Why Nobody Is Using Your Health App (And How to Fix It)

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People are becoming more conscious about their health. It’s why fitness apps are booming and both Apple and Google are looking to get into the health game. But apps that try to go beyond simple calorie counting and movement tracking often struggle to gain traction with users.

Although people are open to sharing how many steps they’ve taken or how much they weigh, they’re more hesitant to share their personal medical details.

Here are some data-related fears consumers often have with healthcare apps:

  • Personal medical information could get leaked. Revealing users’ medical information could be embarrassing and life shattering.
  • Companies could use the data for marketing purposes. Imagine your spam getting smarter about your personal health details. Companies are already pinpointing viewers’ interests, and revealing this information could expose you to targeted email spam and calls tailored to your health issues. Members of Congress have already discussed legislation that would forbid medical apps from selling personal data without the user’s consent.
  • Unqualified employees could access their information. Patients feel comfortable divulging medical information to a doctor, but they probably wouldn’t want the IT guy who supports the app to see and read their information.

There are many reasons people might hesitate to use your app. But by identifying potential concerns and considering them as you develop and market your app, you can quell their fears and ensure the long-term success of your medical app.

Increase User Confidence in Your Healthcare App

One of the biggest obstacles for new healthcare companies isn’t convincing users that their apps are useful; it’s assuring them their information will be safe. If your app is struggling to gain traction despite its obvious benefits, consider these steps to increase consumer confidence and make your app stand out in the crowded marketplace:

  1. Focus on reputation. If potential users haven’t heard of your company or don’t immediately associate it with healthcare, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. A trusted name can mean the difference between failure and success.If your company is in its infancy, consider aiming for partnerships or licensing agreements with well-known healthcare companies such as Kaiser Permanente, New York Presbyterian Hospital, or another major hospital or organization. This can lend your app instant credibility, and with a big name behind it, people will be more likely to hear about it.Other tech sectors have already begun developing these types of partnerships. Absolute Software licensed LoJack’s name and used that brand’s weight to market its own laptop-theft retrieval software. The result was a name people trusted with top software to back it up.
  2. Tout security and confidentiality. Only qualified individuals should view user information, and this data should be heavily encrypted. Apps that allow users to talk directly with medical professionals or make personal data available to them can only work if users know that each virtual session is as confidential as a doctor’s visit. Assure users that your company is going above and beyond to ensure the safety and confidentiality of their data.If you take the HIPAA regulations and security requirements seriously during your design phase, you’re proactively building security into your app and can proudly communicate that to your audience and users. In addition, taking these proactive measures could help you weather any political storms and proposed legislation that is currently being initiated by the Senate.
  3. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Some medical apps have promised to cure insomnia, and others say they can measure blood pressure without the help of a cuff. If your app purports to help treat a disease or measure vital statistics, make sure you can back up that claim. Getting FDA approval is the best step to secure users’ trust.

People want to be in control of their health, and they need the latest technology to do it. With the right security protocols in place and a strong reputation behind it, your app has the potential to be the next big thing. Users likely know the benefits your healthcare app offers, so your job is to keep their data safe and communicate these efforts to break down potential barriers.

Tim Maliyil is the CEO and data security architect for AlertBoot. AlertBoot protects customers from data breaches that damage their credibility, reputation, and business. The company’s managed full disk encryption, email encryption, and mobile security services deploy within minutes to customers’ PCs, smartphones, and tablets, providing tremendous insight, visibility, and control.

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19 replies »

  1. Companies must focus on users by convincing them that their apps are handy and the information will be safe.
    Don’t ever try to make any commitment what you can’t deliver and most important thing is to focus on your reputation.

  2. In this age of technology, smart phones have taken over, There is an app for everything you could think of, even personal health information. Call me old fashioned, but I think when it comes to my health, I would want to go to my doctor to discuss my personal medical details, not share it with an app.

  3. Would be extremely useful and interesting if we could all see the stats on which apps people *keep* using. That would be a sign of usability to me as a provider.

