The last two years forced millions of people to engage with their healthcare provider digitally for the first time: telehealth use, for example, has increased 38x since pre-pandemic. Today, many healthcare organizations recognize the potential for digital solutions like mobile apps to improve care delivery and transform the patient experience.

But there’s a lot of open water between recognizing potential and launching an app that actually makes people’s lives better. Key to getting it right is defining how the app will impact business-level goals. Here are five steps to defining business goals for a mobile healthcare app.

1. Identify internal stakeholders

A patient-facing mobile app will affect lots of people: providers, front-desk workers, the IT team, pharmacists, patients, etc. Which of these groups should be involved in defining business goals? And who’s responsible for filtering input and making decisions?

Further, it’s important to determine whether your organization has in-house talent with the skills and bandwidth to build the app.

2. Define the app’s purpose

Once you know who gets to weigh in on the business side, it’s time to define the app’s purpose. These questions can help:

  • What role will the app play in your business?
  • Does the app recreate a current experience, but digitally?
  • Will it add new experiences to maintain your competitiveness?
  • Will it bring a new concept to healthcare to disrupt the industry?
  • Will it help you do what you do better?

There’s no “right” answer.

The purpose of an IoT device connected to a wearable therapeutic, for example, will be vastly different from that of a portal meant to facilitate patient-physician communications. The idea is to consult with stakeholders and agree on how your app can be most impactful.

3. Talk to users

Skipping this step is one of the biggest mistakes a healthcare organization can make when launching a mobile app. Talking to end users (both patients and physicians) is essential to validating (or invalidating) the assumptions you have about how to fulfill the app’s intended purpose.

It’s this “how” where many unsuccessful healthcare apps fall short. Patients may want a way to schedule appointments digitally, but if the app requires too many steps, patients are unlikely to actually use it.

In user research, the goal is to understand the actual problems users have. From there, the developers and designers can figure out how to solve those problems. You can achieve this by stress testing your assumptions about what its app should do.

Talk to real people in end user groups, get to know their lives and their concerns, show them mockups and prototypes, and incorporate their feedback at every stage.

The result is an app that actually makes users’ lives better. As a result, adoption is strong at launch.

4. Decide who will maintain the app

Just as an app won’t translate to business gains without users, it won’t translate to business gains without maintenance.

Apps require regular updates, debugging, and improvement to remain relevant and secure.

For many healthcare organizations, the crucial question is whether an in-house resource or an agency will do this work. If it’s an in-house resource, it’s best to make sure they’re part of the app’s development so they can transition to maintenance mode seamlessly and effectively.

5. Define the minimum viable product (MVP)

Once you’ve identified how your mobile app can solve a real user problem, it’s time to build and ship the app. But rather than trying to build every feature into the version you launch, it’s better to ship a minimum viable product, or MVP – that is, a version that does only the bare minimum to meet user needs.

Why? Because this lets you learn from actual user behavior in the wild. Building and launching a stripped-down version of your vision means you can get user data right away and apply it to future iterations.

If you launch with too many features, there’s always the risk that you’ll spend time and money on things users don’t need or want – that is, on things that don’t help you reach your business goals for the app.

The expectation with any app is that you’ll have to tweak and improve; launching an MVP helps minimize the rework you ultimately do.

What’s good for users is good for the bottom line

Without users, the only business impact building an app will have is draining the budget. Tying business goals for a mobile app to the wants and needs of actual users solves for adoption from day one.

To do this, healthcare organizations can embrace ways of working that prioritize user input throughout the development process and on an ongoing basis post launch.

Photo credit: Venimo, Getty Images


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