5 Requirements to Create a Successful Health App

By Chris Maconi | @ChrisMaconi

In my last blog, we discussed how the digital health platform is key to efficiently deliver care, better engage with patients, improve outcomes, and innovate.

Now that we know the value of the digital health platform, let’s focus on creating successful health apps.

Last month, CEO James Madara M.D addressed the AMA with a dramatic comparison of today’s health apps to digital snake oil. More specifically, his comments were directed towards ineffective electronic health records, direct-to-consumer digital health products, and apps of mixed quality. And, like snake oil – which promises a quick remedy – Madara’s concern is that apps are making false claims.

While certainly an over-generalization, Madara does make a few good points.

In working with our research and clinical customers over the last decade, I have personally experienced digital health and wellness interventions prove their value and change lives. I believe this can also be done through the right approach to building a health app that strengthens the bond between patients and providers.

  • Successful health apps hook the user.Most smartphone users on average go back again and again to the same 5 apps.  That’s it.  I personally have two hundred apps on my phone, but most of them sit around collecting virtual dust, waiting for me to tap, hold, and delete.  In order for your app to accomplish its mission, you must figure out how to hook the user; how to become a part of their daily life. If they aren’t using the app, obviously it will not deliver value.I encourage you to really dig into what makes a user want to engage with your app as an important part of their routine. Get started with an overview at Renee’s blog: Leveraging Technology to Improve Patient Engagement.
  • Successful applications close the information gap.Healthcare-oriented apps can’t live as islands unto themselves.  They must strengthen the bond between the patient and provider, and must extend the care they are receiving in the clinic. The health app should provide a conduit to fill in the large gaps in information that are created as the patient is out in the world.  This means that providers need to take a primary role in the app eco-system — acting as drivers of app design, integration, and adoption within their patient population.  It also means that providers need to fully embrace the app experience, data, and derived insights into the care process itself.  This is particularly important for their patients suffering from chronic conditions, where adherence, symptom trends, and regular engagement is so important to a positive outcome.
  • Successful applications motivate and inform. Nothing motivates like making a goal public. Good apps will take this to heart and deliver an experience that motivates the patient to set and share goals with their provider and peer groups. To create additional motivation, it’s important to easily visualize and understand progress toward that goal over time. Both of these methods are strong motivators to regularly engage with the app over time.
  • Successful applications know their role. Health apps must exist as part of a broader healthcare ecosystem.  They should focus on their niche and should not try to be all things to all people. Successful apps focus the patient and provider around the condition or behavior they are trying to influence and impact.  The app should serve as a supplemental role in the care process, and should not be positioned as a replacement for the overall in-person care.
  • Successful apps are supported by a unified Digital Health Platform. The platform supports rapid development, data integration and interoperability, frictionless experimentation. All while allowing the app easily to adjust to the variations in practices. If you missed my last blog – be sure to read more about why ‘It’s the Platform Stupid.’

I believe we can provide digital tools that will not be ‘snake oil’, but are as Madara’s says, “…providing digital and other tools that work like they do in virtually all other industries – making our environments more supportive, providing the data we actually need in an organized, efficient way, and saving time so we can spend more of it with our patients.”

Chris is the CPO at DatStat. He brings more than 15 years of software product experience, with a proven ability to transform industries through the application of innovative technology solutions. His strong belief in design-driven product development and his experience building scalable, data-centric platforms to transform how providers and health researchers engage with their patients and achieve outcomes.

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