Mobile apps are now practically ubiquitous in our personal and professional lives; at least for most of us. Even so, their use is still fairly limited in some sectors – like health care – although that’s rapidly changing. Healthcare apps and other digital capabilities are playing an ever-growing role in increasing access to healthcare, and helping individuals manage their health and maintain awareness of health-related issues. It’s opening up new methods of data sharing between patients and providers and increasing patients’ participation in healthcare decisions. And the potential use of these technologies to improve patient outcomes is still largely untapped.
Many healthcare systems and pharmaceutical companies are working to discover how to improve total patient wellness and be good partners in managing health – as opposed to simply providing medication. There’s already been a 65.7% growth in the use of medical applications as a result of the COVID outbreak, but there is still a lot of room to grow.
The case for medical apps
There are a variety of significant technology trends and shifts that can help with this progress. They include easy-to-use wearable tech (smart watches, Bluetooth devices, etc.), adoption of smart phones, and the bandwidth and low latency of upcoming 5G technology.
The variety of use cases for medical apps is expansive, including everything from remote patient monitoring (vitals, activity levels, etc.) to symptom checkers, connected medical devices and data sharing/communication with providers. Medical adherence, such as dose trackers and patient reminders, is another important one, especially considering studies show that up to 50% of patients do not take medication as prescribed.
With the pandemic, telehealth has rapidly expanded – with apps and related technologies being used for everything from patient check-ins to booking appointments. Self-care for chronic diseases like diabetes is another rapidly growing use case, offering a new way to provide patients with lifestyle tips, education, health tracking and more.
These are just a handful of the ways applications can be used in the healthcare field; and it’s certainly only the tip of the iceberg.
Understanding the barriers to use
With all of the potential that medical apps offer, why isn’t adoption more widespread? There are some common barriers to both creation and use that must be grappled with.
For one thing, few organizations have in-house mobile app development capabilities or teams. Another factor is regulatory guidance, which is still emerging for Software as a Medical Device (SaMD), digitally enabled care pathways and so on. Related, organizations have to consider data privacy, compliance and cybersecurity before adopting any app – these are critical factors that must be done right.
There’s also the aspect of user experience as a whole, especially for non-digital native individuals.
Putting user experience front and center
Adoption is directly linked to user experience. If an application is too complex, or simply not user-friendly, adoption will be low, and use of the application will steadily decline. This is especially true for patients who aren’t “digital natives,” – users who aren’t as familiar with smartphones and tablets.
You may have a talented development team that can build the application – but do they have the capability and understanding to create an extremely simplistic platform that any individual, regardless of age, background or experience can use? It won’t suffice to design an app with a business objective or expectation in mind (or don’t lead with technology) – you have to key in on what users are trying to accomplish and the experience you are trying to create for the user, and then build the technology around that.
Start small and build up scope
Create the application in agile sprints with realistic milestones. Too many organizations set a roadmap that’s far too large, leading to a lengthy and expensive backlog of tasks. By the time the application is finished, the need may no longer exist – the market may have moved on.
Look at what task you need to accomplish – but keep it small and targeted. Release the application, get users involved, collect feedback, and continue to build, iterate and streamline from there.
Consider your technical architecture
The type of technology you use to build your application is important. The technological language used to build the application is going to impact how the software integrates with other existing systems and environments across the organization.
Think about your organization’s current and future infrastructure – what development language is the best fit? How about different mobile operating systems – Apple and Android? What other data and systems will be integrated? These are all things that should be considered prior to development.
Different technological architectures have various pros and cons; evaluate which is the best for your existing infrastructure. Most applications fail at the integration stage. And take advantage of cloud technology to enhance your ability to work with and across multiple strategic partners and your ecosystem.
You don’t have to DIY
There are constant regulatory changes and complexities during the development and lifespan of a medical app. Working with a trusted partner who can help your organization navigate this landscape is a must. Aside from the nuances of navigating industry-specific regulatory challenges, a trusted partner with experience in the healthcare vertical can aid in project development from a user standpoint. This will ensure that the application is simple to use for the best chances of widespread adoption.
The time is now
“There’s an app for that” is commonplace in most areas of life, and it should be in healthcare, as well. The use of mobile apps can put care right at a patient’s fingertips. The pandemic only accelerated that need and created conditions for mobile health technologies to gain a foothold in the healthcare industry. To capitalize on this opportunity, you’ll need to overcome regulatory and technology barriers and focus on creating an easy, excellent user experience. You can even partner with the right providers to help design the perfect app for your use case. But start today, before your opportunity is lost or captured by a competitor.
Sanjeev Kumar, SVP, Healthcare & Emerging Markets, is responsible for managing and expanding DMI’s integrated digital offerings within our Healthcare and Emerging verticals, globally. He works in closely with the executive team to define and implement the go-to-market strategies that accelerate our partners time to value from technology.
His passion is maximizing both peoples’ potential, and their investments in technology. Sanjeev specializes in helping organizations navigate the ever-changing digital transformation landscape to start generating value from digital immediately, whilst building strategies to see that value increase exponentially over time.
Prior to joining DMI, Sanjeev was a management consultant at PA Consulting and most recently a Director in the CIO Advisory Practice of KPMG UK. During his time at KPMG and PA Consulting, Sanjeev worked at C-level with large global enterprises to help define and drive their burgeoning Digital agendas.