Healthcare innovation teams and Health IT solution vendors are helping to bring providers and care delivery networks into the age of the healthcare consumer. And while the technical challenges of building a HIPAA-compliant mobile app should not be underestimated, overcoming this challenge has diverted attention from UX.
When implementing a feature, mHealth app development teams have several variables to keep in mind:
- Does the feature add value to the user?
- Does the functionality enhance or detract from the user experience?
- Skillset and Availability: Does my team have the availability and skill-set necessary to implement a user-friendly
functionality for this feature?
Technical Challenges in mHealth App
Solving the technical challenges associated with developing a patient-facing mHealth application has become much easier. However, the care and attention necessary to apply user-centric design and development principles are a real opportunity for innovators to set themselves apart.
This approach is not new for most consumer apps on the market. UX has become almost second nature to most successful companies in Silicon Valley. But it wasn’t always that way. It wasn’t long ago when some of the biggest brands out there were publishing beautifully designed apps that were visually stunning – but nearly impossible for users to navigate. Websites went much the same way. Websites were fairly rudimentary and focused more on claiming a piece of digital real estate than anything.
The good news is that, as markets have become more accustomed to new media, devices, and formats, development teams, and designers become more astute at leveraging them and increasing their ability to engage their end consumer and audience. Whether it is creating “stickiness” for social apps or making checkout easier with e-commerce apps, other markets have embraced the need for understanding, implementing, and experimenting with the unique interaction and relationship between users and technology.
mHealth App Evaluation Study
So, just how prevalent is this lack of UX in branded hospital app development today? To answer that question, Medical Web Experts analyzed 22 of the top health systems in the country that offer branded patient-facing mobile apps.
The analysis evaluated each app on the following items:
- Whether the application was available to iOS users, Android users, or both
- Features and functionalities offered
- Quality of user experience
- Number of downloads across app stores
- User ratings across app stores
The results might surprise you. Of the health system apps investigated, all 22 were available in the iOS store, with only seven available on Android. What’s more, beyond this failure to cater to the Android patient audience, a number of other drawbacks were seen across apps. One finding was that the functionalities offered by mHealth app features were limited, with health systems often choosing to implement functionalities that are easy and time-saving on the development side but detrimental to the overall user experience and value of the app. Descriptions of functionalities in the app stores were often also found to be misleading.
Furthermore, the healthcare app features that patients are most interested in, were still often inexistent and they were not always assembled into single applications, oftentimes leading to a multiplicity of apps within one health system. As evidence of these drawbacks, low app download numbers and poor app ratings were commonplace.
Room for Improvement
While today’s mHealth market has grown, there is still much room for improvement. Healthcare mobile app development offers a plethora of opportunities for health systems, provider networks, and health IT innovators that have not been tapped. To continue to make headway, embracing the possibilities that mHealth has to offer, health delivery networks will need to focus on meeting patient expectations and demand – in other words, placing more emphasis on the user experience for the patient population that will be using the app. They will need to provide singular, branded apps with the functionalities that patients want to drive usage and adoption as well as the metrics that healthcare organizations need for achieving optimal patient outcomes and increased reimbursement for providers.
Medical Web Experts
Medical Web Experts is a leading provider of custom web development and marketing solutions for the healthcare industry, meeting the sector’s increasing demand for HIPAA-compliant technology and digital patient services. These Medical Web Experts work with outpatient groups, hospitals, integrated delivery networks, pharmacies, laboratories, medical device manufacturers, and software vendors to help them meet their online presence objectives. Medical Web Experts’ broad service offering includes patient portal solutions, mobile app development, custom software/app development, interface development, web design, and internet marketing. Medical Web Experts creatively help clients to gain a competitive edge leveraging the latest technologies to improve efficiency, enhance their web presence and improve patient engagement.
Patient Satisfaction for Digital Health App
Interactions between patients and the healthcare world are changing. What has traditionally been a chart based system of physical interactions and experiences is rapidly shifting to an always-connected digital health ecosystem.
With this shift has come a tidal wave of digital health application development. This wave is not without reason; It is expected that investors will inject $1B into on-demand healthcare companies by the end of 2017. Healthcare is a highly competitive space where patient retention and acquisition are the key drivers to successful healthcare businesses. As a healthcare organization considers what is at stake, it is important to make sure patients are totally satisfied with their experience in order to be successful.
Patient Needs & Requirements from Health App
But in today’s app-driven mobile world, how have patients’ needs changed? The short answer is they haven’t! In the pre-mobile healthcare world, “patient satisfaction” could be summarized as:
- Having an informed and knowledgeable doctor
- Doctor’s easy access to medical history
- Ability to easily communicate with the doctor and staff
- Clean appearance and atmosphere in the doctor’s office
While interactions between patients and the healthcare ecosystem are evolving, these Universal Truths remain constant in today’s digital health environment.
- The application should provide accurate and knowledgeable responses to patient questions
- The application should allow access to a widely dispersed set of records and medical history
- Real-time communication with doctors and staff from a smartphone app is required
- The application should have a clean and easy to navigate user experience
With the shift of interaction in the healthcare space, developing mobile applications is serving as a remedy for patient experience problems. But only when it is approached with the universal truths of patient satisfaction in mind. Unfortunately, a lot of effort and money has been spent on applications and patient portals that don’t serve the wants of the end consumer, the patient.
Beth is Cloudmineinc’s senior health editor and a certified personal trainer. She has over 10 years experience as a science journalist and is the author of two books. She deadlifts over 315 lbs.