Top 3 considerations when designing apps for the mobile clinician
Mobile devices, and the healthcare apps that run on them, have the potential to greatly enhance patient-provider relationships by allowing physicians to be more engaged and efficient during the patient encounter.
The use of mobile devices in the healthcare setting is prevalent. In fact, physician smartphone adoption outpaces the general U.S. adult population’s adoption of smartphones. What’s more, a study from Manhattan Research last year found that almost 72 percent of physicians now own a smartphone. And by the end of 2012, physician smartphone adoption is expected to reach 81percent to 85 percent as a result of device improvements, increased data speeds and decreased costs.
With this explosion in device usage and adoption come hundreds of new mobile applications designed specifically for the medical practitioner. In order to provide the best possible experience for medical professionals as they embrace mobile technology, we need to consider the following.
Consideration #1: Web, native, or hybrid app?
The web vs. native mobile app argument has been forging for years. While it’s often more expensive and time consuming to develop native apps, the benefits they provide just might outweigh the time and cost factors, especially in the healthcare setting.
Native apps are arguably more reliable and faster and have a richer set of features than their web app brethren thanks in part to their ability to take advantage of hardware-related features. Moreover, research has shown that native apps have higher adoption rates, greater ongoing usage and, in general, provide a more engaging experience for the end user. Furthermore, the native app approach in healthcare is supported by the fact that the medical community has somewhat standardized on iOS as a result of user adoption patterns.
According to research published last year, approximately 28 percent of physicians had planned to purchase an iPad in 2011, and for physicians who do not yet own a mobile device, 66 percent are likely to select an Apple product. With the release of the latest version of the iPad and its resolution and 4G improvements, this adoption pattern will surely continue to climb (especially across medical specialties, such as diagnostic imaging, where a superior screen resolution is critical to workflow and usability).
On the other hand, developing and deploying web apps is more cost-effective and offers universal, cross-platform usability. However, this universal approach comes at the cost of user experience and access to well-established distribution channels. Given the benefits of both approaches, a hybrid approach may be the perfect answer to balance cost, distribution, usability and ongoing maintenance.
Despite the strong argument for developing native or hybrid apps in the context of healthcare, it will up to you or the designer of your healthcare apps to choose the most appropriate path to support clean user interfaces (UI) and an optimal end user experience.
Consideration #2: Physicians are consumers, too.