According to a recent poll of doctors by Epocrates, one-third of physicians planned to purchase the iPad Mini prior to its public announcement. It makes sense, given the size of lab coat pockets and the fact that almost 2/3 of physicians use tablets.
So, what does this mean for developers?
First, it means that doctors want to use medical apps. We developers will see an increasing demand for apps that medical professionals can use in their daily practice, including apps that make use of the device’s camera and audio recording capabilities. Animation and imaging must become areas of our expertise for us to succeed in creating cutting-edge medical apps that doctors use and recommend to their colleagues.
Second, it means that our apps and interfaces must scale for a variety of devices. Some surveys indicate that a majority of physicians prefer Apple products, and prefer them because of their ease of use, familiarity, and build quality. While iPhone and iPad apps currently dominate the medical App Store category, the iPad Mini should not be ignored. iOS 5 and 6 have made auto-resizing and auto-layout easier to use than ever, and there is no reason that our apps should not look good and work well on any iDevice.
Finally, it means that we need to build apps that medical professionals need and want to use. Doctors and nurses have high expectations, and for good reason. If the apps we build do not function perfectly, do not provide an intuitive and simple user interfaces, or do not solve problems and make health care more efficient and less error prone, then they will not be used.
Julie Vilardi, a registered nurse and executive director of Kaiser Permanente’s clinical informatics and strategic projects was quoted in VentureBeat “iOS phones and tablets really are the devices of choice in hospitals today. This is because vendors in general are taking more advantage of iOS than Android.”
Technology has the power to revolutionize the health care industry, but as we all know: the device is only as useful as the apps it runs. As developers, if we ignore the iPad Mini or iPad, we risk missing out on a huge opportunity.
Are you building an app for doctors or clinicians?
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About Author, Taylor Briggs is a Developer extraordinaire at Pathfinder.
You can find him on Google+
One of the reasons VGBio is one of Pathfinder’s favorite clients is because they show how four of the most powerful technology trends affecting healthcare (body area sensor networks, smartphones, cloud computing and big data/predictive analytics) can be used together to reduce costs and improve outcomes. VGBio technology enables the daily monitoring of patients with chronic diseases and provides early notification to clinicians of a negative change.
VGBio has been going strong, including presenting at TEDMED last month as part of The Hive, and having the The US Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation recently produced a video describing their use of VGBio’s Vitalink:
According to Dr. Abdulfattah Saidi, Heart Failure/Transplant Research Fellow at the George V. Whalen VA Medical Center, “When we admit patients, and we take care of them, and then send them home, there’s a 20% chance that they will come back to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.”
Dr. Jose Nativi-Nicolau, Heart Failure/Transplant Cardiology at the George V. Whalen VA Medical Center, ads that “The benefit to the VA is to reduce readmissions and improve the care from hospital to home, and from home to clinic.”
Systems like VGBio are part of a growing trend of companies that combine bio sensors, mobile technology and bioinformatics to transform the management of chronic diseases from a reactive to a proactive care delivery model. Other examples include:
* Asthmapolis, which leverages the advances in sensor technology and mobile data monitoring to help people manage their asthma more effectively, in turn reducing the costs both for those suffering from asthma and for the U.S. healthcare system itself.
* Proteus Digital Health, whose digital health feedback system is powered by ingestible sensors, a patch, and bluetooth enabled smartphones.
Are you working on a similar project?
Do you have questions related to connecting sensors to mobile devices?
Send us a note!
Learn about our process here.
About Author, Bernhard Kappe is a Founder and President at Pathfinder.
You can find him on Google+
The number of available health and medical apps continues to increase, and while app loyalty and engagement has been increasing for most application categories, engagement and loyalty has dropped for health and medical apps.
At the same time, with healthcare consuming over 18% of US GDP and no end in sight, there are tremendous opportunities to use mobile technology, sensors and big data to bend the cost curve and improve outcomes.
But none of it happens without engaged patients and physicians. How do you take advantage of these opportunties while engaging patients and physicians?
We’ve been building and launching medical apps for both large enterprises and startups for over 10 years. We’ve also mentored hundreds of teams through the process of designing, building and launching new products in our work in enterprise innovation and with the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge.
While every product is different, we’ve found seven keys that all successful products have in common:
This seems obvious, but it’s the top reason why new product launches fail. If you’re not solving a top problem on your customer’s list (usually number one, two or three) it doesn’t matter how well designed and built the software is, nor how good your marketing is: Customers won’t engage.
It gets more complicated in healthcare. there are typically three parties whose problems you need to solve in order to be successful: Patients, Providers and Payors (the 3 Ps). Incentives for these three are often not aligned. In many circumstances, patients are not used to paying directly, providers are incented for transactions rather than outcomes, and payors care most about paying out less.
As outcomes based reimbursement models (through ACOs or more employers self insuring) become more prevalent, the likelihood of incentive alignment will increase dramatically. But in the meantime, finding circumstances where incentives aligned is difficult. One way of reducing risks is by solving a problem where you don’t need to deal with all three (for example, in an area where patients are used to paying directly) you can dramatically reduce your risks.
