Exploring Different Kinds of Mobile Technology for Your Dental Business

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Tanya Stein
We love mobile technology. For many of us, that includes booking our travel through an app or viewing a mobile-optimized dinner menu on our phone. Why? Because the mobile experience makes our lives easier, and we can do just about anything related to e-commerce, service, and information with less hassle and less time. This illustrates why the mobile trend has become one of the most adopted technologies in our society today.

Not all mobile technology is the same. With many software communication companies like Televox, Officite, Dental Anywhere, and Sesame Communications pushing their own mobile platform, it can be challenging to distinguish one product from another. Although they are all mobile, it’s the technology behind these products that truly dictates their limitations and potentials.

In this article, we will examine 3 types of mobile technology: native apps, Web apps/mobile Web sites, and responsive design. Loving and using mobile technology is one thing, but knowing how to harness it and apply it for our own professional gain is another. So put your “techie” hats on—it’s with this information that making that commitment to a mobile presence will not only be easier, but will enable you to forecast how the product will be beneficial.

The Native App

The Native app, also known as a mobile app, is software you download from the app stores (iTunes and Google Play). Without them, our smartphones would not function as the personal assistant/entertainment center we all embrace. It’s because of native apps that flip phones are going the way of the dinosaur. Our smartphones have specialized hardware that work in harmony with these apps, and because of this relationship, our smartphones can function as a flashlight, notepad, calendar, timer, phone, game center, personal resource, photo book, music player, etc.

A distinguishing characteristic of a mobile app is its ability to save information on the phone. This means that once information is downloaded from the Internet, its contents are stored locally for access without connectivity. This is how the mobile app is able to offer up its content immediately; it is how we are able store pictures, contacts, conversations or even resume gameplay. In a dental setting, this can be of value to you and your patient base because access to notes, photos, education, appointments, information, payment processing, and more is available anytime, anywhere. Because information is stored on the device, the user interface is typically faster with a more fluid movement.

Mobile apps are also the only product that automatically places an icon on the home screen when downloaded to the phone or tablet. This makes downloading compliance much simpler than other products that must be manually added or pinned. Having an icon acts as a digital business card or reminder that information has been stored on the device for viewing and reference.

Key details include:

  • Formatted for mobile device viewing
  • Information stored locally within the app
  • Found in the app store
  • Software created to utilize the capabilities of a smartphone or tablet
  • App icon automatically installed on home screen

The Web App/Mobile Web Site

The Web app and mobile Web site are both mobile friendly Web sites. They are designed to accommodate the emerging population of Web searchers visiting the Internet from a mobile device. Instead of viewing a Web site created for desktop computers, these 2 products were developed to ease the limitations of viewing content on a smaller screen.

The 2 products are virtually interchangeable, except for one small difference. The Web app hides or embeds the navigation bar (where the URL is located) so it cannot be seen, whereas the mobile Web site does not. By hiding the URL, the Web app mimics the look of a native app. But unlike the native app, both the Web app and mobile Web site rely on connectivity to function. This leaves access to information susceptible to Internet failure. All the apps’ data is pulled from an Internet server every time they are opened and never saved on the smartphone itself. This is what renders the user experience slightly slower in speed and possibly less smooth. With that being said, it’s their connectivity that also allows them to be viewed on a greater number of mobile devices, such as the BlackBerry or Windows phone. 

With the mobile app, Web app, and mobile Web site, the navigation and layout are simplified for a less complicated mobile interaction. The purpose is to offer the visitor an easy-to-read format, which is direct in content. Enhancing the visitor experience by minimizing the need to scroll up and down or zoom in and out is a great way to cater to your audience. Not only do you care about how patients experience your practice clinically, but also virtually. Like any Web site, it’s another opportunity to share office information, patient education, pay bills and more—just smaller.

It must be noted that because the Web app and mobile Web site are Web-based products, a Web browser, such as Apple Safari or Google Chrome, must be opened to view them. Icons that represent any mobile Web site or Web app are not automatically downloaded to any mobile device home screen. Users who want to save this information must be told do so manually.

Key details include:

  • Being formatted for mobile device viewing
  • Internet connectivity is a must
  • The ability to be found with a Web browser, Web link, or quick response (QR) code
  • Icons that can be pinned to home screen on mobile device

Responsive Design

Responsive design is also the direct result of the world trending mobile. It’s a type of Web site capable of adapting itself to whatever viewing device is being used. Instead of having a mobile Web site and a regular Web site, a responsive design Web site can exist that changes size and resolution according to the device it’s being viewed from. It doesn’t matter if it’s a desktop, notebook, or smartphone, the need for minimizing or expanding screens is diminished with responsive design.

In comparison to a mobile Web site or Web app, a responsive design product can be a little heavy on the content because it’s the same content, no matter what the viewing size. Remember, the mobile Web site and Web app have had their content simplified for mobile viewing ease, not just resized. The responsive design Web site is a relatively new product. Although it’s currently on the expensive side to develop, it does prevent the hassle of developing Web sites for each platform, including smartphones, notebooks, desktops, etc.
 
Key details include:

  • Being formatted for mobile device viewing on any platform
  • Internet connectivity is a must
  • The ability to be found with a Web browser, Web link, or QR code
  • Icons that can be pinned to home screen on mobile device

How to Decide

Ah, the question we’ve all been waiting for. Deciding which mobile product will bring the biggest return on your investment depends on what your intent for that product is. If your intent is information-sharing purposes only, any product will work as long as the Internet is available. If your intent is to offer a more interactive experience, maybe a native app is a better choice due to its ability to use the smartphone hardware. When deciding, ask yourself questions like these:

  • Can using mobile technology improve upon the way you are currently doing business?
  • Do you want to provide a mobile solution independent of the Internet?
  • Would you like patients or people to have an easier time accessing and viewing office information?
  • How do you view companies that offer mobile technology?
  • Do you want your mobile product to take advantage of smartphone capabilities?
  • Do you think patients would be in better contact if they didn’t have to search the Web for office information?
  • Can you save money on other resources by investing in a mobile product?

Whether it’s a mobile app, Web app, or responsive design Web site, offering visitors and users a mobile product to enhance their experience with your practice benefits them and you. Mobile technology is being implemented worldwide for all kinds of businesses to ultimately serve this purpose. This exploration of mobile technology should reveal not only the differences in products but also a shared objective to offer better business and service. We already agree that we love mobile technology for this reason, so if we love it, why wouldn’t your patients?


Ms. Stein has more than 20 years of experience in dentistry, technology, and marketing. She received her bachelor of arts in communication studies at California State University of Northridge. As the daughter of a dentist, she followed her father’s footsteps and graduated from the University of Southern California Dental School in 2005. She has been working as a state licensed dental hygienist ever since. In May 2010, Tanya joined her brother, Michael Stein, CEO of Dental Anywhere Mobile Apps, and began working on public awareness, dental and technical education, content creation, and product development for the company’s patient-care mobile apps. Ms. Stein also created thedentalinsider.com, an online resource for patients. In 2009 and 2010, she was selected as the hygiene representative for the California Dental Association (CDA) Allied Health Professional Task Force. She was also one of the first Allied Health professionals to join CDA as a member. She can be reached via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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