Only 2% of Patients Engaged with Hospitals via Mobile Apps

The largest US hospitals are hardly using hospital-based mobile apps, and are thus missing opportunities to engage patients.

Only a small percentage of patients in the largest US hospitals are using hospital-provided mobile health apps, according to new research from Accenture. Hospital apps are failing to engage patients by not aligning functionality and user experience with what consumers expect and need, said Brian Kalis, managing director in Accenture’s Health practice. The company’s report estimates that the failure to align mobile apps to the services consumers demand could cost each of these hospitals, on average, more than $100 million in lost annual revenue.

Accenture assessed mobile app use among the 100 largest US hospitals, and found that 66% have mobile apps for consumers and approximately 38% of that subset have developed proprietary apps for their patients. However, only 11% of health systems offer patients proprietary apps that operate with at least 1 of the 3 functions that consumers demand most: access to medical records; the ability to book, change, and cancel appointments; and the ability to request prescription refills electronically. The company also analyzed mobile health apps from independent vendors available in Google Play and iTunes app stores (eg, GoodRx, ZocDoc, and WebMD), and used data from the company’s 2014 Global Consumer Pulse Research and 2013 Patient Engagement Survey as well as data from HIMSS Analytics, the CDC’s 2012 National Hospital Discharge Survey, and App A Q3 2014 Market Data.

“Simply having a mobile app is not enough,” Kalis noted. “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.”

Approximately 7% of patients have switched healthcare providers because of a poor experience with online customer service channels, such as mobile apps and web chat, Accenture’s data show. The company says this pattern could lead to a loss of more than $100 million in annual revenue per hospital. As consumers bring their service expectations from other industries into healthcare, providers are likely to see higher rates of switching that are closer to those seen in the mobile phone industry (9%), cable TV providers (11%), and retail (30%).

The report suggests hospitals improve their customer experience is to partner with digital disrupters such as GoodRx, ZocDoc, and WebMD to create mobile platforms tailored to their specific patient demands; for example a large provider might partner with ZocDoc to improve appointment scheduling.

“Mobile engagement is becoming increasingly critical to the success of every hospital in the digital age,” Kalis said. It’s imperative to enable an individualized approach where patients are empowered to help manage their own care.

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