New Research Identifies the 3 Most Meaningful Features in Telehealth Mobile Apps

Brian Levine
Publication Date
10 March 2021

New Research Identifies the 3 Most Meaningful Features in Telehealth Mobile Apps

Telehealth mobile app adoption surged in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 and social distancing, putting a spotlight on how well different telemedicine and virtual options are working for patients and providers. Countless research studies - including our own - are finding that consumers indicate they’d like to continue using telehealth services for doctors visits well into the future.

Here at Mobiquity, the uptick in the use of telehealth mobile apps has accelerated our understanding of how to improve these digital health tools so patients and providers alike can create more meaningful experiences that simulate the kinds of visits patients would have if they were physically present at the doctor’s office.

We reviewed several of the top telehealth mobile apps and gathered some interesting insights that providers may want to consider as they develop and evolve their digital programs. We analyzed over 10,000+ reviews for some of the most widely-used telehealth apps in the App Store (iOS and android). What we found was that patients are impacted most by 3 key features.

What 3 features are most meaningful for patients using telehealth mobile apps? 

Feature #1: Scheduling

Since the primary purpose of these apps is to connect doctor and patient, scheduling is both the most cited and most frustrating feature in customer reviews. Most telehealth apps on the market never expected the sudden surge in demand they are experiencing today. Because of this, it is both difficult to schedule a time with a doctor and  difficult for doctors and patients to connect at their scheduled time. Our analysis suggests telehealth app creators should:

  • Automatically “pencil-in” a new appointment time (based on user preferences) if either the doctor or patient had to miss an appointment. This way the patient feels relieved they were able to acquire another time if they weren’t able to immediately reschedule.
  • Provide more date and time options. Specifically, patients would like to see more than a week’s worth of time slots so they can plan ahead and pick a time that works best with their schedule.
  • Allow scheduling after hours. Giving patients the ability to schedule an appointment outside the typical 9 to 5 window is especially helpful for people working full-time, and seeing a physician at off-hours is one of the primary draws to applications like these.

Feature #2: Customer service

Next, not surprisingly, is customer service – or rather the need for customer service. When things go wrong, customers should have a clear recourse online and not need to call in and suffer long wait times. It defeats the convenience a telehealth mobile app is meant to create. Our analysis reveals that telehealth mobile app should:

  • Offer troubleshooting for login, including the ability to reset passwords online or give a one-time access code through text. People forget their passwords all the time, yet some of the biggest apps in this space require customers to call in if they need it reset. And during the pandemic, that means potentially hours on hold.
  • Be clear about whether the customer will still be charged a copay if an appointment was missed or cancelled. This is a high source of both frustration and confusion.
  • Think about providing a simple place where users can call, email, or chat with a chatbot to resolve problems.
  • Allow prescription ordering, refills, and management within the app to reduce customer effort when it comes to getting their medications after a virtual visit.

Feature #3: User Experience

User experience is key in every mobile app. Telehealth apps should be even more cognizant of design to avoid creating a difficult experience for patients who may already be trying to manage a difficult health condition. Our analysis reveals that telehealth apps should consider:

  • Reminders and alerts, which are  critical components of successful telehealth mobile apps and help patients honor their appointments. Our research shows that a concerning number of patients complain that they never received a notification that the doctor was ready or the doctor only waited 60 seconds after sending the notification before cancelling. Patients need the ability to say how and when they want to get notified and should have the option to receive a text message when setting the appointment to make sure they can get the care they need.
  • Design - the design of the mobile app can make or break user experience. Remember, a lot of people trying these services right now are doing so because of social distancing. If a user has a hard time navigating the app, logging in for their telehealth visit, or knowing where to click, it will be detrimental to the app and impact the overall success (including app rating, usage, and reviews).
  • Payment options, specifically digital payment, which can enhance the user experience. Upon their appointment, patients should be able to take care of their copays using digital pay integration via Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Paypal. 

How does COVID-19 affect reviews? 

Consumers of telehealth applications have historically been more tech savvy than the general population. And while there are those who use telehealth for health reasons, the majority are those willing to try new technology and digital tools.That said, due to the coronavirus, telehealth developers find that everyone has become a consumer of their software. Companies developing telehealth mobile apps have not had the chance to fully adapt their systems and interfaces to meet the needs of the technology laggards. Because of this, companies have to rapidly learn, evolve, and invest to cater to an accelerated rate of adoption.

But it isn’t just about the new users. Some patients are mentioning the coronavirus in their app reviews because they are frustrated by the impact that COVID-19 is having on their ability to receive care - the whole system is getting bogged down. Telehealth apps that seize the opportunity to streamline scheduling, expand self service and make their app user friendly will help reduce friction caused by the global pandemic and help patients feel empowered.

[See what our healthcare expert says about technology and if it’s here to stay post-COVID.]

How does your mobile app measure up?

Does your mobile app contain these key features? Are there other features you’ve found to be helpful when conducting virtual visits? We encourage you to use the insights in this article as a way to analyze your app and enhance it during and post-COVID – or consider what features you want to implement into a new mobile app if you don’t already have one.

Mobiquity can help you develop or enhance your telehealth mobile app

We are a team of strategists, designers, and engineers who are experienced in creating mobile experiences that delight stakeholders – whether they be customers, patients, or employees. Our series of accelerator apps can help you get started no matter where you are in your mobile app journey. Contact us today to learn more.

Brian Levine

Brian Levine serves as Mobiquity's VP of Strategy & Analytics, in addition to running Mobiquity's insurance vertical in the United States. At Mobiquity, he has developed digital strategies for multiple insurers, including Amica, Arbella, Mercury, and Travelers. In addition to his work in this vertical, Brian has pioneered research products at Mobiquity that look at clients through new lenses, including developing the Mobiquity Friction Report (tm) which uses large sets of consumer sentiment data to prioritize digital development based on consumer interest. Prior to his role at Mobiquity, Brian founded a consumer research company acquired by Nielsen in 2015 and lead the development of Audible on Alexa for Amazon.

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