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Communicating in a “Triage” World

By Betsy Weaver, Ed.D., CEO, UbiCare
Connecting with people isn’t what it used to be. It’s not just a conversation over the back fence or a chat on Main Street. Today, you can reach anyone anywhere in the world within seconds.
That can feel both intoxicating and insurmountable for small businesses with a great idea, limited resources and big-gun competitors. Technology lets us communicate with a huge audience, but if we don’t do it effectively, we’re lost — in a sea of other failed attempts to capture attention and communicate ideas.
At UbiCare, communication is our lifeblood. Our mission is to educate and engage people in their healthcare by improving the connection between patients and their caregivers. Our challenge has been in figuring out how to best connect with both of them.
Studies suggest that in the U.S., 80% of patients want to communicate with providers electronically. But what’s the best channel to connect with them? Apps, text messaging, social media, email, a website…?
Whatever the choice, we now know that it has to be mobile. In 2013, 49% of the entire U.S. population used a smartphone, a number projected to jump to 68% by 2017. Technology is no longer about being electronic; it’s about being mobile.
So, what’s the “slam dunk” approach to “mConnections”? All of the channels mentioned above have a prominent place, but the winner, ironically, is what some people have declared obsolete: Email. As the familiar quotation goes, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Indeed, email is alive and well!
According to the IDC Study for Facebook, it’s the most common smartphone activity (beyond talking or texting) among 18- to 44-year-olds today; 78% use their smartphones to check email (more than websites, Facebook, maps or games).
That said, email has had to evolve as quickly as technology. Even just two years ago, email messages, ours included, were long and clunky. In today’s world, shorter is sweeter. New technology has turned email into mobile mail (mEmail).
At UbiCare, we’ve learned that bringing software development in-house to improve our mEmail patient engagement solution was the most efficient way to evolve, as detailed in a recent article about us in The New York Times. Now, not only does our messaging change quickly to keep up with the dizzying pace of technology, our software does, too.
But here’s the challenge for any business trying to connect in a mobile age: If you want someone to open mEmail, your message better be good!
Consider the overcrowded inbox on your own smartphone. The subject line decides whether you’ll open a message; and if you do open it, the content must be visually appealing, relevant and valuable to you, NOT the sender. Going through your inbox has become a triaging mission. You have to quickly decide whether to delete, read now or save to read later.
This means that the way we communicate with and pitch our customers has had to change.
We have mere seconds to catch their eye and convince them not to delete our message. Even if we become a “read now,” we have their attention for only 15–30 seconds or so. So the content better be good – REALLY good. It better deliver something of immediate value to the recipient.
Ultimately, you want your messages to fall into the coveted category of what I call “save and read later.” If you’re lucky enough to be in this category, your message benefits from being a “two-fer,” falling into both the “read now” and “save and read later” categories.
This kind of messaging has helped us enable our clients to create and sustain real relationships with their target audience. It’s the most effective way for businesses to communicate with customers where they are
— reading and engaging with messages that are always at the tip of their fingertips…literally.
Betsy Weaver, Ed.D., is the CEO and cofounder of UbiCare (founded as TPR Media in 2002). She created the first email services for hospitals designed to enhance care connections with patients and streamline processes for staff. In 2011, she created the first hub platform for healthcare, incorporating email, social media, text messaging and web services. She holds a master’s in education and a doctorate in social policy and trend analysis from Harvard University. She can be reached at 617-524-8861 or


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