Think before you develop that health app
It’s safe to say that Americans are having a love affair with apps.
According to the Pew Research study, Mobile Health 2012, 84 percent of smartphone owners have downloaded an app. And almost 20 percent have downloaded an app that specifically helps to manage health.
With approximately 97,000 health apps out there, as reported by Mobile Marketer, it’s hardly surprising that one in five smartphone users say they’ve downloaded an app. But industry research also shows that engagement with apps wanes pretty quickly. After only a couple of uses, researchers say that many apps are deleted, never to be used again.
So what’s a healthcare marketer to do? Apps are hot. And they can certainly play a role within well thought-out marketing plans. The trick is to make sure the app will truly support patient engagement and ultimately drive patient growth.
So the next time a creative initiative for a healthcare client seems to be ripe for a new app, put the idea through a quick test. Ask yourself, and your team, these five questions:
#1: Will the app support the overall value proposition or brand of the organization creating the app? Specifically, consider if, and in what way(s) the desired app will enhance the overall quality of healthcare services of a particular hospital or health system.
For example, apps that help patients with chronic diseases manage their condition right from the convenience of their home—or smartphone—and be in touch virtually with their physician is one way an app may increase satisfaction with a “brand.”
#2: Will the new app have a high degree of “stickiness”? Keeping clients and prospects more closely connected or “stuck” to a brand is particularly critical. Any app should easily provide multiple uses or “sticking points”, convenience and long-term value.
Take for instance Hartford Health Care’s MomMe app. This award-winning app allows would-be moms to track fertility before they become pregnant—and then lets them easily monitor things like contractions once they are pregnant and ready to deliver. Plus, once baby is born, it helps moms keep track of all their new responsibilities, like feedings, diaper changes, and doctor’s appointments. And all the while, it keeps them connected to Hartford Health Care over a nine-to-18 month timeframe.
#3: Will the app offer fresh and unique approach to something? At a recent Healthcare Strategies Summit, experts advised health care marketers to make sure any new app on the drawing board solves a definite problem for your audience. If you search the app store online, you’ll find so many apps designed to help manage diet and exercise. Yet comparatively few to help patients manage chronic conditions like headaches or arthritis.
#4: Can the app be supported by ongoing marketing and social efforts? Just like any traditional tactic, apps should be part of an entire marketing plan. After all, you can’t expect a newly developed app to get downloaded the instant it becomes available. As Mobile Marketer suggests, “you need to support it with marketing and social efforts” that prompts users to download it in the first place— and remain engaged with it once it’s on their device.
#5: Will it improve overall patient experience? Of course, this is ultimately what all marketing tactics from apps to videos should strive for in the today’s healthcare marketplace. According to an article in the enewsletter iHealthBeat, “The most useful health apps are those that integrate medical tracking with personalized coaching.” So it stands to reason that the more useful and engaging an app is, the more likely it should be able to move the needle in overall patient experience.
With the growing prevalence of smartphones and easy digital capabilities, apps have a definite place in healthcare marketing. The key is for marketers to be smart about it.
About the author
Reem Nouh heads up Strategic Services at Adams & Knight. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and a Master’s degree in science and healthcare administration, rare assets on marketing teams. And she has amassed significant experience in both the healthcare and consumer industries.