QR codes for hospitals

Healthcare Marketing: QR Codes Effective for Hospitals?

QR codes can be effective for healthcare marketing, but they have limitations.

They’re everywhere these days.  You see them often.  In magazines, newspaper ads, retail stores, on product packaging and in many unexpected places.  Quick Response Codes, better known as QR Codes, with the black and white patterned squares that can be scanned by a Smartphone to link to a web page, registration form, contact info, etc.  QR codes link print and the web and allows tracking of its use.  And they are becoming more and more prevalent.  Their use increased 1600% last year.

QR codes can be very effective, disseminating useful information to the consumer.  The code can provide additional information, show a video, provide a place to respond, offer surveys and many other creative uses.  QR codes have many positive attributes for healthcare marketers but also some limitations.  A listing of both are offered here:

Positive attributes

1.    Easy to create
2.    Basically free
3.    Can be printed on almost anything
4.    Can disseminate a large amount of information
5.    Provide information in a private setting


1.    Not everyone has Smartphone…only 35% of population
2.    The linked website must be compatible with mobile platform
3.    Smartphone must be close to the QR code
4.    Phone must have the appropriate app to read the code

QR codes can be very successful for healthcare marketers.  But their use should be strategic.  It should fulfill a consumer need.  And it should be easy to use

Hospital Marketing: To QR or Not to QR?

QR Codes are becoming more and more popular but they aren’t appropriate for every use.

QR codes are everywhere.  And aren’t they cool?  They are great at providing additional information and for engaging consumers.  Brands like Starbucks and Lady Gaga are using QR codes very effectively to build loyalty and many retail brands are using QR codes to provide additional product information.

In fact, worldwide usage of QR codes is growing at more than 20% annually and barcode usage in North America is growing at a 42% clip.

But despite this rapid growth and the usefulness of QR codes there are some uses, which make no sense at all.  B.L. Ochman writing for Ad Age  gave some examples of some poor uses of QR codes.

1.   QR codes on billboards, too high ad too far away to get a clear scan.

2.   QR codes in subways and places where there is no cellphone reception.

3.   Barcodes in TV spots when by the time you can grab your phone and find the scanner the spot is over.

4.   QR codes with no instructions.  Not everyone knows how to use a QR code. 

5.   Using a proprietary code so you need a specific type of QR reader.  Most people will not bother to download a scanner just to read one particular scan.

There are many other bad uses of QR codes.  Some that don’t make sense at all.  You probably have seen some yourself.

So the point for hospital marketers is that QR codes can be very useful. But it is not something to use just because everyone’s doing it.  Not just because it’s a new fad. Its use should be strategic and it should be easy and useful.   Clear instructions and the benefits of accessing the scan are imperative.

QR codes is a technology that should be used and can be extremely useful in healthcare advertising.  Perhaps in more than any other industry, within the healthcare arena, QR codes can be the mechanism to deliver very valuable information that can’t be delivered in an ad or flyer or poster.

Do we use QR codes in hospital advertising?  Of course!  But make sure it makes sense and delivers a true benefit to the user.  Not just because it’s cool.