If user feedback on smartphone apps is a barometer, then patients are definitely becoming more engaged in their own healthcare.
Explore this issue:February 2015
Being a successful software developer for apps means being nimble in response to users’ and patients’ demands, said Steven Chaitoff, head developer at Hyrax Inc., which created the My Medical app.
Users are constantly sending in requests, complaints, and proposals for changes to be made. Meeting those demands is essential to survival, and the result is a constant march toward greater patient access to their medical information.
When My Medical was launched in 2010, for instance, there was no way to store lab results. Today, that feature is one of the most widely used features on the app, Chaitoff said.
Sometimes these demands are at odds; for example, consumers want to maximize access, but they are sometimes hesitant to store their information externally, in a “cloud,” which would allow them to have that increased access. “There are opposing forces between security and functionality,” Chaitoff said. My Medical, with a download count of 150,000 over the years, is sure to make users aware of the options of keeping information confined to their device and of syncing to a server, he said, allowing users to choose for themselves.
Bruce LeFew, founder and chief operating officer for Healthspek, an app introduced last year and downloaded approximately 19,000 times, says feedback is so integral that input “with the click of a button” was one of the first items woven into the app’s dashboard. “Consumers want to be able to easily access their information whenever they want and be visually engaged while doing so, so user experience was very important to us when developing Healthspek,” he said.
Medical management, for patients having to track multiple medications daily, is also a function Healthspek developers have found to be of great interest to users, he said.
“Recent government initiatives, new technology, and a changing consumer culture have created an environment that has fueled a growing demand for public access to personal healthcare information and dramatically increased the use of personal health records,” said LeFew. “The last decade saw EMRs [for physicians] go from 10% to 90% adoption, and we’ll see the same trend over the upcoming years for PHRs.”
Thomas Collins is a freelance medical writer based in Florida.