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The Future of Beacons Expands Well Beyond Retail

Jill Groebl

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In March 2015, Intouchers descended upon the SXSW Interactive Festival, an annual curation of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity. Their mission? To absorb, interact, scrutinize, analyze, discuss and debate the most important takeaways from the event … and then share those back. They left SXSW inspired by actionable, practical ideas that would make a difference in how we do our work at Intouch every day. Below is an excerpt from their experience.

Beacons are hot, they are now, and they are here. At SXSW, I sat in on a highly engaging session about the future of beacons.

The speaker from Bluetooth gave us a brief history on the technology, explaining what a beacon is and what it is not. Beacons are not intended to collect information, which may be a common misperception consumers have. Beacons are a low-cost, soon-to-be-free transmitter device that connects with smartphones running iOS 7 or 8. They are intended to send relevant messages to individuals based on where they are and what they are doing.

Beacons open up amazing possibilities to converge the physical and digital worlds, and the speaker advised us on some general best practices. For example, always be sure the user/consumer is aware of the privacy policy and knows what they are getting. For brands and marketers, make sure the messages they are sending to people adds value to their experience. There is a fine line here; as marketers we shouldn’t step over the line into “creepy,” but we should consistently offer something relevant to the end user or the technology loses its credibility.

The adoption of beacons has mainly been within the retail industry at this point. Retailers use them to target shoppers, sending relevant messages during their shopping experience. These messages range from coupons to product information to giveaways and customer reviews. According to the speaker, in 2015, nearly 50% of retailers were including beacons within their stores. By 2019, nearly 100% of retailers will have adopted this technology and will be using it to communicate to customers. It will also be used to optimize the in-store experience, using information from consumers to improve store layouts and inventory and enhance merchant offerings.

This is an amazing application for the retail industry, but what does this highly customized and personalized technology offer healthcare? Halfway through this talk, the discussion got broader, and I started thinking about unique ways the healthcare industry can really embrace beacons to not only communicate to patients, HCPs and caregivers in relevant ways, but also begin to understand more about their experiences with their entire healthcare journey.

What if beacon technology was adopted in doctors’ offices and healthcare institutions to better the patient’s visit or hospital stay? What if a doctor’s office sent me a personalized message about my appointment time or that the doctor was running late or that my lab results were in or where my place was in line for seeing my doctor? This could save time for the patient and essentially rule out the “waiting room” entirely. Beyond that, what if doctors began to prescribe wearable beacons for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia? Caregivers would feel more in control of knowing where their loved one was at all times, and doctors could track patient activity more closely. For a patient with a chronic condition, could beacons be used to provide treatment reminders, recommendations for lifestyle changes, healthy living habits and more?

When Apple first deployed their iBeacon technology in their Apple stores in late 2013, Intouch Solutions took a deep dive into understanding this new technology and how it could be applied to pharmaceutical communications. Today, this vision is becoming reality; our point-of-view is worth a look.

The possibilities for beacons in healthcare are wide.  Let’s broaden our minds and start connecting with patients — or better yet, humans — to give them value beyond merely what a pill or doctor visit offers today.

 

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