“Technology is amazing,” she says in a Morgan Freeman narration voice. In this case, I’m specifically addressing successful mHealth apps, Telemedicine apps, and Healthcare apps—innovations that expand the reach, efficacy, and efficiency of healthcare, making way for a healthier world.
So much so, in fact, that telehealth usage has surged by 58% between 2019 to 2020 (22% to 80%). COVID-19 caused many industries to digitize, and this one is no exception.
However, compared to any other type of app, a Healthcare app, mHealth app, or Telemedicine app comes with its own particular set of criteria for success.
So in this Goji Blog, we’ll go over the ingredients and features of successful e-health apps.
Let’s dive in.
Overview: Types of Telemedicine Apps, mHealth Apps, and Healthcare Apps
We’ll begin by reviewing the different types of Telemedicine, mHealth, and Healthcare apps so that we can relate to them to their various essential features.
Chronic Disease Apps or Condition Management Apps
These are apps that help patients manage their conditions, treatments, or diseases. Condition Management Apps revolve around forming patient behaviors and habits. So, whether it’s a diet app, a post-op treatment app, or a physical therapy app, the biggest challenge is behavioral: patient engagement and treatment adherence.
Telemedicine Apps and Health Information Management Apps
Telemedicine Apps generally have to do with medical information or communication between patient and provider: managing appointments, messaging, and Teletherapy.
Medical Device Apps
Medical Device Apps are configured to a device that can measure and provide treatment based on patients’ health metrics.
For example, apps that track blood pressure and recommend mitigation steps or apps that facilitate biofeedback as treatment.
Patient Management Tools and Apps (EHRs/EMRs)
EHRs (Electronic Health Records) and EMRs (Electronic Medical Records) are everywhere at this point.
EMRs are digitized versions of the paper charts in a specific provider’s office and contain that particular clinic’s medical and treatment history. On the flip side, EHRs (supposedly) collect a patient’s complete health data across all of the various clinics they attend.
The reason I say “supposedly”: EHRs aim to standardize the flow of information between different clinics and make it shareable. However, the problem is that there are many EHRs. Basically, every office uses a different one, with many hospital clinics using multiple EHR systems—and their interoperability isn’t great.
Of course, there are organizations that are working to offer APIs or solutions to reconcile interoperability between the different EHRs and standardize this whole thing—FHIR, for example—but that’s a different story (more below.)
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) Apps
There is a significant and growing demand for RPM apps—which are as they sound: apps that allow healthcare professionals to monitor their patients without in-person appointments.
According to a 2020 survey, 93% of physician respondents would use telehealth for regular chronic care management check-ins and 71% for post-op and medical care follow-up visits.
Medical Resource Information Apps
Resource apps are just that; apps that provide information to healthcare professionals. Examples include drug reference resources (check for interactions, etc.), dosage calculators, and various diagnostic tools.
Ingredients of Successful Healthcare Apps and Telemedicine Apps
We’ll break down our success pointers into two categories of mHealth apps, Telemedicine apps, and Healthcare apps: B2C vs. All.
All E-Health Apps (B2B/B2C/B2B2C)
Excellent Market Validation + Competitive Analysis
We’ve already spoken at length about market validation and finding your target market. In telehealth, it’s especially important since your target market’s pain points could be, quite literally, pain points.
If yours is a new product: decide on your value proposition, define your target market, conduct TAM/SAM/SOM analyses, research industry trends, and check out competitive or incumbent solutions.
If your product is already in the market: frequently run competitive analyses to keep up with industry trends and conduct tests, surveys, and interviews with prospective users and providers to ensure product fit and viability.
Contemplating a strategic change or pivot? Read more about why and how to do it.
User Testing with patients and medical professionals
When it comes to user testing, whether it’s testing your idea, MVP testing, or product fit, it’s essential to get input both from prospective patients with the painpoints you’re addressing and from medical professionals who treat them.
This way, your feedback will be practical and informed feedback.
Understanding Healthtech Regulations
First, let’s lay down the risks of non-compliance with regulations: you could get removed from the marketplace, shut down permanently, fined by the FDA, and even sued by consumers.
So, okay. Now that we’ve scared you a bit, we’ll say that Healthtech regulations are a bit complex, and it’s essential to consult with product experts that have the domain expertise to navigate them.
We won’t get into them just yet (there are many) but to name a few:
HIPAA – Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules
Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH)
General Data Protect Regulation (Europe)
It’s also important to note that app stores do not regulate the medical value of an app, so it falls on the Healthtech companies themselves to do due diligence and ensure compliance.
Mastering External and Internal Triggers for Retention
It’s essential to focus not only on new user acquisition but also retention. Because retention is not only good for your bottom line but also reveals where your app is succeeding and where it’s falling short.
When it comes to retention, your goal is to understand user motivations and address their painpoints so well that your Healthtech app becomes a go-to solution. In other words, when there are internal triggers (in this case, it could be symptoms, feelings, associations, or habits, etc.) your user automatically turns to your app.
Another point is external triggers—push notifications, email or text alerts from the system or the providers behind it—that remind your user to, for instance, log in their vitals or calories.
Healthtech retention is often inherently built on changing user behaviors and forming user habits to alleviate the user’s problem. But more about that later.
A Clear, Specific Value Proposition and Solution
Just as with any app, it’s crucial to K.I.S.A.U.I.S (“keep it simple and user intuitive, sweetheart.”)
Ergo, your value proposition, the painpoints you’re addressing, and your solution should be straightforward and clear.
Also, don’t try to solve it all in one go. Too many features overwhelm users, and simultaneously developing many features just might overwhelm you.
Exceptional CX and UX/UI
Look at it this way: whether you’re catering to patients or physicians—they both have enough on their plates.
So, it’s essential that your app has the least friction possible. Every functionality needs to be easy and intuitive, which means the workflow must be concise.
For example: if the user needs to enter symptoms, the questionnaire shouldn’t have too many fields. And perhaps, instead of text boxes, you can incorporate scales with icons.
Another point: customer service should be excellent and consistent with branding, and so should the design. The world of healthcare isn’t always the sunniest—so you may want to strike a serious yet positive brand tone.
Integration with EMRs and EHRs
As we mentioned, there are many different EHRs and EMRs—actually, more than 1,100 EHR systems (the average hospital network has 16)—and there isn’t much standardization for them yet.
This presents a challenge for everyone: lack of interoperability makes sharing information difficult; patients have to recount medical histories, sometimes resulting in treatment errors; practitioners are facing burnout from bureaucracy and system adjustment, and companies driving health innovation face difficulty with integration.
While it’s important to note this challenge, there are ways to circumvent it a bit. So, take note of the largest EHR systems, and think about compatibility with FHIR APIs.
Success Pointers for B2C E-Health Apps
Personalization + Gamification
Being sick sucks. We knew that already. So especially when you’re entering the Healthtech market—be it through Telemedicine apps, mHealth apps, or Healthcare apps, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First—if your user is a patient, they probably don’t want to have the need to use your app. So make it as easy and fun as possible with positive branding, encouragement, and even gamification.
Second—your app should become more helpful and more effective with use. And you can do this by building a product that personalizes itself to your user as they increasingly interact with the app and input more data. As a result, your app will stay relevant to them, and more importantly, address their needs in a more tailored, effective, and efficient way.
Adherence and Engagement
Let’s go back to that earlier point: we’re sure your product is lovely, but again, your patient probably doesn’t want to need to use your app. So patient/user adherence and engagement might be difficult to attain, no matter how stunning your product.
So let’s think: on both micro and macro levels, what can help adherence and engagement?
1. Add a live person (professional or not) or a “human touch” (like an excellent, human-like bot) behind the app. This is actually super important: this person (or bot) provides encouragement, but more importantly, a figure to “disappoint” if the user doesn’t comply with treatment.
3. Efficacy/results (stemming from evidence-based treatment and personalization)
Patient Empowerment is a studied and proven strategy of providing health education to patients in order to give them more agency about their health decisions.
Let’s imagine this scenario: without context, someone tells you to do something you don’t desperately want to do. What’s the first question that pops into your mind?
If someone (dared) to suggest I go on a specific diet, understanding how and why it works would help me become more invested in the process and outcome. And that’s been proven to help patients increase health outcomes, especially with chronic condition management.
In fact, in an OpenNotes study, patients with immediate access to provider appointment notes are 60% more likely to adhere to medications, and 77% felt more control of their care.
So, empower and educate your users–it’s important for your retention rates, sure, but also for their health.
Addressing Mental Health
At this point, it’s no secret that mental and physical health are one and the same. Poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic conditions and vice versa. So it’s essential to address the connection between mental and physical health.
For instance, if yours is an app that does remote patient monitoring for autoimmune diseases, it’s important to monitor mental health and psychiatric symptoms as well.
Providing psychoeducation can be important too, depending on the context of your app.
Outcome-Focused and Evidence-Based Solutions
We shouldn’t have to say this, but we will. If one is offering any sort of treatment and promising any sort of results, they must make sure the solution is evidence-based and outcome-focused.
Otherwise, an app could open a founder to a motherload of lawsuits. But even more severe—a non-evidence-based solution could cause damage to the health of others…and that’s really all there is to say about that.
Well, this was a lot. We know. So, it could be beneficial to consult product strategy experts who’ll help you put the theory to the rubber.
Coincidentally, hi, we’re Goji Labs—a product and software development consultancy with experience in designing, “rescuing,” and deploying hundreds of products.
Looking to develop a new app or revamp an existing one?
Have any general questions about who we are and our authority on the subject?
Reach us at GojiLabs.com.
– Goji Labs