What Do Patients Want from an App?

The mobile market is pretty much saturated as consumers like being connected wherever they go. So what are the implications for DTC marketers? Are there any opportunities to leverage key marketing objectives?

To start, it’s important to understand that “mobile” is really two different platforms. Tablets are mostly used at home via broadband connections, while smartphones are used through Wi-Fi and provider networks. People tend to use tablets a lot differently than smartphones primarily because of the size of the screens.

We also need to better understand where consumers access health information online. Various research reports indicate that consumers prefer to access online health information via a PC. Why? Because users are interested in reading the information and a PC provides the best experience. However, at a minimum, every online health site should provide a great experience while using mobile devices as there are times when a patient may want to access a product dot-com site, for instance, when receiving a prescription from their doctor.

Mobile App Opps

Are there opportunities to develop mobile apps? That largely depends on whether patients need help managing a chronic condition. I am currently working with a client to develop an app on living with MS. Patients enter how they feel on certain days and based on their input, they get suggestions on managing their MS, including tips on supplements that may help as well as how to talk to family members and spouses about living with MS. We are in beta testing and so far the data indicates that it’s being used almost every day by MS patients. As for ROI, preliminary results indicate a higher level of brand/company equity for the organization that is developing the app.

I have gained a lot of frequent flyer miles listening to patients talk about health apps and there are three key findings.

1. Patients want to be able to use the app as soon as they download it. If it takes more than a few minutes to master, the utility declines substantially.

2. An app has to provide real value to help patients manage chronic conditions. If it’s just a reminder about medications or refills, patients turn off.

3. We’re talking primarily about women who use their smartphones as a device to organize their lives.

Should you develop an app? My advice is to get out and do some research with your audience using some concepts. Some health conditions warrant an app, a lot do not. If you decide a need for an app exists, you should then integrate the developers fully into the brand team. Don’t treat them as “task masters.” They need to understand the how and why. I would then suggest a beta program using a great back-end analytic program. The analytics can tell you if the app is being used and what pages within the app are most useful to patients.

The future is indeed mobile, and while DTC marketers are budget constrained, it’s a great time to learn. DTC marketers can end up ahead of the curve instead of behind it.

  • Richard Meyer

    Richard Meyer has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 12 years and is the author of www.worldof dtcmarketing.com and www.newmediaand marketing.com. He is the Director of Online Strategic Solutions.


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