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E-Patient Update: Enough Apps Already

Posted on September 1, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she’s served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

New data suggests that while app use is becoming a core activity for mobile, the number of apps people use is dropping. In fact, over the longer term, analysts say, most businesses will need to slim down the number of apps they deploy and do more to retain app users.

Speaking as someone who relies on apps to manage her health, I certainly hope that this happens among healthcare providers.

Maybe you think of my contact with your organization as a series of distinct interactions, and the data something that can be reintegrated later. All I can say is ”Please, no.” I want every digital contact I have with your organization to be part of a large, easy-to-navigate whole.

In fact,  I’ll go further and say that if your organizations offer a single, robust app that can offer me broad access to your administration, clinical departments and patient data I’ll choose you over your competitors any day.

Health app overload

As you may know, the number of health-related apps available on the Google Play and iTunes stores has grown at a dizzying pace over the last few years, hitting approximately 165,000 across both platforms as of two years ago. Most of these are were created by independent developers, and only a small percentage of those apps are downloaded and used regularly, but it’s still a stat worth considering.

Meanwhile, new data suggests that the field is going to narrow further among apps of all types. According to research from Business Insider, somewhere between 10% and 12% of app users remain engaged with those apps within seven days of installing them. However, that percentage drops to around 4% within just 30 days.

These trends may force a change in how healthcare organizations think about, develop and deploy apps for their end users. As users think of apps as utilities, they will have little patience for using, say, one for your cardiology department and another for sleep management, not to be confused with a third portal app for downloading medical information and paying bills.

If you’re part of an institution with multiple apps deployed, this may sound discouraging. But maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.  Consumers may have less patience for a fragmented app experience, but if you produce a “power tool” app, they’re likely to use it. And if you play your cards right, that may mean higher levels of patient engagement.

My ideal health app

Having slammed the status quo, here’s what I’d like to see happen with the apps developed by healthcare organizations. I believe they should work as follows:

  • Providers should offer just one app for access to the entire organization, including all clinical departments
  • It should have the ability to collect and upload patient-generated data to the EMR
  • It should provide all features currently available through existing portals, including access to health data, secure email connections to providers, appointment-setting and bill payment
  • It makes all standard paperwork available, including informed consent documentation, pre-surgical instructions, financial agreements and applications for financial aid and Medicaid
  • It generates questions to ask a provider during a consult, before an imaging procedure, before, during and after hospitalization

I could go further, but I’m sure you get the idea: I’d like my providers’ apps to improve my health and foster my relationship with them.  To make that happen, I need a single, unified entity, not a bunch of separate modules that take up space on my phone and distract me from my overall goals.

Of course, one could reasonably observe that this turns a bunch of small lightweight programs into a single thick client. I’m sure that has implications for app coding and development, such as having to ensure that the larger apps still run reasonably quickly on mobile devices. Still, smartphones are ridiculously powerful these days, so I think it can still happen.

Like it or not, consumers are moving past the “there’s an app for everything ” stage and towards having a few powerful apps support them. If you’re still developing apps for every aspect of your business, stop.

Do We Underestimate the Power of Smart Phones in Healthcare? – Fun Friday

Posted on July 29, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Smart phones have become a serious societal addiction. In some ways that is bad and no doubt there are plenty of studies that will come out about the negative impacts from cell phone addiction. However, the fact that people always have their cell phone is also a tremendous opportunity for healthcare to really engage their patient. This is what came to mind when I saw these funny cartoons about our addiction to our cell phones.

Cell Phone Addiction - Social Science Research Cartoon

Cell Phone Addiction Cartoon

Thanks Eric Topol for sharing these cartoons.

Expanding the Definition of Mobile Devices

Posted on October 21, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I think it was Wayne Gretzky that said that the reason he was so successful as a hockey player was that while everyone else is playing with the puck at their feet, he would instead anticipate where the puck would be and that’s what made him so special.

I think we see far too many companies in the healthcare IT industry that are just “working with the puck at their feet” instead of anticipating where the puck is going.

I’ve seen that to some extent this week at the Mobile Health Conference. Everyone seems to be talking about the smart phones and then they casually mention the iPad also. Both of these technologies seem to be the puck at our feet.

I haven’t seen many people really looking at where the “puck,” mobile devices, is going to go.

For example, I’ve regularly argued that the iPad is a really interesting device and will likely be a game changer. Although, it won’t be the iPad specifically that’s going to revolutionize everything (since it’s the puck at our feet). Instead, the iPad’s features and concepts are going to be widely adopted and provide the innovation for the future of mobile healthcare and mobile EMR.

One feature is the mobility of the iPad. It seems to be the right form factor for it to be reasonably portable. It also uses 3G network connectivity that makes it portable. These types of changes are what’s going to really take healthcare mobile. Certainly the iPad isn’t the only one. There’s plenty of Netbooks which do this also.

However, the iPad did something that the Netbooks don’t do and that is changing the input method to a touch based system. Combining the mobility of the form factor, the 3G connection and the touch interface and now you can see the innovations that make the iPad interesting.

These features are the innovations behind the iPad. Soon we’re going to have a few hundred device options which innovate on top of these main innovations. For example, the touch input ability is really just getting started. Watch for it to become mainstream as more and more companies adopt and improve the technology.

My point being that mobile devices won’t just be smart phones and iPads. Those are just the start and we’re about to see a whole wave of mobile devices that need to be considered by those working in mobile healthcare.