Digital health is on the rise, and it’s coming in the form of a growing healthcare app industry.
Digital health, which is also sometimes referred to as mHealth, can be summed up as using technology like wearable devices, mobile apps, and telemedicine to make healthcare more accessible, encourage patient engagement, and increase the quality of care. Under this broad umbrella, digital health tech brings a patient closer to their care with more personalization which can improve the patient care experience and even increase efficiency.
Healthcare technology is so widespread and accessible that it can determine a patient’s trust in receiving care. When it comes to primary care, 50 percent of healthcare consumers believe that a poor digital experience ruins their whole experience with their doctor. Sixty-four percent of adults in the U.S. report using a healthcare app of some type to track their health.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in adoption. State contract tracing apps, like Virginia’s COVIDWISE, and vaccine symptom trackers, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) V-Safe app, were part of the new digital health technology deployed to help protect patients. Ninety percent of physicians already use smartphones at work to access electronic health records, communicate with patients, and patient monitoring.
How Can Digital Health Revolutionize Healthcare?
Increasing Patient Engagement. With a positive user experience and reliable tools, digital health can empower patients to actively manage their own health. Patient engagement is critical to help drive treatment adherence and realize positive health outcomes. In a study of patients with diabetes, having access to healthcare apps and self-management systems helped decrease the patients’ frequency of in-person doctor’s visits.
Improving Health Outcomes. Studies show that healthcare apps can help improve patient care and even improve satisfaction. Forty-three percent of millennials prefer to access their patient portal through their smartphone, while 74 percent of patients say wearables help them engage with their health. Additionally, because digital health helps improve accessibility to healthcare, it can help patients who live in underserved or rural areas connect with their doctors.
Reducing costs. Up to 70 percent of healthcare expenditures go straight to chronic disease management, while only 30 percent goes toward preventive care. Mobile apps that allow patients to view their care plan are more likely to comply with their doctors’ orders, stay on top of their prescriptions, and manage their chronic conditions. Mobile healthcare apps have been linked to reducing preventable emergency department visits by as much as 40 percent.
With all of these benefits, it’s no surprise that the mHealth industry is taking off. In fact, there are more than 45,000 apps available on the Google Play Store alone, and the industry is estimated to be worth about $40.05 billion. However, not all of those 45,000 apps are popular among patients, and the ones that are popular tend to have a few consumer-friendly features in common.
So, What Makes a Healthcare App Great?
- Great usability. A healthcare app can have the best features available, but none of these matter if patients cannot figure out how to access them quickly and easily. The user experience and interface are every bit as important as the app’s capabilities.
- True convenience. On top of being easy to navigate, an app needs to be useful. Healthcare apps can be a convenient way for patients to access their patient portal, where they can schedule appointments online, initiate a virtual visit, request a refill of their prescriptions, send secure messages to their doctors, and check their care plan.
- Timeliness. Patients using apps want to be able to book an appointment or see a doctor as soon as possible, if not immediately. Too many systems may offer a poor patient experience by taking a patient’s request and saying, “We’ll get back to you.” Patients may develop a negative opinion of a physician based solely on their online experience, so it’s critical to place customer service at the center of usability.
- Security. Apps that are not regularly updated to prevent hackers from accessing protected health information erode a consumer’s trust in mobile apps. Consumers have been slow to fully adopt healthcare apps due to privacy concerns. In 2020, 55 percent of consumers said they did not trust companies to keep their health information secure.
With mobile health apps, patients are more independent and can make informed decisions about their health. Reminders, access to their care plan, and online scheduling make it easier for patients to take control of their care. Even though 93 percent of physicians believe that mobile healthcare apps can improve patient care, only 11 percent actually recommend them to their patients. With the right mobile healthcare app, physicians can secure a great online experience for their patients, improve health outcomes, and reduce healthcare expenditures.