Mobile health (mHealth) apps are a guiding factor in the digital transformation of healthcare, with the COVID-19 pandemic and other trends accelerating the adoption of various mobile health tools.
On the one hand, healthcare apps for patients may lead to better patient engagement because they can allow patients to manage their health more easily. On the other hand, mobile health apps for providers help streamline workflows and improve efficiency, freeing them to offer a better quality of care.
How mobile apps are used in healthcare today
According to IQVIA, top app stores worldwide have over 350,000 health-related mobile applications. These include everything from general wellness apps like fitness trackers to disease management apps for conditions like mental health, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. There’s no denying that mobile health is increasing in popularity. This may be because of the influence of three factors:
- General mobile use among consumers: In the U.S., there are nearly 295 million smartphone users, 85 percent of whom are adults. Not only that, 47 percent of Americans consider themselves "addicted" to their cell phones, and 49 percent open an app more than 11 times every day. In other words, many consumers love their phones — and their mobile apps. It may seem like there’s an app for just about every part of life — communication and social media, banking, watching TV and movies, reading books, playing games, etc. — so it’s only natural for apps to streamline health and wellness management as well.
- The COVID-19 pandemic: During the height of the pandemic, mobile health technology allowed healthcare providers to continue offering care to patients. This forced a surge in contactless care and mobile healthcare adoption for telemedicine and other services like appointment scheduling, medication reminders, and symptom tracking.
- Americans taking more control over their health: Actium Health found that 83 percent of Americans want to improve their health this year, taking steps to be more proactive, catch up on preventive healthcare efforts, and get chronic conditions under control.
Types of mobile health technologies
By definition, mobile health technologies are digital tools that use mobile devices — such as smartphones, tablets, and wearables — to facilitate the tracking and delivery of healthcare services. They can empower patients to be more involved in managing their health and streamline workflows for physicians and staff.
Common examples of mobile health technologies include:
- Health tracking apps: With health tracking apps, patients can track and monitor specific health data like vital signs, exercise, and diet. Many apps provide personalized feedback and support as well as data summaries that patients can share with their doctors. For some health tracking apps, physicians may get alerts if a patient’s health data falls outside expected ranges.
- Medication management apps: Many medication management apps can do more than remind users to take their medications — though that is a standard feature. Others include tracking medication usage, alerting for potential drug interactions, and providing additional medication information.
- Telemedicine and other patient-doctor communication: Some mHealth technologies have helped improve patient-doctor relationships by allowing healthcare professionals to offer virtual visits, two-way messaging, appointment scheduling and reminders, prescription tracking, and more.
- Health education resources: Patients can use some mobile health apps to access various health education resources to help them learn about health conditions, treatment options, and more. Such resources may include articles, videos, and other interactive tools.
- Electronic health record (EHR) systems: Depending on the EHR, some physicians can use mobile devices to access their EHR systems and help manage and update their patients’ medical records. Some EHR systems also offer e-prescriptions to allow doctors to order medications for their patients.
- Clinical decision support tools: Doctors can use clinical decision apps to help get the latest medical information and evidence-based guidelines to make informed treatment decisions for their patients.
So what do these all have in common? Regardless of type, mobile health apps may provide convenience and access for patients and providers alike. That said, they need the right features and UX design to increase adoption and usage.
Potential features to look for in a mobile healthcare app
Mobile app development may be on the rise, but a medical app may only be as successful as its features. Some potential features to look for in a healthcare app include the following:
- Ease of use: The app should have a simple and intuitive interface that may include easy login, registration, and navigation. If users have questions, they should be able to easily access FAQs or contact information for customer support.
- Accurate and up-to-date information: The app should provide accurate and reliable medical information, treatment recommendations, and more. Ideally, it should regularly update to account for relevant changes in content and features.
- Personalization: The app should be tailored to an individual user’s needs and preferences based on certain information they provide at setup and while using the app.
- Interoperability: The app should interface with other healthcare tools, like electronic health records (EHR) and medical devices, to help provide a more comprehensive view of the user’s health, allow for more seamless collaboration across health systems, providers and more.
- Security: The app should prioritize security measures to help keep sensitive personal and medical information safe.
Potential benefits of using a mobile healthcare app for patients
Mobile healthcare apps can help patients in various ways, from improving communication with their doctors to increasing access to a wide range of healthcare services and more. For example:
1. Improved communication with providers
Lack of communication has long been a top patient complaint. In fact, many patient complaints center around communication and service issues rather than the care they receive from their doctors. This may be because the phone is a communication bottleneck for many healthcare organizations.
Some practices are inundated with patient calls around scheduling, medical questions, test results, and prescription requests. At the same time, employees may be fielding calls, calling patients about appointment reminders, and more. With phone lines constantly tied up, it may be hard to reach a doctor or get a timely response which can lead to frustrated patients.
Fortunately, mobile apps can help streamline these communications and allow patients to stay in touch with their doctors through texts and in-app messaging.
2. Access to more healthcare services
With mHealth apps, patients can access a wide range of healthcare services, which may include telemedicine visits, appointment scheduling, medication reminders, and health education resources. Certain apps — like those that connect to wearable medical devices and trackers — can help patients log specific medical information, share data with their doctors, improve diagnostics, and get a more comprehensive care plan.
Mobile apps may give patients more control over their health and help them receive care and support when they need it.
3. Contactless payments
Mobile apps may allow patients to pay digitally for their doctor visits, prescriptions, and other medical expenses. There are many reasons why this can be beneficial for patients. For example:
- Safety: Contactless payments increased in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent germs from spreading on physical cash, credit or debit cards, and receipts.
