Mobile Website or Medical App?

Here is a guest blog post from Steve Lewis, Director of 2Med, where he discusses the merits of mobile websites vs. medical apps.

I was asked recently to advise whether a mobile website was more appropriate than an app.  The answer is not straight forward, as it really does depend on your goals, target audience, budget and required features.

Lets bring this back to the beginning, whilst both can be accessed via a smartphone or tablet there are some key differences between them.

What is the difference between a mobile site and an app?

A mobile website is very similar to a conventional website however it has been especially configured to suit the display of smartphones and tablets.  Typically written in HTML it can be accessed online.  The use of  a touch-screen interface gives the mobile site the ability to hyperlink a phone number so that the user can click-to-call.  The user can also take advantage of geo-based mapping.

Apps are downloaded from device specific portals (Apple’s App Store, Android Market, or Blackberry App World) and installed on a mobile device.  Content can be drawn from the internet or downloaded offline.  This is an important distinction.


- Mobiles are set to outnumber people by end 2012

- 14.5 million people go online to find out health information in the UK

- Government is encouraging the use of free medical apps for NHS patients

- Mobile Healthcare and medical App downloads will reach 44 million in 2012, rising to 142 Million in 2016

- Number of patients monitored by mobile networks to rise to 3 million by 2016

So the stats suggest that you should definitely have a mobile option, the question is how best to move forwards

So, which one will be the better choice for my campaign?

Again, it depends on your objective. However, it is worth considering a mobile site ahead of an app in order to develop an online resource and then applying an app for a specific purpose. A combination of the two will really beef up your mobile presence but be clear on your purpose.

When is a mobile site more appropriate?

  • Accessibility: A mobile site will have wider accessibility than an app as there is no requirement to download first.    This advantage is heightened further when you consider that a mobile site will interface with different types of devices rather having to be designed for each type like an app. So for a PR or broad based marketing campaign a mobile site will offer quicker access to customers than an app and is likely to cost less.
  • Timing: An app will need to be submitted for approval by a manufacturer specific store such as Apple or Google which will add time to the launch plan.
  • Updates: A mobile site is preferable whenever content needs to be updated regularly.  The advantage here is that you can determine what your customers will see at all times as the content will change as soon as it is edited. For an app, customers will need to upload the new version so content is then pushed. This means that customers may receive different messages if they do not have a current version and may lose interest in the app if they judge the content to be out of date.
  • Searches: Mobile sites offer an internet presence and so can be found via a search engine and can be redirected to the site from your website if they are using a handheld device. By contrasts, apps can be found through manufacturer specific app stores
  • Hyperlinks: The use of hyperlinks makes it easy to share information by email, text, social media and the URL address can be referred to in print media.
  • Shelf-life: It has been reported that 26% of downloaded apps are used just once, Just 5% of free apps are used 1 month after downloaded, Nearly no free app is used after three months. Apps can be deleted.  A mobile site offers a more permanent resource (although, of course, this does not mean that it will be used)
  • Maintenance: An app will need continual investment to support  upgrades, testing, compatibility bug fixing.

When is an app more appropriate?

  • Personalisation – Apps offer a powerful way of building more personal relationships with your customers who can feel that they have more ownership of the content they would like to receive by configuring settings and adding favourites.
  • Interactivity – Apps offer the opportunity to establish interactive relationships with your customers and are the clear choice for gaming which can be used to engage with patients.   Also some healthcare practitioners have access to real-time patient history on their tablets and treatment information that enables them to provide better and more responsive patient care.
  • Visual display – Charts are beautifully displayed via an app. This has particular appeal if you need to display data or the results of calculations that can also be entered as content within the app.
  • Functionality – An app can deliver so much more than a mobile site using its touch-screen functionality. It can make use of all the phone’s features such as the contacts/address book, camera and GPS.  This means that click-to-call and text messaging can be performed via the app and so enhance its usefulness.
  • Offline access – Another key difference is that an app allows the user to access content without an internet connection and can store a lot of information.
  • Sales – Substantial revenue can be generated if the app is designed to accept payments.  For instance, a medical device company who develop a closed community of customers could find an app of particular value.


On balance, I would suggest that if you need to establish a broad communication consider a mobile website.  The site can be easily found via search engines and shared through hyperlinks. An app is the way forward for more personalised or  interactive engagement and is a real bonus for generating direct sales.

If you are interested in what else Steve has to say please check out his blog for 2med here.

For further discussion of all things mobile, you may be interested in attending DigiPharm Europe 2012 where we have a variety of talks and workshops on the subject, such as the workshop titled ‘Integrating mobile and social media into multichannel communications strategies’ where there will be a session on how to successfully build a mobile app.


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