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Virtually Speaking

Next IT hosts Forrester-led roundtable of mobile health app leaders

Posted by Dave Dubuque on Dec 10, 2013 7:09:50 PM


On December 5th, 2013, Next IT had the privilege of hosting a roundtable webinar led by Forrester Principal Analyst Julie Ask.

Gathered to discuss mobile devices’ potential to meet the needs of a changing healthcare environment were:

  • Dr. Craig Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Aegis Creative, an organization focused on introducing innovative technology/natural-language processing to healthcare;
  • Marcy Q. Samet, EVP and Managing Director of customer-experience agency MRM, where she works on strategies for making digital healthcare relevant to both patients and healthcare professionals;
  • Scott Snyder, Ph.D. who is Chief Strategy Officer at Mobiquity, a creator of enterprise-class apps; and
  • Victor Morrison, Next IT’s Senior Vice President of Healthcare Markets. Next IT specializes, of course, in natural language solutions designed to improve healthcare outcomes.

The panel engaged in an insightful discussion about the changing environment faced by both healthcare professionals and the companies that are developing technology that’s designed to serve them.

The mobile solution.

The worldwide boom of mobile adoption creates a huge potential for interaction with patients on this channel. With the advent of smartphones, which can be easily linked to any number of medical devices, a huge amount of potentially useful data can be gathered. The challenge, the panel agreed, is in the interpretation of this data.

“We’re still at a point where we’re discovering new, unexpected relationships,” said Dr. Smith. “An example of the big problems we’ve been able to address is the prediction of flu epidemics. For example, by analyzing social media, we’ve been able to accurately predict exactly where outbreaks will occur next.”

Even in developing countries, where most patients’ phones are of the non-internet variety, mobile solutions hold great promise. In fact, the devices’ simplicity prompts the development of some creative solutions. An interesting example of this surfaced during the discussion: In Africa, an SMS text message system was designed to help malaria patients avoid needless, miles-long journeys on foot by letting them know where and when their medication is in-stock. For those suffering from the disease, this prevention of unnecessary exertion can mean the difference between life and death.

When it comes to smartphone based technology, the panelists agreed upon the importance of offering a convenient, up-to-date solution. The great experiences that people are having with mobile retail and travel apps have given them high expectations for any app offered by their oncologist. Features that once surprised and delighted users quickly become expected, and staying up-to-date with the latest abilities and conveniences will be a critical aspect of app design.

Strategy for long-term patient engagement was also discussed. Enthusiasm for a new service decreases over time, and only by becoming invaluable to both providers and patients will apps stand a chance of truly engaging them. Physicians will only get on board if an app gives them data they need well in advance of an appointment. And to live beyond the six-month lifespan that is average for most patient-facing healthcare apps, creative strategies – such as gamification – must be employed, according to Dr. Snyder.

The power of trust

Next IT is working to meet the criteria for both ease of use and relevance of information by creating natural-language solutions. This type of interface allows both patients and healthcare professionals to use their own language to access highly personalized information that’s tailored to their precise need at that moment. Over time, accuracy and relevance build trust. Natural-language solutions’ ability to build trust is further enhanced because users have been proven to form emotional bonds with their virtual assistants.

“We see great potential for use of virtual health assistants as extensions of healthcare providers, offering the personalized coaching and advice that physicians simply don’t have time for,” said Morrison. “We’re looking for ways that we can help doctors keep their patients as healthy as possible.”

Download the webinar

To listen to this healthcare roundtable in its entirety, download the webinar here.

Topics: Healthcare, Alme Platform, Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVA)