QR (quick response) codes have been getting a lot of attention lately. In fact, according to the startup Jumpscan, QR code scanning increased by 1,200 percent from July to December 2010 and a February survey (PDF) of U.S. smartphone users found that 65 percent of users have seen a QR code and 32 percent of smartphone users have scanned one.
So what’s a QR code anyway? For those unfamiliar, a QR code refers to a specific matrix (two-dimensional) barcode that is read by smartphones or QR barcode readers. This code contains information such as text, a website or other data that a user is driven to once the code is scanned.
QR codes have an immediate benefit to marketers and advertisers by providing individuals with a one-step way to find more information about a product or interact with a brand. This practice could clearly be seen at South by Southwest last month as there were QR codes pasted on just about anything and everything – from t-shirts and business cards to pens and stress balls – directing those with a smartphone to microsites with more information about the products.
So how can QR codes be implemented within the health space? Currently, these codes are being used for everything from patient education to medication adherence. Food and drink packages can now link to interactive calorie trackers and personal information about a patient’s diet plan. Additionally, codes attached to medication labels link to prescription information and drug interactions as well as physician and pharmacy contact numbers.
QR codes are not a new technology but are making a surge especially within the health industry. Are QR codes a digital fad or are they here to stay?
Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield recently began incorporating QR codes into various materials distributed to current customers. Starting with a postcard mailing that contained a QR code driving users to the Blue Cross Blue Shield medical care provider directory, these codes have now been added to customer benefit statements sending them to a website to learn more or access their information. Additionally, QR codes have been placed in various print advertisements which direct individuals to a YouTube commercial.
Last year, Takeda Pharmaceuticals utilized a QR code within a print advertisement to take users to the product’s mobile site. As opposed to directing consumers to a website which they may or may not access at a later date, a QR code gives an individual the ability to instantly access additional disease state information, a PDF file on prescribing information as well as a link for easy access to the company’s prescription loyalty savings plan. Thus, providing the company with another touch point and the opportunity to further engage a current or potential customer.
American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society used QR codes last year to promote its Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk, honoring breast cancer survivors, raising awareness about the disease and helping to save lives. As part of the integrated campaign, QR codes were placed on outdoor advertisements and took users to the event’s mobile site. From this website, individuals could opt-in for more information about the event, receive reminders about the walk or even generate email invitations to friends in order to promote and encourage participation. Additionally, the American Cancer Society made it easy to donate to the cause by providing information about donating to the Society via text message. (The American Cancer Society is an Edelman client)
Oral Cancer Foundation
How do you execute a disease awareness campaign targeting an audience of teens and 20 somethings on a limited budget? The Oral Cancer Foundation asked themselves this question and turned to QR codes and guerilla marketing at last year’s US Open of Surfing competition. At an event dominated by their target audience, the Oral Cancer Foundation hit the beaches and handed out creatively worded stickers, t-shirts and temporary tattoos – all linking to a web page containing disease state information. The result – a highly successful public awareness effort reaching the 500,000 young attendees.
As technology continues to evolve, QR codes can be partnered with augmented reality applications so that by using a smartphone, a user can receive location-based information layered over a view of their surroundings through their phones camera. This can be applied to a health setting in many ways – from simple uses such as using Google Maps to layer an image of a person’s surroundings with the locations of health care providers or emergency services to complex uses such as layering additional information about a patient into a surgeon’s view during surgery or virtual x-rays based on prior tomography.