whether they warrant a visit to the dermatologist. Some apps target doctors, allowing them to view X-rays on the go or communicate digitally with their patients. The US FDA noted that there were 17,288 health and fitness apps on the market in mid-2012, along with 14,558 medical apps. However, these mobile apps are the subject of debate as policy makers sort out how to ensure these health resources are credible and safe for consumers to use.

Currently, as is often the case in the tech world, health app technology has outpaced regulation. Heath-related mobile apps represent the intersection of consumer technology, communication, and medicine, making it unclear as to who the responsible regulatory body should be. Both Apple’s App Store and Google Play require that app developers meet some standards, but their guidelines do not currently pertain to content quality or validity. The FDA regulates medical devices, and provides oversight to certain health apps that in effect converts a phone into a medical device. "There are apps today that change a mobile platform into an EKG machine. When it's being used to diagnose patients, it's a medical device we believe is subject to FDA oversight," explained Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in an NPR interview. But that still leaves the oversight of thousands of less technical apps up in the air.

At the moment, federal legislators are working to move a bill through Congress that would help clear up this regulatory ambiguity. Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) has introduced The Healthcare Innovation and Marketplace Technologies Act, which proposes creating an Office of Mobile Health within the FDA. Establishing this new department would ensure that health apps actually provide users with credible and safe information.

We are inevitably going to see a shift towards mobile healthcare and a greater use of health-related consumer technology.  Local health care system Partners HealthCare has already established an entire Center for Connected Health to focus on efficiently and safely developing and implementing mobile health solutions. The recent focus on how to best regulate this new technology is a step in the right direction. The safety and security it will provide will enhance consumer confidence and ultimately accelerate the technology’s adoption.

Lucy Muscarella is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @lucymuscarella

Can Email Survive Mobile?

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At first, I was prepared to disagree entirely with Christine Dunn’s post from last week, “Email Is Still the Best Way to Share Content among Consumers and Businesses.” I've since relaxed my stance, but I still don’t believe it’s the “best” way, although I’ll concede it’s still important and valuable in many instances. But things are starting to change.

Just because email may be the “most-used method” today doesn't mean it’s the best. Why is that distinction important? Because it continues to provide a false sense of security, especially for traditional marketers who are still overly reliant on tools they’ve always used. Yes, email is still the original killer app, but can it survive fundamental changes in how we interact with our surroundings and each other in mobile ecosystems? I’m not so sure.

I strongly agree with Christine that encouraging “smaller, more intimate groups of colleagues, friends and family” to share content is an important goal for all marketers. But I’m not sure if email is really the ultimate tool for doing this, it just happens to be the most familiar to many. The StumbleUpon study Christine mentions (overview here from AdAge) suggests that its users, a younger demographic, “want a direct line of communications,” but the fact that email is one of the ways information is shared doesn’t prove that it’s the best. Maybe it’s just the easiest from the SU interface. I’d need to see more data.

When I think of “direct line of communications,” however, I think texting. I’d wager that more people 34 and younger are communicating via text than email, at least outside of work. And even people older than 34 are growing increasingly more comfortable with texting. It is more immediate and fluid, something that can also be said of popular mobile apps used today for discovering and sharing content such as Instagram.

The discovery-sharing paradigm is much more complex – and potentially powerful – than standard approaches to outbound marketing. That’s another reason I was so eager to disagree with Christine. In fact, her reference to the BtoB marketing study finding that “email marketing is still considered the ‘workhorse’ of the marketing industry because it’s inexpensive and effective” really set me off because the bar for what’s “effective” in email marketing is often quite low.

The BtoB study offers unsurprising stats about how marketers plan to send more content through email, but that still doesn’t prove its value. The report summary teases the notion that marketers can no longer ignore email/social media integration, but I think strategic mobile integration is even more important; and not just mobile versions of online networks, but new methods to experience content that tap either new technology or new approaches  to advance the discovery-sharing paradigm.

No, email isn’t going anywhere soon. But let’s not get carried away with its perceived value, especially considering the source (marketers comfortable with it). I don’t have the answers, but I do think that as we spend more time in a mobile ecosystem, email, at least as it exists today, may not be such a workhorse any more. At least that’s a possible sea change we should all be watching more closely today.

