The past two years have forced millions of people to digitally engage with their healthcare provider for the first time: the use of telehealth, for example, has multiplied by 38 since pre-pandemic. Today, many healthcare organizations recognize the potential of digital solutions such as mobile apps to improve care delivery and transform the patient experience.
But there’s a lot of open water between recognizing the potential and launching an app that actually improves people’s lives. The key to getting it right is defining how the application will impact business-level goals. Here are five steps to defining the business goals of an mHealth app.
1. Identify internal stakeholders
A mobile application for patients will affect many people: providers, front desk employees, IT staff, pharmacists, patients, etc. Which of these groups should be involved in setting business goals? And who is responsible for screening entries and making decisions?
Additionally, it’s important to determine if your organization has in-house talent with the skills and bandwidth to build the application.
2. Define the purpose of the application
Once you know who can weigh in on the business side, it’s time to define the purpose of the app. These questions can help:
- What role will the app play in your business?
- Does the app recreate a current experience, but digitally?
- Will it add new experiences to keep you competitive?
- Will he bring a new concept to healthcare to disrupt the industry?
- Will it help you do what you do better?
There is no “right” answer.
The purpose of an IoT device connected to a wearable therapy device, for example, will be very different from that of a portal intended to facilitate patient-physician communications. The idea is to consult with stakeholders and agree on how your app can have the most impact.
3. Talk to users
Skipping this step is one of the biggest mistakes a healthcare organization can make when launching a mobile app. Talking to end users (patients and doctors) is key to validating (or invalidating) the assumptions you have about how to fulfill the app’s intended purpose.
It’s this “how” where many unsuccessful healthcare apps fail. Patients may want a way to schedule appointments digitally, but if the app requires too many steps, patients are unlikely to actually use it.
In user research, the goal is to understand the real problems faced by users. From there, developers and designers can figure out how to fix these issues. You can achieve this by testing your assumptions about what its application should do.
Talk to real people in end-user groups, learn about their lives and concerns, show them mockups and prototypes, and incorporate their feedback every step of the way.
The result is an app that actually improves users’ lives. As a result, adoption is strong at launch.
4. Decide who will maintain the app
Just as an app won’t translate to business gains without users, it won’t translate to business gains without maintenance.
Apps require regular updates, debugging, and improvements to stay relevant and secure.
For many healthcare organizations, the crucial question is whether an internal resource or an agency will do this work. If it’s an internal resource, it’s best to make sure it’s part of the development of the application so that it can go into maintenance mode seamlessly and efficiently.
5. Define the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Once you’ve identified how your mobile app can solve a real user problem, it’s time to build and deliver the app. But rather than trying to fit every feature into the build you release, it’s better to offer a minimum viable product, or MVP, i.e. a build that does only the bare minimum to meet to the needs of users.
Why? Because it lets you learn from real user behavior in the wild. Building and launching a simplified version of your vision means you can get user data immediately and apply it to future iterations.
If you launch with too many features, you always risk spending time and money on things that users don’t need or want, i.e. things that don’t not help you achieve your business goals for the app.
The expectation with any app is that you will need to tweak and improve; launching an MVP helps minimize the rework you end up doing.
What’s good for users is good for the bottom line
Without users, the only business impact of building an app is to drain the budget. Tying the business goals of a mobile app to the wants and needs of real users enables adoption from day one.
To do this, healthcare organizations can adopt ways of working that prioritize user input throughout the development process and on an ongoing basis after launch.
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