How to Implement Your New Practice App to Better Engage Patients

By Tommy White, Vice President, Solutions Management
PointClear Solutions
Twitter: @PointClearHIT

Most healthcare providers understand that the majority of patient care doesn’t take place in the doctor’s office during a visit. Rather, much of healthcare happens between visits — and depends in large part on how well patients are engaged in their own care.

The fact is, physicians can only do so much when it comes to caring for their patients. They can prescribe medication, make recommendations for diet and exercise, and schedule follow ups, but unless the patient takes that advice to heart, the care plan isn’t going to be successful.

Improving the quality of care, then, often comes down to finding ways of better engaging patients in their own care and their relationship with their physician. Mobile applications are proving to be one way that providers are doing just that, particularly in the areas of medication management and adherence, patient education, and overall wellness.

Many physician practices are beginning to see the value in a branded, dedicated application for their practice, but there can be challenges when introducing these apps. Unless patients embrace the application and actually use it, it has the potential to become just another expense, and a waste of everyone’s time.

You can avoid that, though, by taking the time to implement the app in such a way that your patients are eager to use it, and continue to use it. This process should begin during the early phases of your healthcare app build, with the patient experience the priority through the entire process.

Consider Implementation During Design
One of the most common reasons that healthcare apps fail to catch on with patients is that they aren’t useful. They may offer plenty of cool features, but unless those features actually solve a problem that the user faces, or provide something new and different, patients aren’t going to use them.

This means that, from the start, you need to put significant time into determining what your patients need and want from your app, and then using this information to guide development. Understanding what patients want from apps in general is also useful. For example:

  • Ease of use and navigation matter. One of the most common reasons that apps are abandoned within a few uses is that they are difficult to use and don’t offer useful functions.
  • Apps must be compatible across platforms.
  • Patients want apps that are customized to their own individual needs.
  • Patients want apps with relevant, accurate information.
  • Patients want apps that allow them to take control of their own health, and offer a certain level of autonomy (i.e., the ability to schedule their own appointments or request prescription refills).

These points need to be considered not only during the development of your app, but also during the rollout. By highlighting the features that are most in-demand, you can get your patients excited about using the app, and keep them engaged over the long term.

Providing Instructions and Information
All too often, businesses — outside of healthcare as well — simply ask customers to download their apps, without telling them why or how they will benefit from its use. Given that the typical consumer already has dozens of apps on their mobile device, asking to download one more, especially if they are already using something similar, can feel like too much.

Therefore, if you want to get engagement from your patients, you need to explain why they should download the app. Highlight specific features, and how the app can benefit their lives.

While providers may not have time to run through all of the specifics of the app, patients should at least receive instruction in:

  • Where and how to download the app
  • What the app’s features are
  • How to set up an account
  • An overview of basic functions
  • Where patients can get additional help, if needed

The Big Question: Security
One of the biggest challenges in the implementation of any app is answering questions about security. Not only is security an important legal issue, but patients want to be sure that they can use the app safely and that their personal information won’t be at risk.

With this in mind, when rolling out your app, it’s important to highlight security and what you are doing to ensure the safety of patient information. Patients should have a secure log in, and receive education about how to protect their data and use the app safely. Reassuring patients that their information will be kept safe is important, and you should provide information about the specific security measures that are in place.

Depending on your patient mix, you’re likely to have some patients who are reluctant to use an app no matter how well you roll it out. If you put the time into explaining the benefits and how to use the app, though, you will have greater success and more engagement.

This article was originally published on PointClear Solutions and is republished here with permission.