The creation of one of the largest beacon networks reflect the growing importance of proximity in the health care sector.

By David Kaplan
June 23, 2016 — 8:00 am

Proximity marketing platform Gimbal is working with Health Media Network to activate beacon programs at all of HMN’s digital displays at the 12,000-plus medical centers it serves to foster one-to-one communications between patients and wellness brands.

The project represents the largest single deployment of a beacon network and demonstrates the evolution of proximity marketing beyond retail. In particular, health care as a sector is poised to rival retail as the primary market for beacons.

The partnership comes a few months after Rite Aid began working with inMarket to install and activate beacons at all its 4,600 U.S. stores. It’s worth noting that at the time, Rite Aid’s rollout represented the largest single-brand beacon network.

“We’ve built Health Media Network over past seven years and we’ve always seen our communications and programming network this as a place-based opportunity for wellness marketers,” said HMN CEO Chris Culver. We’re about taking the best technology in the world and making it relevant in the health care sector. This partnership with Gimbal allows us to deliver contextually relevant messaging and education in the uncluttered trusted setting of a doctor’s office waiting room.”

As a “point of care media provider,” HMN distributes education and health content in physician waiting rooms through a platform that customizes messages targeted across 30 specialty health networks. HMN currently reaches more than 55,000 physicians in over 12,000 medical offices and healthcare systems across the country.

The beacon rollout of the 12,000 doctors’ offices is expected to be completed within the next 120 days. “We’re constantly adding new offices every month and once we’ve finished the initial rollout, the new subscribers will immediately have beacons embedded with their programming package,” Culver said.

HMN will use Gimbal’s proximity solutions, which include geofencing around medical facilities as well as indoors, to complement its current multimedia patient education engagement solution that includes in-office Digital TV, Healthy Living Wallboards, Patient Guides, and mobile messaging.

HMN’s customer base of pharmaceutical marketers, consumer packaged goods and other health-oriented products and services will be able to utilize this proximity-based solution to leverage the power of targeted messaging to patients during a critical window of time in their health journey.

“Because we own all the communications touchpoints in a doctor’s office — we have static posters and patient education guides — we’ll be able to appropriately message patients and staff how to connect with the beacons and app developers,” Culver said. “We’re going to be very selective about the marketing partners we bring into the health care setting.”

The potential use cases Gimbal and HMN have discussed are even more numerous than in a retail setting. Consider the mindset of people in medical center, say Culver and Brian Dunphy, SVP of business development and strategic partnerships at Gimbal: these are people who are actively focused on their well-being and on treating a particular health issue. As such, they’re in the process of going to a store or pharmacy to improve their health.

“We keep coming back to the idea of ‘relevancy’ of the contextual messaging beacons allow,” Culver said. “We could follow the flu bug throughout the country and disseminate messages about care and prevention.”

The use cases also go beyond marketing, Dunphy said. In the same way that beacons in a retail context are discussed as tools for “enhancing the in-store experience” beyond just offering coupons, proximity messaging can improve patient care and make the waiting room experience less anxious and unpleasant.

“The beacons in HMN’s programming could be used to automate the check-in process at a doctor’s office for patients who download an insurance provider’s app,” Dunphy said. “That could dramatically reduce waiting room times. They could also be used to notify physicians about high-priority patients who need immediate care. The value to patients, doctors, and medical staffers are clear.”