I recently read a report from Accenture that should sound alarm bells for healthcare providers and health IT pros everywhere. According to Accenture’s “Losing Patience: Why Healthcare Providers Need to Up Their Mobile Game,” more than half of patients want to be able to interact with their healthcare providers through smartphones and mobile apps. If that doesn’t worry providers enough when they think about what that means for staffing, IT and communications, consider this: hospital patients expect the same experience they get from their other consumer mobile and web apps – and they’re pretty dissatisfied with what they’re getting from you today.
While 66 of the 100 largest U.S. hospitals offer consumer mobile apps, only about two percent of patients are using them, said Accenture. Basically, this means that for hospitals with a patient-focused app, all the time and money you’ve invested in it is probably going down the tubes.
Worse yet: Accenture said patients are switching healthcare providers in search of better customer service, including user-friendly mobile health apps, and it’s costing the average hospital more than $100 million in lost revenue each year.
What patients want, and what they’re getting instead
According to Accenture, the three things patients want most from their healthcare providers’ mobile apps are: access to their medical records; the ability to book, change and cancel appointments; and the ability to request prescription refills.
Instead, healthcare providers are delivering apps without those functions. Of the top three patient priorities, only 11% of provider apps offer access to medical records, 8% offer appointment scheduling and 6% enable prescription refill requests.
Brian Kalis, managing director of the health practice at Accenture, told Healthcare IT News, “A lot of what is offered [in healthcare providers’ apps] is around core medical record pieces versus easy appointment scheduling and such. It’s just static information, not personalized or tailored to an individual.”
As a result, even if consumers aren’t breaking up with you entirely, they’re ditching their healthcare system’s mobile app for third-party apps that promise to better meet their needs.
What should the healthcare industry do?
The best course of action is to give patients what they want: mobile or web apps that address, at minimum, their top priorities. So, hospitals must deliver apps that provide timely, personalized information AND interaction that is personalized to each individual patient. Heart medication info for seniors makes little sense to teens more concerned about skin blemishes. Also, they need to make sure the buck doesn’t stop at the app. Make it easy for patients to talk to a human being from their smartphones, whether via chat, telephone or even video consultation – see what innovators like ThinkFeelDo and IntelliCare are doing. Finally, healthcare providers must always make sure that all interactions between patient and doctors are secure and private.
Unless they offer the app their patients want, hospitals are risking not only their own financial health (from dissatisfied patients trying to see if the grass is greener elsewhere), but also losing opportunities to help their patients take better care of themselves. And, after all, the reason why most people I know go into healthcare is to make people healthier, and it would be a shame to let something like a bad app stand in their way.
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