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Hospital Apps Must Be Problem Solvers

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, June 12, 2013

iPhone

"There's no reason to have [a smartphone] app unless it's meaningful for the user," says a former vice president of marketing for a three-hospital nonprofit community health system.

By now, you've heard the ubiquitous phrase, "There's an app for that!" And it's likely true, from teaching toddlers their shapes, to measuring your heart rate, to recording what you say in your sleep. There is mobile application for almost everything.

But some hospital and health system marketers may be tired of hearing the phrase because every time it's uttered, they are reminded that their organization hasn't yet developed an app.

But that might not be a bad thing. Jim Rattray, who developed a smartphone app for New Bedford, MA–based Southcoast Health System when he was vice president of marketing for the three-hospital nonprofit community health system, says an app needs to solve a specific problem.

As an admitted early adopter of technology, he wanted Southcoast to jump on the app bandwagon with the iPhone's debut back in 2007. "On one hand I thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we had an app?' but, on the other hand, I didn't want to just put something out there," he says. "There's no reason to have an app unless it's meaningful for the user."

Now an independent consultant, Rattray says if hospitals approach the decision process with how the patient can and will use the app, then it becomes a tool that can not only solve a problem, but it can also enhance patient engagement.

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