Navigating the mHealth maze

Author: Novarum DX

This latest instalment of Tech Talk looks at development considerations for mHealth apps, Dr Neil Polwart, Novarum founder and BBI Group head of mobile, tells us more…

Mobile is touching all our lives and it’s almost inevitable that at some stage your organisation will consider developing a mobile application to tap into this emerging market.

Designing successful mobile applications is far more than just engaging with a graphic designer to develop attractive screens or reworking web content so it’s optimised for mobile.

One key consideration is the availability of a reliable network connection. If a good connection is available and no sophisticated hardware functionality is required, it may be possible to provide the capability in a mobile-friendly website without requiring the user to download and install an app.

If wifi or good cellular connections are not available all the time, then it will be inevitable that the functionality is provided in an app. The landscape for developing mobile apps is constantly changing, but since Microsoft moved away from the mobile arena, this has simplified the problem.

Even then, you have thousands of different device capabilities with dozens of different screen sizes to accommodate. A good app developer will be able to guide you through the maze of options available, including the pros and cons of true native app development (completely separate apps for Android and iOS) versus hybrid apps based on web-technology.

To maximise the user-experience from a mobile app, and differentiate it from other digital tools, you should consider how to benefit from mobile phone features and accessories, such as the camera, motion sensors and GPS, for example.

As well as integrating with hardware on the user’s device you can look to become more closely linked to the eco-system on their phone by interfacing with their calendar app, linking to contacts, or populating data into health tracking apps. Whichever app you interface with, communicate it to the user clearly.

Depending on the app and the type of user you are dealing with it might be appropriate to interface with their social media accounts. Obviously for many medical, clinical or pharmaceutical applications this sort of use will cause significant privacy concerns.

However, in some instances, sharing carefully selected useful information will help extend the reach of your app. Positive user-experiences encourage users to return to the app and help make it ‘sticky’ — recurring regular users who value it.

Push notifications are another example where mobile opens up options for better interaction with users. Careful and considerate use of these notifications can help keep users engaged, or bring users back to an app they neglected.

Ultimately, most mobile apps are trying to get users to perform some sort of transaction, whether that is making a purchase, recording data or accessing information in a convenient form. It can be hugely helpful for businesses to understand where, and possibly even who, is accessing information. It may guide future product development, so tracking analytics on app usage and transactions is important.

Achieving loyal users who repeatedly use ‘sticky apps’ is all about the quality of the experience they receive. Each use case is different, in some cases stability and familiarity is important. In others, a constant stream of new features or content helps keep users engaged.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the company.