How to Build Successful mHealth and Telehealth Applications

Jared Rankin
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Focus on seamless digital patient experiences

The eHealth market is growing, estimated to reach $308 billion by 2022. Projections say the telehealth market will reach $560 billion by 2027. While many healthcare organizations were already embracing digital transformation, the COVID-19 crisis accelerated the need for better healthcare services delivery. This urgency led to innovations in eHealth, mHealth, and telemedicine that have become crucial methods of healthcare delivery.

Every organization took steps to ensure they could meet care demands digitally in 2020, as the pandemic kept consumers at home. Post pandemic, organizations are looking to digital transformation to not survive but thrive. Simply adding new digital experiences and applications doesn't guarantee success. Healthcare organizations must focus on quality and deliver effective, reliable applications that meet patient needs and expectations. Here are some critical factors for creating successful healthcare apps.

Focus on patients and solicit their input

Patients want to be educated consumers and are demanding the same transparency and convenience they get from their favorite retail apps. Patient input is key to designing successful telehealth and mHealth apps. While apps may work as designed, without actual patient input, you could miss the mark on what they want and expect. Gathering input from a representative patient base is a must.

Are you designing for ALL consumers? Telehealth and mHealth apps can be especially valuable for people with disabilities — approximately 15% of the population, according to the World Bank. That number gets larger when you consider users with temporary disabilities caused by illness, injury or age. Does your app work easily for this group? Will it work with a screen reader? Have you incorporated best practices for dyslexic readers? Has your design relied too much on color? The only way to know is to ask. Beyond WCAG compliance, look for ways to get feedback from patients with disabilities to truly delight users.

Other patients that rely heavily on digital healthcare may live in remote locations with limited connectivity. According to McKinsey, 10 million Americans lack broadband access and live in areas with low physical access to care. To effectively serve these clients, healthcare providers must ensure digital experiences function seamlessly on a large variety of devices and connectivity options.

Finally, your mHealth and telehealth apps need to integrate well with your other systems to create a coordinated, consistent user experience. These systems may need to pass information back and forth, so ensure the appropriate APIs function properly to streamline the user experience. Designing your application with these factors in mind and testing during development allows you to avoid costly issues in production.

Make apps easy for healthcare professionals

It’s not just about patients. Healthcare workers are the heaviest mHealth and telehealth application users. They are already busy: apps that save them time and give them the data required to effectively perform their jobs deliver real value.

The capability to incorporate automated monitoring provides endless use cases. Whether through sensors or by transmitting information from a patient’s device, you can eliminate data entry and enable providers to deliver more proactive treatment. Not only does this save time, but also improves patient care. Of course, to ensure proper functioning, sensors, wearables and other monitoring devices require thorough testing.

Keep privacy in mind

When patient data is involved, it requires special attention to data security and privacy. Consider privacy regulations in every relevant jurisdiction, such as HIPAA in the United States, GDPR in Europe, or PIPEDA in Canada. Consider how these laws affect your applications.

Read how Children’s Hospital Los Angeles worked with Applause to improve app security.

Security and access issues dictate how you store data and who can use the information. Often, multiple providers need data access to consult on a case. Diabetes application data, for example, must be accessible to the patient’s entire care team. Developers need to balance ease of access with overall data security. Deciding on data storage (public, private, or hybrid cloud) is a crucial security decision. In some cases, insurance providers may require access to the app, so developers need to consider all parties who require access to the data.

Test your app’s health in real-world scenarios

There’s no substitute for real-world testing - particularly when it comes to healthcare. As providers and payers expand their digital front doors, mHealth and telehealth offerings, it’s critical that this engagement improves quality of care. Banner Health worked with Applause to collect feedback on its telehealth services, and K Health used the Applause testing community to validate functionality and Spanish language localization for its mHealth app. Both healthcare providers were able to improve the quality of their digital offerings and remove barriers for their patients.

Continuous testing with a partner like Applause enables continuous improvement. This better serves your patients and gives you a competitive advantage in the growing digital healthcare market. Read the ebook “Improving Patient Engagement for Digital Health Consumers” to learn more.

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