Not many caregivers may tell their mobile patient apps generate revenue, but that can be changed. Practically, avoiding only a few sins when developing an app and its marketing strategy will help providers to satisfy patient needs and start reaching their business goals.
The notorious “There’s an app for that” rings true if look at the number of mHealth applications flooding app markets across mobile platforms. According to the study by Research 2 Guidance, there were about 259,000 mHealth apps available on the market in 2016. Patients are offered to keep up with their nutrition, physical activities, vitals, medication intake schemes and other needs.
With such a broad choice, patients can expect to find just the right option to match the need. However, when a patient wants not just a calorie tracker or step counter but a comprehensive tool to manage health and interact with their caregiver, things get way more complex. Let alone UI/UX, a universal app for multiple patient needs can fail to satisfy the user due to a number of functional gaps.
The sins of mobile patient apps
Many independent publishers and healthcare organizations experience difficulties in approaching patients with acute and chronic diseases along with healthy people who want to stay well. This translates into missed business value and frustration about unjustified investments.
To escape disappointment with an inefficient mHealth app, providers and publishers should align their understanding of patient needs and, what’s more important, of patient mindset. Let us recall 4 mHealth app sins that come from the lack of balance between expectations and reality.
1. Overlooking user experience
The mediocre facade of patient applications results from scarce efforts put into encouraging a patient to use the app regularly. Providers may not understand that using an mHealth app is a tiresome chore for particular patients with chronic or severe conditions, as this type of patients frequently wants to forget about their disease. An app serves as a yet another reminder of limitations and special needs, thus some patients can back out of using such a tool.
On the other hand, some patients feel just fine and think that their condition isn’t serious enough to track vitals, exercise or control their nutrition. If an app can’t be both amusing and motivating, this audience may give up on it too.
Other apps don’t speak a patient’s language and feel more like a physician-level dictionary, not a personal health guide. Accordingly, all of this medical jargon can scare the patient and make them abandon the app.
2. Making a mobile copy of a patient portal
At the first sight, it may seem like a good idea to offer patients a convenient access to their patient portal account with lab results, scheduling, prescription refilling and billing. However, if that’s all that providers offer their patients in a mobile wrap, such an application won’t be used regularly. Moreover, if such a universal application is to serve all types of patients, the healthy consumers of a provider’s services may feel such an application isn’t a good fit for them and won’t use it.
It’s necessary to note that portals and apps are conceptually different. A patient portal serves for reference, making a patient more of an observer than an active participant in their health. Using a portal, a patient can’t usually get any quick feedback when recording their vitals, mood, nutrition and activity.
Patients want to interact while using a mobile application, be it through push notifications warning of missed appointments, alerts on abnormal values of vitals or secure video appointments with a physician. Providers could enable interactivity only if they treat an mHealth app as a separate product, not a portal copy.
3. Focusing on appointments above all
The majority of mobile apps from caregivers offer patients useful functions as scheduling, re-scheduling and tracking appointments. This feature may be bundled with others and serve as an additional tool to ensure a satisfying experience of using the application.
However, appointment management can’t influence patient engagement on its own, though some providers expect it to serve as one of loyalty-building features. These days, if you are a health system, hospital, clinic or any other healthcare organization with an mHealth app, you should offer patients to use an application to contact you and schedule an appointment as default functions, not brag about this ‘innovative’ features. They are basic.
4. Missing a chance to self-promote
An mHealth app should be a revenue driver, whether directly or indirectly. While we don’t suggest to bombard patients with loud and annoying advertising, providers should think carefully about their strategy of promoting their services to patients.
Is there any role model?
It is impossible to create an impeccable patient application right at the first attempt, but providers can escape these sins and invest into relevant functionality. Patients need a reason to regularly use an mHealth app as an option to educate themselves with materials in a digestible form and an access to a caring hand whenever they need it. We gathered these needs in this packed guide on a patient app functionality to tackle the challenge and balance patients’ expectations with business goals.
By Lola Koktysh from ScienceSoft.