    Whether it’s actually helping a patient with health is harder to say…but unless it’s an app that entertains or hoodwinks patients (e.g. promising to reverse their age), my guess is that if people keep using it, it’s probably generating some kind of value.

  4. This article is so non-sensical as to be laughable. Yes, some apps are going to make an impact, say for a patient with COPD, diabetes, recovering from a stroke or whatever. Other than those narrow issues (and silicon valley geeks) good luck. Look at wellness and behavior change apps: They are not effective absent bribing already motivated users, in the real world few sign up and way fewer use them. A large graveyard gets new expired apps every day.

  5. “The problem is that there are too many app developers out there going for the quick buck..”
    That’s why healthcare providers need to offer their own, branded health apps either customized or built by themselves. Deloitte says patients trust their healthcare provider the most when it comes to mobile advice or functionality.

  6. You stated that patients NEED the latest technology to control their health. It would help if you could give an example of an app or whatever that fills this role. Thanks.

  7. I do agree with you, Leslie, about the apps needing to show obvious benefits. The problem is that there is many apps in the reputable app stores that are for “entertainment purposes” which hoodwink people into thinking that it serves a legitimate medical purpose. These apps need to go, and the “entertainment purpose” loophole needs to go.

    As for the data concern, I don’t think people are truly deter users from adopting an app. The reality is that people are reactive to a data breach, and they don’t think about it ahead of time. I bring up the data security concerns since these medical app manufacturers should be held to the same standard as anyone else in the medical field, and there might soon be legislation requiring them to treat data security as carefully as the regulated medical field. It won’t hurt the app manufacturers to be proactive in this regard.

  8. I’m going to agree with Leslie here.

    The data story is doing a great job of distracting people from the real story here: which is that a lot of these apps just aren’t worth people’s time …

  9. This article raises some interesting points but also makes some assumptions that I’d like to see fleshed out.

    To begin with, it would be nice to have a link to some data confirming that it’s data security concerns that are deterring users, as opposed to poor usability or function.

    And what are these obvious benefits of the apps? For most apps I can see how the developer thinks they would be beneficial, but they often aren’t a great fit for how patients and clinicians are addressing health pain-points in the real world.

  10. Agreed. But I doubt they will do so without legal pressure. Getting involved in the approval process will involve tremendous expense and expose them to potential litigation. As it stands, their legal defense is that they’re not involved. “Sorry. We really have no control” which is obviously a fiction designed by lawyers.

    I imagine you’ll eventually see a sharp decrease in the number of health apps available through the Apple store. They’ll cite safety and quality and other such noble concerns. About the same time, we’ll start hearing a lot more about the Apple Health product now available for download …

  11. The app developers that are out there for a quick buck are likely to fail in the health care market. This market is not analogous to the gaming marking.

    It is not often that a health care app makes a huge impact without also having medical expertise to back it up. Patients are becoming more tech savvy and understand when they see a good reputable product.

    I absolutely agree that health care apps (and website) need to have the appropriate security protocols in place to protect patient data.

  12. The latest technology will help people take better or more efficient control of their health, but this technology does need to be vetted.

    The problem is that there are too many app developers out there going for the quick buck, and they do so at the expense of the health of the app user. Spending the time to develop a medically accurate and approved app will ultimately yield a better return in both money and reputation, but we do need the help of the app stores and regulators to keep the bad apps out.

  13. “People want to be in control of their health, and they need the latest technology to do it”

    Yes. No.

  14. App Economics 101

    If your challenge as a designer is to get people to make a quick decision and pay a low price for a download there is seemingly little incentive to develop an excellent product – I mean, why bother?

    The problem? The problem is that you won’t get away with it. And if you think you’re going to, you just don’t get it. Your customers will vote with their feet. And they will never forgive you.

    Good app developers get this and craft products that are as well developed as anything Apple or Microsoft makes.

    Note the similarities to the e-book market, where you have a wave of quickie releases pushed out on the market. I haven’t looked at the sales figures but I am willing to bet that it works the same way. The logic is the same across industries.