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Mobile in healthcare: The challenges, what makes a successful mobile app

The CEO of Medisafe, a medication management mobile application, discusses the challenges with mobile in healthcare and what makes a successful mobile health app.

When it comes to mobile in healthcare, there are millions of mobile health applications out there but many of them are hardly used by consumers. So the question is: What makes a mobile health app successful?

Omri Shor, founder and CEO of Medisafe, a medication management application that has 3.5 million users, discusses the challenges facing mobile in healthcare and what a mobile application needs to truly be successful in the healthcare space -- which means beating out all those other popular mobile applications such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

What are the challenges facing mobile in healthcare and what are the solutions?

Omri Shor, founder and CEO of MedisafeOmri Shor

Omri Shor: There are so many [applications] on your device that are distracting you and pulling you away from what you're supposed to do and the bandwidth that people have was reduced. If you don't give something that is stimulating enough to the patient he will probably not stay with you. The second problem is that, again, in the same topic think about how many apps are in your device that you're using on a daily basis. Not only on a daily basis, but on a daily basis for a period of time. This is very limited. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, flight apps for example if you fly as much as I do … and so on. But it's very limited. One of the challenges is funneling down to retention. Meaning keeping someone using your solution for a certain period of time and keeping them engaged with your solution. These are some of the main challenges.

The solution to that is very simple. You need to build a platform or an app or a solution that will actually keep your customer engaged for a certain period of time. You need to build these notifications and reminders and things that intervene into the life of the specific user … and be a part of his life otherwise you're doomed to failure. It's a matter of how do you design the product. Of course, for each and every product that would be different. If it's a blood pressure measuring app, you need to find places in the time of the day of the patient to offer him to measure his blood pressure. If it's an app that's designed to do something else you need to make sure that you have the right solution for that. And how do you intervene in the patient's life and make sure that you're not interfering …?

What's the difference between interfering and intervening in this case?

Putting a thoughtful notification that is coming at the right time with the right context, this is an art.
Omri Shorfounder and CEO of Medisafe

Shor: You want to make sure that he's engaged … you want to make sure that you are making the impact on one end but you're not interfering with his life, you're not annoying. You're doing it in a nice way. You need to have a good voice that he will appreciate … I think that it all comes down to one thing: How do you create value? Something that someone appreciates? You need to make sure that whatever you do it is highly appreciated by the user on the other side. Just putting a notification out there is one thing. Putting a thoughtful notification that is coming at the right time with the right context, this is an art.

Can you give me an example of how Medisafe does this?

Shor: Medisafe is a medication management platform. How do you help the patient manage his medication? For us it's very natural, right? Most medications are being taken on a daily basis so we will give you a notification at, say, 8 a.m. to take your medications and then the question comes … how should that notification come to you? We have a feature called med-tones which are funny voices that put a smile on the patient's face when they're supposed to take their medications, creates a very nice experience for him.

Various "med-tones'" are available for the Medisafe mobile application. Some are designed to sound like Dr Evil, a guy from Boston, Dory from Finding Nemo and even Darth Vader.

Now either the patient took his medication or hasn't taken his medication. How much time later do you actually notify him again and how do you do that? What is the language? And we've iterated on that again and again to see what is the optimum time and what is the right language that people respond better too. And then 10 minutes later again. But then what do you do if the patient hasn't responded after three or four times? What we're doing at Medisafe is we're able to connect family members … the example that I'm usually using is if my father is diabetic and forgot to take his medications within 30 minutes I get notified and I can intervene with him. We notified a designated family member. This whole process from what is the text on the notification, what is the sound on the notification, is the notification actionable? Can the patient say on the notification itself, 'Yes I took my medications' or do we bring them into the application? What's the exact text? What's the exact design? Everything was very thoughtful and I think that obsessing over the user experience is what can differentiate from just another solution to a leading solution in this space.

Let us know what you think about mobile in healthcare; email Kristen Lee, features writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.

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