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Six areas of concern for every mHealth app developer

Ease of use, integration into care and level of specificity are a few metrics by which the success of an mHeath app can be determined.

Many technology entrepreneurs are looking to take advantage of the population of smartphones by working their way...

into healthcare and staking a claim in the mHealth market. There are a few challenges these innovators must face in order to build a widely adopted and sustainable mHealth app.

In the mobile app marketplace, success means that a mobile application can deliver business value to its users. This can come in the form of new revenue, by reducing costs or improving operational efficiency. When examining the healthcare space, defining success is far more complex than that.

In order for an mHealth application to be seen as worthwhile, it must achieve at least one of the following tasks: improve patient outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, engage patients or improve care efficiency. There are at least six core components that must be present in order to truly measure the success of an mHealth app.

Smarter apps

In the age of smartphone virtual assistants and powerful computers that can provide diagnosis recommendations based on lab results and medical charts, mHealth must be able to integrate with systems that can provide real-time evidence-based responses to patients' inquires. This opens the possibility for an intelligent and interactive app that supports patients and providers. An app like this could make suggestions to someone with low blood sugar or trigger an alert -- after reading a patient's unstable vital signs -- to a nearby primary care physician or hospital.

Focus and specialization

When it comes to mHealth, there are many categories of apps available. There are products that focus on fitness tracking and others for diabetes or dialysis care. When a company is focused on a specific area of expertise, they are able to deliver the appropriate solution to the challenges faced by patients with specific conditions. This narrow focus can also be of support by updating patients with the latest scientific findings related to their condition.

Patient-friendliness

Developing a mobile app that is easy to use for all ages and levels of technological ability is one of the keys to a successful mHealth initiative. Mobile apps will likely require patients to frequently update them with health information and interact with them when in need of care input. To ensure wide adoption, it is vital that patients find the app user-friendly.

Integration

"One patient, one chart" is a common slogan for hospitals advertising their unified EHR system that offers their patients one health record throughout their system of facilities. In reality, an mHealth app does not really have to connect to a single hospital system. It can stay vendor-neutral and offer integration capabilities that EHR vendors can leverage in order to work with the app. This can be done by adhering to the latest health data exchange standards used in the healthcare arena.

Improve outcomes, care and cost

The trend of wearable mHealth devices

How to make use of all the data from wearable devices

Smartwatches capable of capturing patient vitals

Younger generation intrigued by self-monitoring devices

The best claim that any mHealth app can have is that it provides statistics measuring improvement in patient outcomes. By putting the patients' health first, an app will reassure patients that its focus is in the right area. But it also must prove that it can provide financial value to payers, hospitals or patients. Without offering that, nobody would give it a chance.

Interoperability

Many mHealth apps can read and process sensor readings from the patient. That data could be subject to exchange between hospitals and other care facilities. Any future mHealth initiative will likely have to address interoperability concerns by ensuring that patient information can be shared from the application.

There are examples of mHealth achievements from all around the world. This has pushed many healthcare executives to continuously evaluate their mHealth strategy to ensure that they offer the benefits of certain apps to their patients. For that reason, hospitals, patients and health plan providers are scanning the marketplace, searching the app stores and talking to vendors to identify which mHealth apps will help improve care and outcomes.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email
 editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was last published in May 2014

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