Mobile and In-App Advertising for HCPs: Why Does It Work?

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In 2020, advertisers spent more than $240 billion on mobile app advertising; this number has increased by 26% from 2019.1 For the healthcare marketer, this is especially important, as 51% of time spent online came from mobile devices alone, and 4 in 5 healthcare professionals (HCPs) use smartphones on a daily basis.2,3 To reach specific audiences, such as healthcare target audiences, marketers should understand the basics of using mobile and in-app advertising and how to maximize reach using this platform.

HCPs Use CTV Devices Now More Than Ever

Mobile ads are typically surfaced on mobile websites, through browsers such as Safari or Google Chrome. In-app ads are shown through smartphone applications such as social media or game apps. Unlike internet advertising, where the target user’s information is obtained through cookies, mobile app advertising functions through device IDs as opposed to cookies. A device ID is a unique anonymous identifier consisting of numbers and letters that corresponds with a single, specific mobile device, or user.4 Every smartphone has a unique device ID that is stored directly in the phone’s hardware and corresponds directly to the user. There are two types of device IDs that exist: the Google Advertising ID (GAID) that exists on Android devices and the Identity for Advertisers (IDFA) located inside all devices that use iOS, or Apple products.

HCPs and Smartphone Use

A common misconception among pharmaceutical marketers is that HCPs are too busy during their workdays to engage on smartphone apps or surf the web. In fact, not only are HCPs using smartphones during their downtime, they’ve incorporated smartphone use into their practice settings. Clinicians may use phones with device IDs to look at information on the web on the go, quickly communicate with colleagues though messaging services and apps, and access patient data and test results on telehealth platforms.5

Although the average age of both the physician and the nurse extends into the 5th generation (51 years for physicians and 48-50 years for nurses), smartphone use among those age groups is relatively high.6,7 In 2019, approximately 92% of individuals aged 30-49 owned a smartphone and 79% of those aged 50-64 owned a smartphone.8

Percentage of Physicians Compared With Percentage of Smartphone Users by Age

Additionally, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a historic spike in medical school applications among those in their 20s.9 This population has been the most engaged on smartphones, with 86% of Americans aged 18-29 owning at least 1 smartphone.10 This influx of young HCPs coupled with their increasing smartphone use unveils an opportunity for healthcare marketers to reach this target audience demographic with mobile and in-app advertising.

Target HCPs with Device IDs

With the power of device IDs, healthcare marketers can identify their healthcare target audience through their engagement with mobile app advertising. Healthcare marketers can identify HCPs by looking into the top medical apps for doctors—especially if these doctors are using apps at practice settings. These include Epocrates, Medscape, UpToDate, and MedPage Today.11 Additionally, marketers should identify the key topic areas that medical professionals value most, which include industry news, product updates and announcements, research and educational opportunities; medical education program information; patient education materials; insurance network updates.12 This way, marketers can identify where their clinician audience is interacting on mobile and in-app, locate the device IDs, and surface their creative.

Benefits of Device IDs

Marketers may be asking themselves why they should target their audience using device IDs when cookies exist. However, the cookieless world is fast approaching. User identity will become much more personalized through this approach, so adopting identity-based data now will give pharmaceutical marketers an advantage in harnessing cookieless data.

Specific benefits of targeting HCPs through mobile and in-app through device IDs as opposed to other channels include higher click-through rates and the ability to analyze user data.4

Next Steps With Mobile App Advertising

Moving forward with mobile and in-app advertising means investing ad spend in a strategic mobile advertising campaign as opposed to utilizing more traditional channels such as desktop. For healthcare marketers looking to target their audience with higher reach and frequency, mobile and in-app is the best option, as the number of HCPs using smartphones will continue to increase. “Adfire Health’s team can develop a customized mobile advertising solution through our inventory of device IDs to identify your healthcare target audience and create a hyper-targeted, accurate ad campaign.”
  1. Sydow L. The State of Mobile in 2020: How to Win on Mobile. App Annie website. Published January 15, 2020. Accessed January 20, 2021.  
  2. Petrov C. 57 Mobile vs. Desktop Usage Statistics For 2020 [Mobile’s Overtaking!]. Techinjury website. Updated August 11, 2020. Accessed January 20, 2021.  
  3. Healthcare Client Services. Professional Use of Smartphones by Doctors. Kantar. Published November 16, 2016, Accessed January 20, 2021. 
  4. Device ID. Apps Flyer website. Accessed January 20, 2021. 
  5. Ryan T. Treating the Smartphone Generation: How Doctors are Embracing mHealth to Improve Patient Care. HealthChampion website. Published November 11, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2021.   
  6. Sweeney JF. Physician Retirement: Why it’s Hard for Doctors to Retire. Medical Economics. Published February 13, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2021. 
  7. Schnur MB. U.S. Nurses in 2020: Why We Are and Where We Work. NursingCenter website. Published May 28, 2020. Accessed January 20, 2021. 
  8. Demographics of Mobile Device Ownership and Adoption in the United States. Pew Research Center. Published June 12, 2019. Accessed January 21, 2021. 
  9. Travis A. Historic Spike in Medical School Applications: Is It the ‘Fauci Effect? KXAN website. Published December 25, 2020. Accessed January 20, 2021. 
  10. Anderson M. The Demographics of Device Ownership. Pew Research Center. Published October 25, 2015. Accessed January 20,. 2021.
  11. Rupp S. Top Medical Apps for Doctors. Electronic Health Reporter website. Published February 18, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2021. 
  12. How to Effectively Reach Medical Professionals Through Content Marketing. Health Link Dimensions website. Published January 9, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2021. 

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