With more than half of health consumers looking to connect with providers via smartphone, hospitals should be highly attuned to mobile device and app integration in their overall IT strategy. However, analysis of proprietary mobile health apps offered by the top 100 U.S. hospitals shows that those organizations are reaching just 2 percent of their patient populations through mobile apps.
The upshot: Lack of mobile engagement could cost hospitals millions of dollars in revenue loss, according to a research report published Jan. 6 by global professional services firm Accenture.
The findings show that 66 percent of the largest 100 U.S. hospitals by bed size currently have mobile apps for consumers but less than 40 percent of that subset have built proprietary apps. Drilling down further, only 11 percent of providers have proprietary apps that deliver at least one of the three digital health capabilities that consumers want the most: access the electronic health records, appointment scheduling and prescription refills.
Simply having a mobile app is not enough, said Brian Kalis, managing director in Accenture’s Health practice, in a public statement. Hospital apps are failing to engage patients by not aligning their functionality and user experience with what consumers expect and need. Consumers want ubiquitous access to products and services as part of their customer experience, and those who become disillusioned with a provider’s mobile services or lack thereof could look elsewhere for services.
Currently offered apps often fail to engage consumers because of poor user experience and poor functionality, according to Accenture’s report. As a result, “patient-centered apps published by digital health disruptors are gaining traction in the market by filling the expectations chasm where provider apps fall short,” the report states.
Accenture compared user ratings and download numbers from the iTunes and Google Play stores for both proprietary and “disruptor” apps. The former group rated an average of 3.6 stars (out of 5) and approximately 7,000 downloads, while the latter group scored significantly higher. For example, an independent patient scheduling app scored an average rating of 4.5 with about 300,000 downloads, and a symptom checker similarly scored a 4.5 rating with about 1 million downloads.
Financial implications could come into play for “mobile laggards,” as Accenture describes providers who “ignore the mobility needs of today’s always-on patients.” The firm cited its own 2014 Global Consumer Pulse Research in estimating that approximately 7 percent of patients have switched healthcare providers due to poor customer experience — the same level of customer dissatisfaction seen in the hotel and telephone service industries. Accenture’s newly released research translates that rate of switching to a loss of more than $100 million in annual revenue per hospital.
The report suggests that hospitals could improve the customer experience by partnering with digital disruptors to create mobile platforms tailored to specific patient demands.
“Mobile engagement is becoming increasingly critical to the success of every hospital in the digital age,” Kalis said. “Today it’s all about enabling an individualized approach, where patients are empowered to help manage their own care. Large hospitals that design and build experience as well as partner with digital disruptors will have the ability to better engage with their patients, which will enhance patient loyalty — thereby enabling hospitals to protect their revenues.”
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