What does it take to successfully leverage mobile apps for patient engagement—and how can health systems take their mobile strategy to the next level? That was one of the questions a new survey on digital and mobile strategy in healthcare sought to answer. Three main insights can out of the survey results. One of those was the ability to customize a mobile app as being foundational to engagement and value.
Just one out of five health systems with a mobile app has a customized offering—one that goes beyond a mobile app vendor’s preset functionality to address provider- and population-specific nuances. This limits the ability of the organization to create the types of mobile experiences their consumers crave.
For instance, at one health system, an executive shared, “Our medical arts building is hard to find, and patients have trouble getting in and out. We use volunteers and maps to help, but patients still get lost.” This challenge could be addressed with an app that includes indoor and outdoor wayfinding services in its mix of options. Such an offering does more than guide patients from Point A to Point B. It also helps remove stress from the patient experience by easing the logistics associated with care. “Until I got involved, no one was even thinking about how wonderful [wayfinding] would be for someone who just got diagnosed with cancer and had to find the surgery department,” said another executive.
Mobile apps that allow for customization also help healthcare organizations pivot quickly when circumstances change, as they did when the coronavirus pandemic emerged. At Piedmont Health in Atlanta, leaders leveraged the organization’s mobile app to inform patients of new protocols when COVID-19 hit. They deployed video visits via MyChart and expanded the use of self-service scheduling to include scheduling for vaccinations via the mobile app. This level of customization drove a 63% increase in users of MyChart, the health system’s patient portal, from May 2020 to May 2021 alone. It also fueled a 22% increase in online payments.
What holds health systems back from adopting a customizable mobile app? Many of the healthcare executives surveyed by Gozio cited budgeting constraints or the desire to leverage existing investments in their EHR. Others were simply not sure how to get started, including how to find the right vendor.
The stakes for designing the right mobile app experience are high: Half of consumers say a bad digital experience can ruin their entire experience with a provider, and one in four would switch providers for high-quality digital services, according to an Accenture survey. This makes the cost of inaction one that few organizations can afford to bear.
Further, the right vendor will work with your organization to enhance an existing digital platform—such as a patient portal—or build out a customized approach in an economical way.
To design a customized approach, start by laying out the biggest organizational challenges your system hopes to solve with its digital strategy. For survey respondents, these include:
- Wait times. “The app needs to have a way of easing the unknown of wait times—even at the physician offices,” one respondent said. Access to wait times should be instantaneous, like alerts regarding gate changes at airports.
- Staff efficiency. “It's more about trying to solve pain points for staff, like digital options to make staff work easier, which would ultimately improve the patient experience,” one executive said. One example: enhanced vehicles for communication between patients and physicians, including self-service options for patients who just want their lab results or have a simple question following discharge.
- Patient retention. “We have struggles with reputation management,” an executive shared. The right mobile app will facilitate outreach that helps keep patients in your system, such as by connecting consumers to patient advocates or customer service representatives when questions that could affect the consumer’s view of the system arise. It will also serve as an intelligent resource for consumers by making them aware of services that could meet their needs, such as by alerting consumers to videos that promote new elective surgery offerings, targeted to specific demographics.
It’s important to consider the types of digital solutions that could present the greatest benefit to your organization over the next five years. For survey respondents, these include solutions that could help deepen relationships with care providers as well as patients (beyond the point of care).
For more insights from the survey, download it now.