Recently I’ve taken quite an interest in Quick Response codes, or QR codes as they’re commonly called. They’re 2-D bar codes that can be scanned or read as URL links or text by a mobile phone with a camera.
I first learned about QR codes several months ago in various media mentions, and from an article in OutputLinks. The article predicted that QR codes would be as big in America as they already are in Japan. After a large health insurer client expressed interest in QR codes, I investigated further to see if there were any QR code healthcare applications on either the provider (hospital/clinic/physician) or the payer (insurer, plan sponsor) side.
I learned that while QR codes are widely used in a variety of applications—from linking newspaper and magazine readers to websites, providing point-of-interest detail to tourists and visitors, to promoting products at public events, trade shows and point-of-sale locations—the codes have not yet found a home in very many health applications.
So the next time I met with the health insurer (on other topics actually), I brought up QR codes and asked if we could do a little brainstorming. At the time, we were discussing a PBI solution that enables clients to encourage their insurance or benefits plan members to use their health benefits in the most cost-effective manner—specifically, how best to use emergency room (ER) services.
Our research suggested that as much as half of ER visits could and should be directed to either a primary care physician (PCP) or an urgent care center. The difference in cost between an ER and PCP visit, in this case, was $515 (you can guess where I’m going with that $515 postcard!).
Our PB team suggested an outreach campaign that would include direct mail, e-mail and a web page that would both help educate members on when to use an emergency room and promote the use of PCPs through a preventive screening call to action, thus helping members develop a PCP relationship.
“That’s fine,” replied my insurer, “but what about those who don’t start up a PCP relationship right away and find they need care? Do you expect them to carry those postcards around with them?”
That’s when I had my eureka moment. What if our postcards included a QR code that members could scan with their phones as soon as they received them? They would have the URL whenever they needed it! They could easily locate the closest participating urgent care center or PCP to contact.
By directing members to the closest participating urgent care center or PCP, every postcard that drives behavior change is potentially worth $515 to the payer. Pure profit.
Brainstorming further about QR codes and healthcare, we discussed the potential for displaying codes at points of treatment, linking users to online content related to their treatment. Even pharmacies could offer QR codes on drug interaction printouts and usage guides so that members would always have that important information with them.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any ideas about how QR codes could improve healthcare or increase customer interactions? How about codes on the Explanation of Benefit forms we all receive? Could they link to wellness videos, dietary tips or third-party products?
Let’s use this blog to brainstorm. Of course, you can always send me a $515 postcard instead (just kidding).
By the way, if you’re interested in QR codes, you can download a reader from a number of sources. My favorite is at i-nigma.mobi (search from your mobile phone). You can also create your own printable QR codes at http://codezqr.com/, among other sources.