How mHealth app development is failing and what needs to be done to improve it?
In 2015, Accenture and IMS reported that the hospital mobile apps were not meeting basic patient needs. They found that patients expected apps to contain these three core functionalities:
- Electronic medical records access
- Appointment scheduling and changes
- Prescription refills
Yet, in 2015, only 11% of apps contained one of these three features, as demonstrated in this pie chart:
Medical Web Experts carried out an in-depth analysis of the following hospital mobile apps to assess how mHealth apps evolved from 2015 to 2017:
|Healthcare System||App Name||iOS||Android|
|Cleveland Clinic||Cleveland ClinicToday||✓||✓|
|Carolinas||Carolinas HealthCare System||✓||✗|
|Mayo Clinic||Mayo Clinic||✓||✓|
|Baptist Health South Florida||PineApp||✓||✓|
|Tenet Health||Delray Medical Center||✓||✗|
|Tenet Health||Houston Northwest Medical Center||✓||✗|
|Trinity Health||Trinity Health||✓||✓|
|Kaiser Permanente Health Foundation||Kaiser Permanente ||✓||✓|
|Dignity Health||My Care Dignity Health||✓||✓|
|NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System||NYP||✓||✓|
|Adventist Health System||Adventist Midwest Health Connect||✓||✗|
|Spectrum Health||My Health||✓||✓|
|Sutter Health||Sutter Health San Carlos||✓||✓|
|Sutter Health||My Health||✓||✓|
|Covenant Health||Virtual Care||✓||✗|
|Intermountain Healthcare||Health Hub||✓||✓|
|CHI Franciscan||CHI Franciscan||✓||✓|
|Legacy Health||Legacy Health||✓||✓|
|Novant Health||Novant Health||✓||✓|
After reviewing these apps and their current features, Medical Web Experts found that only 22.7% of the mHealth apps evaluated contained all three of the core features requested by patients. This is an improvement on the numbers from 2015, but the mhealth app development market still has room for growth.
Despite the fact that healthcare apps contain more of the requested features, Medical Web Experts found that the functionalities of these apps still are not meeting patient demands. The current application landscape has the following shortcomings:
- Limited functionality of the features
- Inaccurate app store descriptions
- Lack of core features requested by patients
- Multiple apps within one health system
- Poor user experience and low use rates
The above aspects of limited functionality, lack of core features and poor user experience led Medical Web Experts to include an additional layer of analysis by assessing the dimensions of user experience and difficulty of implementation within the features of each app. The following graph shows the results of how apps ranked:
Almost 50% of the apps assessed are clustered in the area of the graph representing a low user experience rating and low level of difficulty to implement. Based on this information, it comes as no surprise that many functionalities are substandard and that core features and user experience are low. The mhealth app market has wrongly prioritized ease of implementation over functionality. The result is that many health systems offer apps that lack vital functionalities expected by patients, such as appointment scheduling online or messaging with their provider. In place of these functionalities, many apps use shortcuts, thus hindering patient engagement and affecting outcomes.
Additionally, when reviewing the app descriptions for each of the hospital apps evaluated, many times vital functionalities were listed in the app store description, but actually only launched the app store for the patient to download an additional app. Simply put, the expectations established by the app description and the reality of the experience of using the app are far off. User expectations are not met, leading to bad reviews, poor ratings, app deletion and disillusioned patients.
At the rate that technology advances, two years is a long time. So, why is it that from 2015 to 2017, so little improvement was made in the quality of mobile patient engagement apps? One may be a lack of resources, as well as possible conflict in internal politics, and complications in implementation. The overarching issue, according to John Deutsch, CEO and founder of Bridge Patient Portal, is that healthcare systems are not recognizing the connection between a high-functioning mhealth app and better patient engagement, which has been shown to improve outcomes and reduce bad debt. According to Accenture’s 2015 report, large healthcare systems and networks providing an innovative digital patient engagement platform have the opportunity to save $100 Million per year per hospital in avoided revenue loss.
As healthcare mobile app implementation grows, the focus should be on patient engagement through superior mhealth apps. If these superior apps are able to offer the functionalities requested by patients, it will make them more loyal to the hospital brand.
This article is brought to you by Medical Web Experts, a leading provider of custom web development and marketing solutions for the healthcare industry, meeting the sector’s the increasing demand for HIPAA-compliant technology and digital patient services. Medical Web Experts creatively helps clients to gain competitive edge by leveraging the latest technologies to improve efficiency, enhance their web presence, and heighten patient engagement.