Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals struggle with mobile apps: How to fix it

To keep up with a tech-savvy population, many hospitals have created apps for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. But according to a new report, these apps aren’t doing everything they should to meet patients’ demands and needs. 

ThinkstockPhotos-469002238The report from tech consulting firm Accenture says that while 54% of health consumers want to interact more with healthcare providers through apps on their smartphones, only 2% of patients are currently using their hospital’s mobile app.

While not every hospital offers an app to patients, many of them do: 66% of the largest 100 hospitals in the country have some sort of mobile app available.

But most of them have been getting a lukewarm reception from patients.

Why hospital apps don’t cut it

Patients aren’t fans of hospital-produced apps for two reasons:

  1. Poor user experience, and
  2. Poor functionality.

Even worse, only 11% of hospital-designed apps have the top three features patients want the most:

  • access to electronic medical records
  • the ability to book, cancel or change their appointments, and
  • the ability to make prescription refill requests.

Competition steps up

Increasingly, third-party companies, referred to as “digital health disruptors” in the Accenture report, are entering the marketplace with health-related apps of their own. Their offerings have been more tailored to consumers’ needs – and that’s causing hospital apps to flounder.

To illustrate this point, Accenture compared various health apps available through the Google Play and iTunes app stores.

Healthcare apps created by healthcare providers and hospitals received mediocre ratings (an average of 3.6 out of 5) and few downloads (around 7,000 total).

Patients are responding much more warmly to third-party health apps, such as ZocDoc, which allows patients to schedule appointments. This app received an average rating of 4.5, and it’s been downloaded over 300,000 times.

Another successful app: iTriage, which give patients quick answers to questions about their symptoms. It’s been downloaded over a million times and has an average rating of 4.5.

So it’s clear the demand for health apps exists, but hospitals aren’t creating apps patients find worthwhile enough to use on a regular basis.

Building better apps

For hospitals looking to better engage patients on their mobile devices, Accenture suggests taking a more collaborative approach. Instead of using your in-house IT people to design your facility’s app, partner with a third-party company that patients already trust.

Example: Work with ZocDoc to create an appointment scheduling feature for your app.

That way, you’ll be able to more easily incorporate patients’ most desired features into your app without feeling like you’re trying to reinvent the wheel – or wasting your efforts on a program patients won’t use.

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