- Convenience: Patients may be able to more easily make payments through a mobile app without carrying cash or an actual payment card.
- Security: Mobile payment systems should follow strict security guidelines to ensure that sensitive personal and financial information is not exchanged between parties. For example, rather than give a doctor’s office your credit card — and expose the entire credit card number — they might only see the last four digits on file.
All in all, safe, convenient, and secure contactless payments may provide a more seamless experience and even improve patient satisfaction.
With mobile healthcare apps, patients may have the ability to access healthcare services and information from anywhere, at any time. While this convenience may benefit all types of patients, it may be especially helpful for those who cannot easily access in-person care because they live in rural areas or have mobility issues. Instead, they can use a mobile device for a telehealth visit or to provide their doctors with trackable vitals and other relevant healthcare data.
5. Increased self-management of health
As we mentioned earlier, many Americans are becoming more proactive about their health. Whether this is the result of increased mobile health technology or the reason for the rise in mHealth, mobile app technology may allow patients to manage their health efficiently.
For example, patients can use fitness trackers or other wearable medical devices to set health goals, track symptoms, monitor vital signs, and more. Patients can learn more about their health conditions and treatment options, potentially encouraging them to seek medical intervention when needed.
Potential benefits of a mobile healthcare app for practices
Mobile healthcare apps may help practices alleviate administrative burdens and increase efficiency, freeing providers to deliver a better quality of care. In addition, some of these benefits may include:
1. Automated communication
Some mobile healthcare technology can help automate routine patient communication, including appointment reminders, intake requests, pre-visit instructions, post-visit follow-ups, and more. This may help alleviate common administrative burdens and allow practices to reduce phone tag.
2. Improved patient engagement
Improved communication isn’t just a patient benefit. It also may help providers keep their patients more engaged. For example, they may be prompted to see their doctors more often or get the proper intervention(s) when needed, which may ultimately lead them to be more satisfied with their overall care.
3. Increased efficiency
Burnout remains a top challenge for many medical professionals. This burnout may result from repetitive and manual administrative tasks, like appointment reminder calls, insurance and intake collection, and paperwork. Some mHealth apps can help streamline these workflows by digitizing and automating them. For example, instead of calling patients daily with appointment reminders, practice staff can use certain mobile technology to send automated routine texts or in-app messages.
4. Enhanced patient care
As patients continue to use wearables and other health-tracking apps, doctors may have access to essential patient data, such as vital signs, medication lists, blood sugar levels, and more. This information can help identify health issues early, inform treatment protocols, and improve overall patient care.
Interoperable apps may also allow for better-coordinated care. Different medical providers and healthcare organizations may more easily collaborate on a patient’s care plan because they are able to work off the same health information and have a more comprehensive picture of their health to dictate the care plan.
5. Expanded reach
Mobile technology can help reduce barriers that would otherwise keep a doctor from seeing a patient. For example, patients in remote locations or with mobility issues can more easily seek medical services via a mobile app or telemedicine platform. As a result, medical practices may reach more patients than they usually would for in-person visits only.
These mobile app benefits — increased efficiency, expanded reach, better patient care as well as many more — may have the potential to help practices grow.
How Klara’s mobile app can help transform your practice
Klara, a conversational engagement platform for medical practices, offers a mobile app for providers and patients who want a convenient way to stay in touch and stay on top of their care Thousands of healthcare teams across more than 40 specialties connect with and care for their patients with the help of Klara. In addition, Klara’s listing in the Apple App Store has a 4.8-star rating from over 12,000 reviews (as of April 2023).
Does Klara require users to download an app?
No, Klara does not require users to download the mobile app. Instead, it is available for added convenience to practices and patients who may prefer to use an app. An additional benefit is that patients can access the Klara mobile and web app without ever having to log in or remember a password.
How does Klara help patients — and how do they use it?
According to Imaginovation, patients generally look for three app functionalities: appointment scheduling and management, prescription requests, and medical records access.
Patients can use Klara to connect with their healthcare providers via two-way messaging and video visits. Klara also can allow patients to schedule and cancel appointments, message their providers with requests for prescriptions and medical record information, and more. Alternatively, patients can access Klara through a web browser if they prefer not to download an app.
How does the Klara app help providers?
With Klara, providers can help improve care, communication, and the patient experience by offering:
- Security: Klara’s two-way messaging is designed for HIPAA-compliant practices
- Streamlined communication: Klara may help practices improve communication with patients, team members, and external providers. This includes the ability to automate routine patient outreach across the entire patient journey, from personalized reminders and pre-visit instructions to post-visit follow-ups, no-show engagement, and more.
- Streamlined workflows: Klara adapts to the workflows of many EHRs including AdvancedMD, athenahealth, Greenway Health, Nextech, ModMedⓇ and Veradigm.
- Centralized conversation thread: Store all texts, voicemails, and website messages in one single patient thread that can be accessed by multiple care team members.
- Messaging triage: Help easily triage messages with AI-powered message identification and routing
- Intake: Send forms and insurance requests digitally to help save patients time in the waiting room.
In conclusion, mobile healthcare apps may be beneficial for both practices and patients. While features may be different across each application, practices should look for platforms that help them increase efficiency and provide better quality care overall.
To learn more about how Klara’s patient communication platform (and the Klara mobile app) can help your practice, schedule a personalized demo today.
This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations and standards.