PR Lessons from Healthy Apps

Many of us who work in PR live and die by our smartphones. I know I’m not the only one in my office who keeps mine within arm’s reach 24/7. EMarketer says that 73.3 million Americans now own smartphones. We’re bringing mobile into almost every aspect of our daily lives – we use our phones to shop, make dinner reservations, to date…even our workouts are going mobile. If you’re one of the countless folks (like me) who’ve sworn to take better care of themselves and stick to an exercise plan in 2012, you could probably use a little motivation right about now. We’re more than a month into the new year, and for many of us, we’ve lost the enthusiasm we set out with on January 1. If you’re already in a rut and need some help to stay focused on your goals, there’s good news – help is as close as your smartphone. You can use your device to force yourself to set a goal, get rid of the excuses and even earn rewards by staying on track.

Here are a handful of apps to help you stay on track to a healthier you in 2012:

GymPact(iPhone)

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Commit to a set number of days per week that you want to exercise…and the monetary price you’ll pay if you don’t. Use the app to check in when you go work out at your gym. If you abide by your pact, you’re rewarded with money, courtesy of the people who didn’t stick to their gym pact.

Strava Cycling GPS(Android, iPhone)

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This social training app for cyclists uses your Android’s GPS to track your rides, analyze your performance and then compare or even compete with your friends and fellow cyclists.

RunKeeper (Android, iPhone)

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This advertising-free app uses your smartphone’s GPS to track the stats of your workouts including distance, time, pace, calories, heart rate and path traveled on a map. It also offers audio cues, customized interval workouts and manual entry for treadmills and other cardio equipment.

Fooducate (Android, iPhone)

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Need help decoding nutritional labels? Simply scan the product barcode to see a breakdown of nutrition facts to help you make healthier choices

Calorie Counter(Android, iPhone, Blackberry)

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This app lets you look up nutritional info and track your meals, exercise and weight all in one straightforward package.

Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List(Android, iPhone)

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Need ideas for dinner? Let the Epicurious recipe search offer ideas—and provide access to shopping lists—as you stroll the supermarket aisles.

Amy McHugh is a director, account services for Greenough. Send her an email at amchugh@greenough.biz or follow her on Twitter: @amyemchugh

Healthcare in Your Pocket: The Unstoppable Rise of mHealth

Photo: Juhan Sonin, Flickr
Photo: Juhan Sonin, Flickr

Much has been written in recent months about “consumerization of IT.” In fact, InfoWorld recently launched a channel dedicated to the topic. Overused phrase? Perhaps it is, but it’s also no buzzword du jour. Mobile devices have already liberated your “at home” persona, and now corporate IT is scrambling to protect itself as work personas and home personas converge within one or more preferred devices such as smartphones and tablets. But consumerization of IT doesn’t capture the true potential or massive scale of this disruption.  To fully grasp that, simply insert the world “healthcare” before IT.

The title of a recently published Panasonic/BizTechReports white paper (available here) concerns me. Diagnosis Danger: Governance & Security Issues Cause IT Concerns About iPad in Healthcare Setting perpetuates fear that undoubtedly exists within many healthcare enterprises. That said, the white paper is frankly a bit self-serving; its main point seems to be that iPads (unlike Panasonic devices, of course) may not be robust enough for the typical healthcare setting.  That’s a minor worry in my opinion, but a survey done with CIOs as part of the white paper clearly shows widespread angst.

Despite these worries from within, however, true disruption is underway, and patients, physicians and administrators are driving the mobile health, or “mHealth,” revolution, whether IT is ready or not. Christina Thielst, a hospital administrator who is active in social media through her blog Christina’s Considerations, champions this opportunity by putting a spotlight on ways mobile technology, even “consumery” applications such as FourSquare, are leading to deeper engagement. She doesn’t ignore the risks, but she does encourage her peers to push boundaries.

And push they are. A recent piece in Crain’s New York Business, Wired Docs, tells of physicians who are challenging their employers to “hook them up.” And we’re not talking about mere social media dialogue on Twitter or Facebook, we’re talking about doctors on rounds using apps such as Diagnosaurus on their iPhones to troubleshoot new symptoms.

There is no putting the genie back in the bottle; whether you call it consumerization of healthcare IT or mHealth, the movement is unstoppable. Consumers want it and understand how to use it. And so do many medical professionals.

But don’t take my word for it. Take the words of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the recent mHealth Summit. Read her words carefully, especially her closing line: “This future is not here yet, but it is within sight.” That future is mobile, and those of us who have a stake in mHealth, from developers of new applications to the creators of new content to support them, have an obligation to keep pushing (and innovating) alongside the intrepid physicians, nurses and administrators who have taken up this cause. Sure, healthcare CIOs should be careful in these uncharted waters, but here’s hoping they are committed to doing so with sufficient speed to realize the full promise of mHealth as soon as possible.

Scott Bauman is an executive vice president for Greenough. Send him an email at sbauman@greenough.biz or follow him on twitter: @sbauman