A prescription to make mobile health care apps better


A new billing app created by doctors confirms that user experience really is everything in application design. It’s even more vital when it comes to mobile apps for a sector like health care.

Two doctors at North York General Hospital, Jeremy Theal and Joyce Lee, knew there had to be a better way for doctors-on-the-go to file their billing claims. At the time, billing was done through a paper system which was cumbersome for doctors as they moved through their day. As a remedy, Theal and Lee created Agent+ which allows doctors to scan patient information and send claims quickly and securely, without any paperwork.

“We thought, why not make a solution where you build billing into your daily workflow, so that as soon as you see a patient, you bill and you’re done,” says Theal. “To do that, the smart phone is the perfect solution.”

It works because it solves a problem for the users with a fast and easy-to-use approach.

How to improve the mobile user experience
There are a different set of design challenges for the small screen, says Mike Cook, president of Identos, an industry leading mobile security solutions provider which has a partnership with TELUS. “If you don’t get your user experience correct on a mobile device, you won’t get the uptake and you’re wasting your money,” he said.

Good mobile health apps are designed with a focus on the users’ personal needs. As Theal and Lee did when they developed Agent+, the first step is to define the problem to be solved and why a mobile health app would be the best way to do so. The potential users should be engaged in the development process to ensure that their needs are met.

It’s important to understand that this is not about simply converting a paper process or existing web site to mobile, says Cook. Mobile apps need to add value for users on the move. “Everything has to have a clinical outcome attached to it,” explains Lee. “The goals should always be to improve patient safety and quality of care, as opposed to just converting paper to computer records, which doesn’t actually serve patients.”

A key consideration in health care is that the application should allow for offline use of data, says Cook. This is necessary because hospitals always have zones where there is no wifi, he added. Regulatory requirements can also affect the design of apps in the health care sector and must be examined during the development process.

Getting the security right
Privacy and security are clearly big priorities in the health care sector, but this can pose a challenge for getting applications off the ground.

Theal recommends that health care organizations should turn to experts to make sure their applications are safe and secure. “That’s a really unique thing because, typically, building security into an app is a lot of work and is also expensive, so it’s sort of a stumbling block for a lot of healthcare mobile applications,” said Theal.

From a user perspective, the security of health applications needs to be military-grade, but it needs to function in the background, says Cook. People need to have trust in the security of the application, he said, but what they will remember is whether it made their lives easier.

Mike Cook of Identos and Dr. Theal will provide more information on how they designed an application that balances security and user experience at a webinar on November 30th. Register here.

This article is part of a series sponsored by TELUS on mobile security in the health care industry. Next up: How mobile can enhance your organization’s security
Learn more about TELUS Mobile Security Solutions here.


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