Mobile patient applications are becoming conventional for many caregivers, including Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and others. While more and more providers consider their buying and developing options, some of them may settle on following the mainstream and adopting the basic feature set (appointment scheduling, refilling, billing, etc.). Not that this is the wrong approach to a patient app, especially early on. Still, going for basic features may hinder achieving business goals in the long run.
To drive revenues and keep an mHealth application within the needed and relevant functional scope, caregivers need to think through their patient app strategy. We came up with 3 main points to base a business-friendly strategy on.
Revenue-driving patient app strategy
Encourage patients to use the app
This is, probably, one of the trickiest parts in the strategy. Providers need to figure out the functionality that will impel most of the patients to use the mHealth application on a regular basis. The features chosen will vary depending on a healthcare organization, but we can define a group of options to pick from. These options should bring value, motivate and entertain a patient, for example:
- Offering patients to track their activity via connected wearables and keep a nutrition diary
- Rewarding for regular app entries (e.g., 5-7 days uninterrupted) with bonus points that can later be transformed into discounts, iTunes download points for music, gift cards, etc.
- Giving the ability to keep a journal of vitals (blood pressure, heart rate, weight, temperature, blood glucose, etc.), mood and sleep
- Rewarding for medication intake with corresponding bonus points
- Introducing goal-setting with achievements and badges
- Allowing social media sharing of special and happy moments (fighting any bad habit, sticking to healthy eating, keeping up with exercises and more)
Some of these ideas may sound unusual and even excessive for a patient application. However, we don’t suggest to put them all in the app at once, it will take trial and error to figure out the most powerful feature for patients of a particular caregiver.
Engage and retain patients
Trust and loyalty is essential to ensure the app will influence patients and encourage them to seek care services from the provider. Again, various alternatives are possible:
- Nutrition recommendations (recipes, micro and macronutrient wheels, weekly menu plans and more)
- Psychological support with Q&A chat, emergency button and notifications on support groups relevant to patient information
- Physical activity guidelines with daily exercise sets or 10-minute meditations
By letting patients communicate with their provider directly and securely outside the facility, caregivers show that they are ready to hear and help 24 hours a day. That’s how hearts are won.
Promote provider services
When patients enjoy using the app and do it regularly, we suggest that they find the application valuable. While patients do find most of the benefit in basic functions, such as scheduling and lab results, there’s a place for subtle service promotion. The key to successful promotion is staying personal and relevant with such features as:
- A therapeutic education section personalized according to patient condition and / or personal goals. It can list suggested procedures and tests to help patients feel better or make sure they are in control of their own health. For example, female patients can benefit from tips on breast self-check. These tips can also suggest visiting a mammologist annually (in case a patient doesn’t feel any discomfort) and a quick button to schedule an appointment, both for regular checks and emergencies.
- Personalized discounts and promotions according to patient condition and behavior within the app. For instance, when a patient with myopia schedules an appointment with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist via their mHealth app, the app can offer a one-time discount for this examination. Patients with wellness goals can receive bundled promotions with massages and balneological treatment to stay healthy during the 'cough season'.
- Alert center. It can include notifications on updated lab results, medical images and treatment; reminders on upcoming appointments; recommendations on follow-up appointments, examinations and tests.
Whereas patients mostly use an mHealth application to schedule an appointment in an acute case, they also need overall health guidance. Helpful and targeted advice make patients feel more secure and taken care of, while direct (and sometimes irrelevant) pop-up advertising only irritates.
Making the strategy work
With a medical app for patients, providers design a single, concentrated point of interaction with their patients. This interaction should work both ways and be beneficial for both caregivers and patients. To achieve that, providers need to keep in mind the three keystones of successful patient application. It should:
- Amuse and be positively addictive, so that patients would frequently come back for more
- Engage and be trustworthy, showing care through supporting functions
- Promote and be informative, allowing providers to achieve business goals in an effective and ethical way
Balancing these three dimensions in one app is indeed challenging, and it’s practically impossible to escape wrong expectations of users’ behavior and relevant functionality. That’s why we introduced a range of possible features to meet the challenge and win patient loyalty. Finding the best working combination will be a journey, but, in the end, the harmony of grateful patients and ‘ecological’ business is worth it.