Ask any healthcare IT leader, and they’ll tell you that the primary goal for their digital front door is to attract and retain patients with a better online experience. To meet this goal, many organizations have deployed a mobile app to offer easy access to services and care in a convenient and consumer-focused way. Although the goals for mobile apps in healthcare are clear, the roadmap for achieving them has many variables. In a recent CHIME focus group, we asked health system CIOs and other technology leaders to share observations from rolling out their own mobile app strategies. See below for their top 10 tips.
Top 10 Tips for Rolling Out a Mobile App as Part of a Digital Front Door
- Identify clear and specific objectives as the guiding principle
Before implementing a mobile app, it’s important to understand what’s driving your overall strategy to determine the best supporting content and third-party applications to integrate with.
- Identify how you will measure the success of your mobile app in advance. Top ways other CIOs measure success include:
- Patient engagement through frequency of app usage </span >
- Increases in paperless billing and payments made through the app </span >
- Increases in online scheduling </span >
- Decrease in missed appointments </span >
- New users in a given time period </span >
- App content ratings and shared content </span >
- Frequency of provider searches/most viewed physicians </span >
- Event registrations </span >
- Overall increase in patient experience/engagement scores </span >
- Get providers on board from the start
Gaining provider buy-in is critical for driving app promotion and registrations, so it’s important to involve them in your strategy. Of the CIOs we spoke with who rolled out a branded mobile app, everyone agreed that providers were a big part of the success. Getting their feedback early and often ensures the app is meeting patient expectations and gives them buy-in to communicate the app’s benefits during patient visits.
- Have an integration strategy from the start
During the pandemic, most organizations didn’t have the benefit of time when it came to mapping out an integration strategy with their apps. They had to deploy solutions like telehealth and mobile check-ins quickly to meet pandemic requirements. Many CIOs we spoke with are now stepping back to understand how their engagement programs need to work together. What APIs or SDKs can be leveraged to pull content into one single app? How can clinical data and consumer-focused initiatives like wayfinding be pulled into one common experience for patients? Understanding integration capabilities as you map out your strategy is key.
- Align with Marketing Leadership
Make sure your marketing teams are part of the conversation up front so they understand your strategic initiatives and can build that into their overall marketing strategy. If your goal is to bring your clinical and consumer applications together in a single app, work together to define the goals and requirements from marketing, security, and EHR and integration perspectives. A few CIOs in our focus group shared that their marketing teams built a patient facing app for mostly marketing needs, but then had to re-build when the overall corporate strategy required EHR and other content integration. Marketing will also help promote and launch the app to your patient population, so it’s critical they are part of the process.
- Work with a trusted development partner who understands EHRs, integrations, and the healthcare market.
Not every mobile app developer has a healthcare focus or understands EHR workflows and integration capabilities. If your plan includes integrating your patient portal or other EHR features, consider working with an app developer who knows your EHR and understands how to bring other patient engagement apps and programs into an integrated solution.
- Know your EHR’s capabilities and be realistic with your ambitions.
Before launching a mobile app strategy, make sure you understand how to leverage your EHR. How does your patient portal fall into your overall strategy, and how will you implement the features and workflows? Make sure your portal is optimized and you have the right contracting in place to leverage the APIs or other features you plan to bring into your app. Understand in advance the cost and effort to achieve the workflows you are setting out to accomplish so expectations and timing are set. Don’t try to boil the ocean is key advice from the CIOs who have implemented mobile apps. Focus on the capabilities your patients really want and be realistic with timing and resources.
- Ensure the platform is as flexible as possible
When implementing a mobile app, it’s best to select a platform that will be flexible to meet your needs now and in the future. A template approach can be a great start for easy turnaround, but you will likely add content and marketing will want to make customizations over time to best fit your brand. Make sure to allow room for that flexible approach, so your organization’s branded app can grow as your engagement strategies and branding needs grow.
- You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so consider what the patient really needs and wants to see.
If your initial mobile app rollout is not successful or doesn’t meet patients’ expectations for content and functionality, it’s likely they won’t use it. CIOs who have had success with their apps recommend rolling the app out to smaller patient advisory groups first. This is a good opportunity to test what the users think, find out if they would use it again, and determine what might be missing. Having a smaller test group allows for feedback and improvements before rolling it out to the general population. Some in our focus group started by rolling their app out internally to work out any workflow challenges or usability issues, and then they rolled it out to a department like Labor and Delivery first. Slow and controlled mobile app rollouts can help ensure your app meets the expectations of your patient population so you improve adoption and usage.
- Make sure operations are aligned with your app strategy
One of the most common lessons learned from the CIOs in our Focus Group was how critical it was to ensure the operational side of the business is ready to support the mobile app and workflows it supports. If you add the capability for patients to chat through the app, make sure your staff can support that. If you add wayfinding, make sure the kiosks and signage in your buildings promote that and you leverage that for your workflows to direct people to their appointments. If you offer the ability for quick one-tap scheduling, make sure your provider offices can support that, because quick scheduling doesn’t have the same benefit if it still takes six months to wait for an appointment.
The rise of consumerism in healthcare is a key component of the industry’s digital transformation. Patients, as consumers, seek digital front doors that are easy to access, seamless with the health system, and convenient with the right mix of features and services. An integrated, mobile app platform can accomplish this goal by providing a one-stop-shop for scheduling appointments and accessing health information, educational content, and information about the facility and its doctors.
Interested in learning about PXMobile, our healthcare-branded mobile app platform?
Contact us or watch the recording of our recent webinar with MEDITECH.