Who should own healthcare apps?
In the day and age of instant communication and direct to consumer capabilities, why is member/patient engagement still an ongoing dilemma? At recent count, there are more than 165,000 health- and wellness-related apps on iOS, of which the top 10 far outweigh all the others combined in terms of downloads and perceived value.
Every week another company socializes their latest wellness program for losing weight, increasing steps per day or disrupting sitting behind a desk to move around, and yet studies show that six months into using the new app, the utilization diminishes dramatically, as does the accompanying gadgets such as wearable bracelets. Are employers, health insurance companies or individual users/patients in the best position to add the most value for healthcare apps? Or perhaps is there much more to the picture?
On one hand, there are the employers who want to increase productivity, promote a work/life balance and retain employees with interesting benefits that are different than competitors. Then, you have the healthcare insurance companies that continue to drive toward consumerism, patient centricity and becoming a more digital business with a "top-of-wallet" approach for engaging users. As for the individual, there is a desire not to enter the same information repeatedly, have to link to multiple doctors and facilities, and the "need for the want." Individuals, to modify behavior, must be intrinsically motivated or have enough extrinsic motivation to want to change and engage in their own health or manage a chronic condition; there must be something inspiring that encourages them to have the "readiness to change."
So, the question is who should own the app? The employer, the healthcare insurer or individual users/patients? How do we bridge the gap to effectively reach consumers?
As an employer, employee wellness has many documented advantages, including fewer sick days, higher productivity levels and a more positive outlook of work. These benefits show an obvious rationale for organizations to own the app, yet in this day, more than half the population travels or telecommutes, and loyalty to an employer is at an all-time low.
So, how do organizations ensure the employee base responds to an employer app?
Focus on HR
Enable employees to use the app for as much as possible, from time reporting, training and pay review to social, employee-only communities (e.g., bartering, vacation planning, informal FAQ, posting of benefits, etc.). By creating an all-inclusive community, the wellness program becomes a benefit of the app, but not the only reason to visit, which will increase the stickiness factor and keep employees using it.