A great majority of patients with chronic diseases would accept mobile app prescriptions from their physicians, according to a survey of 2,000 patients released last summer. Yet physicians for the most part haven’t adopted the practice — for a number of reasons.
In a new interview with ACONews, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ managing director of healthcare strategy and innovation, Chris Wasden, pointed out that there are huge barriers making it unlikely that physicians will drive adoption of mobile health apps. It’s easier and more important to focus first on consumer uptake; physicians will only adopt them after consumers show that they are valuable, he said.
That seems to be true so far, as the most popular health apps today tend to be very general health and wellness-related ones, like WebMD and LoseIt!, not disease-management apps that physicians would recommend to patients. Further, an IMS Health report last fall concluded that most of the 43,000 health-related apps on the market have very limited functionality.
To spark adoption and continue pushing mobile health forward, Wasden said companies must ask themselves how to create compelling consumer value propositions “so we will hit a critical mass and so that doctors will now incorporate it as effective medicine.”
There are six principles they can follow to do that, he said:
- Make it easy to integrate into a patient’s lifestyle and a physician’s workflow
- Make it able to share information across various technology platforms
- Make it able to not just collect data but to create actionable insight that will change behavior
- Enable users to share the information it collects and stores with others who support their behavior change
- Make it fun to use
- Make it able to show a change in behavior and deliver better health outcomes
In the interview, Wasden said many companies have resisted creating more sophisticated apps that touch on all of these points to avoid dealing with the regulatory processes they might be subject to.
“My advice is don’t be afraid of the regulatory approval process,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we are not changing people’s behavior, we are wasting our time.”
[Image credit: Flickr user philcampbell]
Yes, the first two bullet points sure would indeed make it easier for a physician to recommend an app.
But those are also the biggest impossibilities in today's health tech landscape.
"- Make it easy to integrate into a patient’s lifestyle and a physician’s workflow"
Patient's lifestyle is easy enough. That comes down to solving a real problem in the first place. Physician's workflow however is seemingly impossible — physicians say they don't have the time (which they often don't) and don't have the bandwidth to learn something new.
"- Make it able to share information across various technology platforms"
This is actually near impossible at this point because most health tech incumbents don't have easy ways to access/share data. 12-month sales cycles, aversion to working with startups, lack of desire to be disrupted... these all make a recipe for even more disruption when it can finally happen but in the meantime it basically means you need $1MM+ in funding and either a bulldozer of a sales-focused founder or salesforce to make the agreements happen. Unless this is a core tenet of your business, this should not be a focus for a new health tech founder.
This doesn't mean: don't build apps. But I wouldn't recommend to any new consumer-focused health tech founder that these bullet points must all be met before launching a product, or even before trying to get a physician to recommend the app.
To drive adoption of a mobile app, any app for that matter, user experience is the key. The app should be intuitive and easy to use. An app need not be complicated with multiple screens and navigations. Especially for healthcare apps! And this should be tackled at the design level of an app. Here are the 5 best practices you could follow to make your app easy and drive app adoption: http://mlabs.boston-technology.com/blog/5-best-practices-in-mobile-app-design