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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 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 and 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.

Smartphone Usage Among Physicians Rises in 2012

Posted on May 2, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

There is often debate about the use of smartphones in the doctor’s office, but there’s no doubt that usage is on the rise. And according to the Kantar Media Sources & Interaction Study, the percentage of physicians using a smartphone for a professional purpose has risen nine percent in the past year. Here is a little comparison chart showing usage over the past three years (I apologize for how small it is).


As you can see, the study found that 74% (almost three-quarters!) of physicians are using smartphones for professional reasons. Of that 74%, 62% said they use smartphone apps for work. In addition, 52%  said they use diagnostic tools and clinical reference apps and 46% use apps that help with drug and coding references. The study also found that almost 40 percent of the physicians studied use both a smartphone and a tablet. Here are a few other interesting facts found in the study:

  • 43% use smartphones for referencing drug data
  • 39% find or perform clinical calculations (which jumped 35% from 2011)
  • 31% of doctors make decisions for prescriptions using a smartphone.

I’m sure I don’t need to convince most of you about the benefits of a physician not just being willing, but also knowing how, to use smartphones and tablets in their practice. I think it’s exciting to see that more and more are getting on board. A few months ago when I was visiting with a doctor, I had a question about whether or not I could take a certain medication while nursing my son. He pulled out a drug interactions book, and for about 10 minutes, tried to figure out whether or not it was okay, and ultimately told me he had no idea. When I got home, I was able to find the information I needed in less than 10 seconds.

I also wonder if we will see more patients bringing a tablet or smartphone to their appointment. On another occasion when I was at the doctor, the physician I was seeing told me she never received the records from my other doctor. I wished that I had brought my tablet, where I could have easily pulled up all my test results right there (which I did do a few weeks later, which the doctor thought was really cool.) Doing this could definitely help bridge the gap that sometimes appears when you have to rely on doctor’s offices sending records via fax.

While using a smartphone or tablet in the office does raise concerns about patient engagement, I think it is an overall positive situation seeing more and more physicians using smartphones. Now we just have to get everyone on board with the smartphone physical.

Expanding the Definition of Mobile Devices

Posted on October 21, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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.