News Feature | January 25, 2016

Hospitals Need To Renew Their Digital Strategies To Reclaim Patient Engagement

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

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Study shows that only 2 percent of patients are using mobile health apps at nation’s major hospitals.

Hospitals need to renew their digital strategies in order to reclaim patient engagement via mobile health apps, according to an Accenture report. The report, Losing Patience: Why Healthcare Providers Need to Up Their Mobile Game, found that while 66 of the 100 largest U.S. hospitals offer mobile health apps, only two percent of patients are actually using them. The study demonstrates the failure to focus apps on the service most desired by consumers could be costing each hospital more than $2 million a year in lost revenue.

Furthermore, Accenture found only 11 percent of the health systems surveyed offer patients proprietary apps that include at least one of three functions demanded most by patients: access to medical records; ability to book, change, and cancel appointments; and the ability to request refills on prescriptions.

“Simply having a mobile app is not enough,” said Brian Kalis, managing director in Accenture’s Health practice in a prepared 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 a lack thereof — could look elsewhere for services.”

“In many cases, we’re seeing hospitals only offering a subset of things in their mobile apps — view labs, look up some basic forms,” Kalis told Healthcare IT News. “A lot of what is offered is around core medical record pieces versus easy appointment scheduling and such. It’s just static information, not personalized or tailored to an individual.”

Accenture found patients are already looking elsewhere to meet their needs, with 7 percent changing healthcare providers as a result of poor experiences with online customer service channels, including mobile apps and web chat. This pattern could potentially lead to the loss of as much as $100 million annually per hospital, suggesting that consumers are now expecting the same levels of customer service in healthcare that they expect in other industries.

Accenture says healthcare providers should expect to see higher switching rates that are comparable to other industries. They also say hospitals should adopt a patient-centric approach to mobile health apps. According to the report, 38 percent of the hospitals studied develop health apps in-house versus hiring a mobile app vendor.

“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 experiences as well as partner with digital disruptors will have the ability to better engage with their patients, which will enhance patient loyalty — thereby enabling the hospitals to protect their revenues.”