Dr. Surya Chaudhri
Technology has given us a potent platform in the form of apps. There is no denying that the need of a hospital app is inescapable and must be leveraged to enhance patient base and loyalty, provide medical advice, purchase of prescription drugs, and other such facilities.
Some hospitals do have their own app, however, these apps are neither user-friendly nor are compelling enough for users to download and keep them in their smart phones.
The biggest challenge is to ensure that users not only download the app and also keep the app on their phones till posterity. The app must become indispensable to users like banking apps. For this reason, hospitals must ensure their app developers include some of the following features:
• Multi-lingual app working on all platforms like IOS, Android, Windows, etc.
• High bandwidth for faster data loading
• High security features with no leakage of data
• Ability to enter detailed patient history
• Round the clock ability to communicate (including video chat) with healthcare professionals so as to seek advice on simple disease and disorders free of cost
• Ability to communicate with other patients of similar disease and disorders so that patients can form their own community
•Ability to book appointments and an ambulance through the app
•Expected bill amount for particular treatment. (Hospitals must ensure that this communication is loud and clear with the patients)
•Ability to buy prescription drugs, healthcare products and health insurance policy at discounted rates
• Ability to pay through the app with cashback facility
• If possible a point system must be introduced as incentive to maintain patient loyalty (Two to Five points for every Rupees hundred spent). These points can be redeemed during subsequent visits
•Built in reminder to take medicine(s) as prescribed by the doctors
•Exercise and diet tracker
What would hospitals gain from providing the app?
First and foremost, hospitals would get a large database of patients with demographic segmentation with respect to age, sex, location, socio-economic status, etc. Hospitals can thus craft tailor-made health campaigns for specific population. Secondly, the most time consuming yet an essential part of diagnosis and treatment of a patient is accurate medical history. Having access to this history would save not only valuable OPD time of the doctor but also eliminate the need for unnecessary diagnostic procedures and provide more cost-effective treatment. This would also reduce the patient waiting time leading to enhanced patient satisfaction
Why should patients download the app?
Most patients would download the app if the app is user friendly, communicative and educational with useful incentives thrown in. The incentive can be as little as a free medical checkup for example, to download the app, attractive discounts in the billing, or giving tangible gifts on entering the detailed medical history.
The patients would like to keep the app on their phones if it serves their self-interest. If the app communicates with its users regarding their health, sending notification reminders to take medicine, lab tests, checking weight, diet control, exercise, etc. whilst giving free advice on health-related questions that users may have, and the app becomes a life-style app rather than just a medical app, the users would like to keep the app till posterity
Would the App contribute to Bottom Line?
Yes, if the app allows the purchase of certain medicines, healthcare products, health insurance policies at a discounted price. The wider patient base would lead to economies of scale and hence would contribute to better economic profits.
Also, if the app is downloaded and kept in the phone, it would lead to the building of trust amongst patients towards their hospital. The trust would lead to alleviation of unknown fear that most patients have towards the hospitals. This lack of fear would promote loyalty. Loyal patient would be willing to spend a reasonable amount on maintenance of health.
Disclaimer: I don’t make apps – this article is to remind hospitals that they can build useful apps to serve the community better.
•Surgeon Captain Surya Chaudhri, Indian Navy (Veteran) MBBS, FAGE, MSc (Strategic Studies), MBA (Health Care Management General Management (IIM Lucknow) Medical Director (Indira Gandhi Group of Instituitions)