Facebook, Twitter and all other things social media are a tougher sell in the HIPAA-filled world of healthcare. Companies want a piece of that world (they think), but it’s harder to find a fit, and eventually, a return on investment in health than in a field like consumer technology.
But Minneapolis-based startup Mobi has an approach worth sharing. The fledgling company designed a new kind of crutch it says is better-looking and more ergonomically friendly than current models. As part of the company’s self-styled Mobility Manifesto, the crutch comes with a “MobiE-signing” option — Facebook friends can create designs (“skins”) online that patients can order and have pasted over their crutches (pre-market price for the skins: $44).
Facebook’s greatest retail success stories have been with virtual goods (think plows and wheelbarrows on Farmville). But Todd Nelson, Mobi’s director of marketing and business development, old MedCity News that his company can sell real products and even set the stage for bigger business opportunities. He said its app and the MobiE-signing ability should be ready in three months.
MedCity News: How does the application work with Facebook?
Todd Nelson: The Facebook message will be on the marketing materials patients get when they come out of the emergency room or whatever their point of contact is for their Mobi. It will direct them to our Facebook site and they’ll be able to attach the application to their page and tell their friends to sign or design a skin for their Mobi, using our app. Those designs will appear in the patient’s main feed and the patients will be able to order a skin for their Mobi that covers the entire crutch.
MedCity News: How is this going to make you money?
TN: Mobi is the iPhone of crutches. Products like that are branded and live well together in new media. The packaging will direct patients (and their friends) to Facebook, where they can pay for the skins. It also will direct them to our site and get them to upgrade to Mobilegs Ultra.
Part of our customization is focused on healthcare systems. We’re looking at our product overlaid with skins branded by healthcare systems and then directed to retail venues. The Facebook story is key in terms of getting patients’ Mobis customized in a completely branded experience.
MedCity News: Getting people to “like” a Facebook page is different from converting a customer to buy something they can touch. Have you had any other successes with Facebook?
TN: Alex Wong, who was on So You Think You Can Dance, was injured this season. Within 20 minutes of posting something on Facebook, he responded to that. We got great visibility from that, and he was on the set of television shows like Glee on Mobis. Now he’s going to do our user’s manual and videos on YouTube, along with other early users.
The word-of-mouth process is moving 100,000 miles faster now the way Facebook messages and newsfeeds are updated. You’re not just talking to one person, you’re talking to 1,000 people. That information travels very quickly on one person’s perception and experience.
In the end, we can develop more product depending on the money we don’t spend on traditional marketing. So we’re also moving forward with Facebook ads. We’ve had more than 5 million impressions in the course of 30 days.
MedCity News: You’ve created an app, distributed through health systems, that encourages people to share some basic patient information (their injury, where they were treated, etc.) Any privacy concerns?
TN: We haven’t had a lot of push-back from healthcare providers. Facebook and Twitter, by their nature, are an opt-in approach. Patients will basically opt in to start the ball rolling. They approve the application and have set their own privacy settings on Facebook. So we’re working within the confines of users’ privacy settings.
MedCity News: If privacy’s not the big concern, what is?
TN: Timing is going to be everything. We want this to go into a program that formats the design and sends it to a fulfillment center to print and ship in 24 hours. Crutches are time sensitive. We want to get them into the hands of the patients right away.