When it comes to mobile hospital apps, the discrepancy between what health care providers offer and what patients want is dramatic. Although 66 percent of the largest U.S. hospitals offer mobile technology options, these apps are used by only 2 percent of target populations, according to Accenture. The absence of mobile hospital apps that are truly beneficial to patients results in a lost opportunity. For health care managers seeking to increase patient engagement in the mobile sphere, here are some considerations for improvement.
What Makes a Great Hospital App?
Designing a great hospital app means giving patients what they want. According to Accenture, patients desire three essential features:
- Access to electronic health records (EHRs)
- The ability to book, cancel and reschedule appointments
- The ability to process and refill prescription medication
A quality hospital app also actively works to fix unresolved issues. A few examples given by Merriane Group include:
- Helping patients find the fastest routes to urgent care centers
- Educating new parents about pregnancy and delivery
- Engaging cancer patients with information regarding their treatment
- Physician referrals
- Medication tracking
- Wellness opportunities
The following elements should be kept in mind when designing a hospital app:
- User friendliness. As a general rule, apps are more likely to be used when they are easy to navigate. Little Green Software emphasizes functionality, efficiency and native user experiences.
- Design the app for a variety of patients. Hospital apps must be equally usable and attractive to everyone. This means keeping in mind factors such as age, patients’ comfort levels with technology, language barriers and accessibility issues.
- Data security. Medical information is notably sensitive. For a hospital app to succeed, it is crucial that users can trust the level of security the app provides. This means adhering to HIPAA laws, stating clear privacy policies, using government-level data encryption and ensuring that apps self-update regularly.
Designing an effective medical app is a process that requires trial, error and effort. Anyone seeking to develop one is wise to follow a certain set of steps.
Identify the Problem
Developers should isolate the exact nature of the issue the app seeks to resolve. The more specific the problem, the more effective the app has the chance to be. A common pitfall at this phase is choosing to mimic other health care functions (such as diagnosis tools) rather than improving their solutions.
Understand Your Target Audience
When developers understand the needs and preferences of their audience, they are more likely to meet them. Research is helpful during this time.
Design the App
MHealthIntelligence emphasizes that all medical apps be designed with “simplicity, scalability and sustainability” in mind. Hospital management should work with developers to ensure the app can be easily updated, as well as integrated into any existing digital EHR systems.
Test the Product
As with any app, the product should be tested thoroughly. This means looking into every facet, function and feature. Developers should seek incidents when the app doesn’t work as it should or proves difficult to operate. In addition, they should collect data on all testing so that they can study how the app may succeed or fail.
Release the App
At this step, marketing helps tremendously. Although social media and medical outlets are effective channels, nothing is as effective as a physician recommendation. Hospital management should help doctors thoroughly understand the app’s functions and benefits.
Continually Make Improvements
An app should continue to do what it was designed to do or should be updated to assist with changing needs. Digital security must remain consistent, and management should work with developers to seek out ways to incorporate user feedback.
When a medical app succeeds, it both improves the quality of care and encourages patients to take responsibility for their own health. In doing so, it ultimately leads to more effective health care systems and better patient outcomes.
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