I’m continually surprised by the lack of appreciation of the mHealth opportunity amongst high profile health and care organisations when it comes to very basic mobile engagement principles.
Obviously the UK’s NHS Direct service is one of the biggest culprits having spent millions of public healthcare budgets marketing one of the most high profile 0845 numbers to patients:
Although it draws more than £100 million of taxpayers money every year this organisation continues to use a 0845 “low call” rate number – an unexcusable rip off of patients. The fact that most telephones in the UK would charge their owners a premium rate to connect to this number isn’t for me helped by the claims that it’s not actually generating any revenues from it’s use (in the private sector this type of poor business decision making would never be tolerated).
Sadly there are also lots of charitable sector service providers that are also going to have to be brought up to date by this move by the regulator eg. Samaritans who currently run a very successful multimillion pound outdoor marketing campaign across the British rail network sponsored by Network Rail that uses one of these premium rate numbers despite the fact that they actually launched 24/7 SMS support services more than 5 years ago:
A glaring oversight that is highlighted by the various Samaritan press releases that point to the direct relation between mounting personal debt and suicide rates. “Here’s a premium rate service to help you with your financial problems…” would make a funny cartoon if it wasn’t just terribly sad.
I’m always worried when I see innovation being led by regulators and while I accept that there’s still some time before all this is enforced I think it’s still a very positive thing – good luck and congratulations OFCOM!
***** UPDATE 29 October 2014 *****
In the Republic of Ireland there’s been an update and the Samaritans are now free to call from a mobile on all the major mobile networks (eg. O2/Three, Vodafone, etc) by dialling 116123: