The world adopts digital technologies faster than any other innovation in history. No wonder: they can change the world for the better for so many people.
Digital transformation made care more available to people in rural areas, people with chronic conditions and disabilities, and other underserved groups. Advanced AI algorithms in healthcare mobile apps recognize signs of an illness or indicators that a patient’s condition worsens before they have a negative impact. Other features remind users to take their meds, help them track their sleep quality, monitor anomalies and dips in their vital signs. Within the healthcare industry, digital tech can save lives.
The mHealth market is expected to grow from $45B to $100B by the end of this year. Millions of patients use healthcare apps to schedule appointments, order lab tests, get a prescription, talk to doctors from home, or just follow nutrition or training guidelines to stay fit. Healthcare mobile apps got very popular due to the limitations of lockdowns. They equipped users with the means to better manage their well-being.
That is, if apps were well-developed, of course.
Most of the mHealth apps are opened once and then deleted. While 66% of hospitals in the States offer a medical app, very few people who work there know how to utilize it to connect with their patients and improve their healthcare experience. Apart from that, low user engagement and retention stems from the lack of user research on developers’ side — the absence of features people want. So, what features make a good healthcare app? What are the core elements users love and find the most useful?
It sounds too obvious to be true, but the majority of healthcare apps that are connected to healthcare institutions don’t allow users to manage their appointments. That’s pretty ironic because scheduling is one of the most wanted features among patients.
When integrating scheduling, remember to add an appointment confirmation system that will
- a) be convenient both for patients and doctors;
- b) connect the data about appointments to the calendars on both participants’ devices;
- c) add alerts for doctors and patients to use if they cancel or postpone the visit and want to inform the other.
The “b” part is a bit tricky in terms of security standards. Don’t forget that, according to HIPAA Rules, you can’t show the personal health-related details of a patient’s conditions in the Calendar. It’s enough to put a vague Health Appointment and link to the app in there.
Access to Health Data
The second most wanted healthcare app function among patients is accessing the data that is stored in the hospital’s Electronic Health Records system. The American healthcare system is not unified, and healthcare facilities often use software from different EHR providers. Thus, John Smith in Chicago can move to New York and find out the New York hospital knows nothing about his medical history. That is why lots of patient advocates in the States want to introduce a unique patient identifier (PI) that will be a point of connection between all records about a certain patient from different hospitals across the country.
PIs are not a thing yet. But if you can get your app connected to EHRs’ APIs (Application Programming Interface — software that helps two apps “converse”) — at least, within hospitals in your target area, — users will be very happy. This feature is helpful both for patients and for doctors. The former can, for instance, quickly receive lab results. The latter can find out patients’ medical history before the appointment and get more time to figure out a personalized diagnosis.
Vital Signs Analysis
Users’ vital signs data is a rich source of insights into their health. In theory, the more data your app can gather — either from a smartphone or from wearables connected to it — the more comprehensive assessment doctors will be able to make. This information can include heart rate, data about physical activity, levels of oxygen intake, sleep data, and so on.
If you want to utilize data-gathering capabilities, develop the app with them in mind. Build algorithms to decipher readings from third-party sensors (like glucose monitors) or to interpret functionality that already exists in a smartphone (like screen hours). Connect the app to the most popular wearable devices’ APIs. Create an easily understandable UI that will show users processes that are happening in their body on a dashboard — it will increase their health awareness and reduce their anxiety.
To fully utilize the patient’s data analysis, connect the user’s profile to their entries in the hospital’s EHRs. That link is usually maintained through APIs and can be implemented by security-focused developers like Diversido. (Don’t forget to write a comprehensive consent form for users: they should know that their physicians will be able to monitor their data. They should be able to refuse to share health data at any moment — according to HIPAA Regulations.)
“Share Your Progress” Feature
This feature is a must-have for all sorts of fitness and wellness apps. With it, users choose their goals — in terms of diet, exercise, or even steps-per-day — and track their achievements. This feature is especially good for competitive people, those who want to interact with other runners, walkers, or people trying to eat healthy food — and share their progress. Moving towards a common goal with others helps some users to exercise regularly and not feel alone on their path.
Talk to your target audience and find out if such competitiveness and openness are something they want in a fitness app before implementing this feature. Sometimes, people do want to track their progress — but in isolation, for their personal use. In that case, make community-based interactions and profile visibility optional.
Elements of Telemedicine
One of the things doctors want the most is to spend more time with patients and have more information about them to improve care outcomes. Chat or messenger will help them do so. Patients will be able to ask urgent questions and mediate their anxiety. Doctors, on the other hand, will have an opportunity to find out details of patients’ conditions before the visit — and get updates about treatment’s efficiency after it.
These features are core elements to consider for implementation in your app. The most reliable way to figure out if you truly need them is to ask your users — and find out how you can translate their priorities and wants within software.