All it takes is one look around a busy subway platform, café or concert to know that Americans are devoted to our smartphones: At any given time, it seems like most of us have one in hand –ready to help us follow a whim or tackle a task. Survey numbers corroborate this: Google found that 80 percent of Americans use a smartphone every day for an average of three hours a day, and while 67 percent use a computer daily, for one in four people a smartphone is the only device they use. This means that companies and healthcare providers that aren’t reaching their employees or customers on mobile are missing an opportunity to connect with a quarter of their audience.
Health is one of the most frequently searched topics via smartphone: A Pew Research Center survey that looked at differences in what we search for using our phones, tablets and computers found that 62 percent of Americans have looked for health information using their phone. This is an even larger percentage than those who say they have used their phones to do online banking, look at real estate or search for jobs. But while the healthcare industry rushes headlong to meet this demand by transforming itself into a digital- and mobile-friendly space, there is another statistic that needs to be considered above all others: Though we are an app-loving people (having on average 42 apps on our smartphone), we abandon 78 percent of these apps after using them just once.
In other words, it’s worth the time it takes to get your healthcare app right the first time so that the first impression it makes will be an exceptional one. That’s why more companies today are putting mobile first – designing their mobile app even before their patient portal. Not only does mobile technology make it easier for consumers to engage with their health benefits, but providing greater consumer self-service also allows administrators to save on costs and significantly shorten the lifecycle of processing and validating claims. Fully integrated mobile experiences also create a more personalized way for consumers to engage with a plan through features like fingerprint login, in-app messaging and real-time access of expenses and account information. (The iPhone X’s new face-recognition technology may herald the arrival of yet another personalized offering soon to be included in health plan apps.)
The next iteration of mobile healthcare centers on re-engineering health payments to ensure this highly personalized experience. Imagine an app that will tell consumers where to go to receive care and how to get there, suggest better treatment options, allow a receipt to be uploaded or a claim to be filed, and provide a way to pay at point of service (instead of six months after treatment). This is important, as U.S. mobile payments are projected to reach $23 billion by 2018, up from $4 billion in 2014, with Gen Xers and millennials utilizing mobile payment technology the most.
During the process of switching from paperwork to real-time reporting, employers are also allowing their employees to take more control of their healthcare. Regular access to a dashboard detailing the balance of an HSA account, for instance, might persuade a consumer to redefine how they spend money on healthcare, as someone who can grab their phone, hit a button and see their spending trend over two to three years is likely to consider this data when thinking about benefits enrollment. These consumers will also become more likely to shop around for the best care.
Studies show that engaged patients more often have the knowledge, skills and willingness to manage their health and to take action on their health providers’ recommendations. As healthcare transactions move to mobile, the key for employers will be to design their native app around the qualities that Americans already love about their smartphones – that they’re easy to use and continually engaging.