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Posted on 03.10.2016

Is There an App for That? Considerations When Deciding on a Healthcare App.

It’s no surprise the number of mobile app downloads is expected to grow in the future. Last year alone, mobile app usage grew 58 percent, with the largest growth in use of personalization apps, like the emoji keyboard. Use of productivity apps, like Google Docs, and lifestyle and shopping apps also saw large increases.

The number of personalization app sessions experienced a 344 percent increase. In comparison, the use of health and fitness apps saw a 52 percent increase in sessions. The data also shows that almost half the growth in utilization is attributed to existing users. So we can deduce that almost half of users are using the apps they already have, just more often.

What does this mean for healthcare apps? It means healthcare companies need to take a long, hard look before jumping into the mobile app market. App development can be costly, often hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that’s just concept development and execution. That doesn’t include the marketing and communications efforts needed to support a good go-to-market strategy.

So, why would a healthcare company ever create an app? Well, because sometimes it makes sense and fills a void in the market. Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review recently published a list of 40 healthcare apps to know, and even though some of them may not survive, some have the potential to become the “Uber of healthcare.”

Here are a few considerations for any healthcare company thinking of getting into the app market:

What do you want the app to do?

This question really goes beyond logistics of determining how the app will function and gets to the heart of what the goals are. Sometimes companies can get caught up in the “newness” of things, but if you’re creating an app because you don’t want to be the only company without an app, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. And it can be a costly mistake.

Can it be done on the website or is it already being done on the website?

There are still a large number of websites that are not mobile optimized, meaning the sites do not perform well when viewed on various sized handheld devices. If you are among the smaller group of companies that’s site is optimized, kudos to you. You may have already answered the question of whether or not to develop an app. Many mobile-friendly websites can perform the same functions as an app, especially if you’re looking to offer mobile-friendly content rather than, say, an interactive game. If you’re looking to streamline pre-operative check in or connect patients with their medical records, creating the system within your existing site may be a better option than the significant investment required to create an app. Neither option is without a financial impact, so again, it’s important to first evaluate your goals.

Does it already exist?

This might sound simple, but it’s important to perform thorough research to determine if the app your company wants to develop already exists. If it doesn’t, great. If it does, it’s time to reevaluate your motivations and determine if what you hope to achieve can be done via your mobile website or if you believe you can create an app that will be bigger and better than the competition.

Who is the audience?

It’s extremely important to understand your target audience before developing a mobile app. It’s also important to understand the types of devices your audience use. If you want to reach the general public, which is very broad, you’ll most likely need to develop your app for iOS and Android platforms. If you’re hoping to reach a demographic with higher income and higher education levels, you may want to build on an iOS platform first because we know iOS users reflect those characteristics more so than Android users.

Amanda Anderson is a senior account supervisor at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Amanda’s blogs here. Connect with Amanda at amanda@lovell.com or @AmanderTN.

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