Healthcare adoption of technology generally lags other industries, leaving the adoption of healthcare apps still in its early stages.

But more healthcare employers, providers and health systems are recognizing the importance of healthcare apps to build loyalty, retain patients within their health ecosystems, increase patient satisfaction and lower costs. The continuing maturation of EMRs also brings new opportunities at tighter integration, with secure, HIPAA-compliant read/write capabilities possible between apps and the EMR.

App adoption among MobileSmith Health clients has coalesced around two main care pathways, so we’ve rebranded somewhat to create synergies among clients and prospects to simplify the purchasing process. MobileSmith Health apps have been split into two distinct versions—Navigate and Encounter.

Navigate is a wayfinding app designed to improve the patient experience with a personalized view of care options that can help keep patients within your health system. Encounter is procedure-based, with instructions pre- and post-procedure that are customized based on the service and the provider.

Both apps are highly customizable based on service line, amount of engagement and degree of EMR integration. It’s possible to start simply, with a guide to the numerous care options within a system for instance, then expand to other offerings down the road.

Let’s explore each offering at a more granular level.

Navigate

Visiting a doctor for the first time or going to the hospital for a test or procedure can certainly cause anxiety. Any unease is only heightened when a patient doesn’t know the location of a provider’s office or needs to check whether a provider or facility is in-network. And if a care need is urgent, the patient demands immediate answers. Which is why, as today’s healthcare consumer expects the same user experiences as they do while navigating other industries, the embracing of apps that personalize their care experience is long overdue in healthcare.

Navigate includes a dynamic range of services that a consumer can configure based on the app’s design parameters. A health system can list owned and affiliated providers and facilities, with ready resources such as nearby urgent care centers and driving directions. Additionally, users can have the ability to schedule an appointment or check urgent care and ED wait times.

A broker or employer, on the other hand, could provide an app that includes a constantly updated map of in-network providers and facilities based on a worker’s insurance plan details, using the phone’s built-in geolocation to always locate the most convenient and appropriate care location. Users can also access an electronic insurance card and see where they are in terms of meeting deductibles and out-of-pocket limits.

Another exciting potential use for Navigate is a natural-language symptom checker, so patients can identify the most appropriate care setting without resorting to generalized web searches. The medically-validated database covers 10,000 diseases and has been highly vetted in over 20 peer-reviewed studies. Users can input a few words or point to a body part on a chart to find relevant information that can be linked to in-network providers and facilities.

When hospitals recognize the need for apps to promote patient satisfaction and loyalty, they first turn to navigation apps, experience from MobileSmith Health shows. Nearly half of health systems issuing RFPs for apps are specifying wayfinding as the intended use, up from about 20 percent in 2018.

Encounter

Procedure-based apps such as Encounter can save facilities as much as $300 per procedure by reducing same-day cancellations and 30-day readmissions, while improving workflows and efficiency.

Many in-facility tests and surgeries require advance preparation from patients, anything from a pre-op exam to stopping certain medications to special procedures such as bowel prep for a colonoscopy. Patients also need post-procedure instructions to maximize recovery while limiting complications.

“Prescribing” an app before a procedure can shift the heavy lifting of reminders from medical staff to patients, thereby reducing clinician burnout. We’re all conditioned to respond to a dot next to an app on our smartphones that indicates a new message or a required action, prompting behavioral modification to remove the dot.

An app geared to a specific procedure can provide all information a patient needs during the care journey. Reminders arranged as to-do items encourage patients to self-serve. If the app can write to the EMR, patient-completed tasks can be checked off, leaving staff to manage exceptions rather than an entire patient population.

Basic information includes the day, time and location for the test or procedure, along with a contact number that’s tap-to-call enabled, simplifying communications. The procedure location can be enabled with tap-to-navigate access and/or options for transportation.

A patient can interact with facility- or provider-specific instructions for the procedure in a swipe-and-click format that is familiar. A chatbot can help educate patients and personalize their experience, helping to break down intensive or daunting medical information in a format that’s easier to understand.

MobileSmith Health continues to refine its industry-leading products in response to provider and health system demands. The goal is a more streamlined and effective care process for patients and providers alike that brings better outcomes and better perceptions of care. The effective use of apps also can bring workflow improvements and lower costs.

David Sawin is Vice President, Product & Marketing for MobileSmith Health. In his position, David helps hospitals rapidly create, deploy, and manage custom apps that transform patient experiences using MobileSmith Health’s enterprise-class mobile app development platform. His product innovations and evolutions help providers by increase revenue, reduce cost, and improve outcomes.