[Follow on post: The fastest way to validate your problem]
When building a new product it is tempting to include everything. It’s easy to put in as many features as possible, with the hope that some of them will stick and get used. The truth is that more features do not equal a better product. Users don’t want dozens of features that are just OK – they want tools that do the things they really need amazingly well. The trick is understanding what those initial core features should be and then how to develop them in a way that satisfies and delights your users and customers.
[Follow-on post: How to design a minimum viable product]
Keeping it simple provides you focus – high value features to solve high priority problems. The rapidly evolving practice of user experience design (human factors by another name for those with a device/FDA background) provides a plethora of tools to design for engagement:
Social Sharing and Cooperative Gaming techniques that can provide powerful incentives for changing behavior.
Data Visualization best practices to communicate complex ideas with clarity, precision and efficiency. Information analytics (the use of interactive information representations to shape and control an analytic reasoning process) can be particularly important for physician decision support, as can interactive information representations that change in response to user input or query, allowing users to discover new and emergent patterns in the data.
Visceral Design techniques that leverage the interplay between build-up and release in the animation of interactions and release endorphins.
Multimodal Design techniques, designing for multiple interfaces (wearable device, smartphone, email, web, tablet, kiosk, etc.) and contexts of use.
While there are lots of design techniques you can apply, the fact is that no one gets engagement right the first time. Showing users mockups and functional prototypes and iterating on their feedback can help you rapidly identify which features resonate with users, and whether you’re executing on your product vision.
Releasing software to a small set of customers and using person-based analytics to measure user behavior helps you understand what they’re doing. Qualitative feedback helps you understand why they are doing it and get feedback on changes you’re planning. You optimize engagement by rapidly developing and releasing updates and measuring changes to engagement metrics.
[Follow-on post: Fueling the Insight Engine to Optimize Engagement]
Once you’ve optimized for engagement, you can start optimizing for acquisition. New, first time users behave very differently from users who already understand and use your software. You optimize for acquisition using the same fast feedback loop as you do for engagement. You optimize for acquisition after engagement because it’s much easier to focus on engagement with a smaller number of users, and you need a larger set of users to optimize acquisition.
[Follow-on post: Growth Hacking for Healthcare Apps - How to Get, Keep and Grow Customers]
Releasing software iteratively and optimizing using fast feedback loops means software development is a continuous process. Maintiaing a rapid pace of build-measure-learn loops requires practices such as lean ux and agile or kanban development, continuous integration and deployment and test driven development. Implementation of interfaces in HTML5 rather than native code allow for rapid deployment and a/b testing.
[Follow-on post: Agile and Lean Development Techniques for Optimization]
Data is critical in any healthcare application. Beyond engagement metrics, rigorous data on effectiveness (often in the form of randomized clicial trials) is required to sell to providers, even more so if the application requires FDA clearance or approval.
Mobile applications can be extremely useful in collecting and transmitting data useful for this type of effort, either through user data entry or through transmission from wireless sensors. This type of data can be aggregated and analyzed using predictive analytics, or combined with other data to generate fresh insights. With more outcome based pricing models, this data may well become more valuable than the direct benefits of the application itself.
[Follow-on post: Are you leaving data on the table? It may be worth millions.]
[Follow-on post: Infographic - The Seven Keys to Building Successful Mobile Healthcare Apps.]
[Follow-on post: Agile for Competitive Advantage in FDA Regulated Software/Speed to Market + Quality]
About Author, Bernhard Kappe is a Founder and President at Pathfinder.
You can find him on Google+
Data Visualization is something Pathfinder grapples with regularly in our medical and healthcare software development projects. Often times, you know you have great data, data that could help your customers really improve the way they work. But, this data is largely locked away in database tables or at best behind fairly cryptic charts. The challenge is often simple enough, present this great data in a way that is interactive, easy to grasp and provides quick value for a regular site user.
Understanding the challenge is always the first step in the process of creating data visualization that delivers good outcomes. Characteristics such as interactivity, ease of use, and value to reader are a good start, but you should strive to delve deeper to unlock and visually represent the core notion, insight, result, narrative and emotional response.
Let’s say, for example, you wish to effectively show how revenues and expenses compare and relate. D3 has a number of the graph styles in its library including standard things like pie charts and bar graphs to increasingly more popular spoke and bubble graphics. Many of these may work well enough, but to effectively show the notion of wins and losses in a market space you might conclude that pie charts or bar graphs don’t convey the message you’re looking for in one view or don’t do much for interactivity. The spoke and bubble type graphic may not get the information across in a way that is clearly understood.
If you keep searching you might find a graphic like a Sankey diagram. It can show very quickly with linking variable sized bars where different players lost or gained sales over a period of time.
Diagram: Breakdown of iTunes’ economy in context with the entire Apple revenue model.
Once you address your primary challenge you’ll likely also wish to append useful, if not critical, decision making data like geographic breakdown of the wins or losses in this example. If geographic data is required, utilizing the Google maps API is a great tool to model the geographic data points for each transaction if you drilled in from the Sankey diagram.
Did you find this useful? What would you like to have learned?
#dataviz #d3js #sankeydiagram @PathSoft
RockHealth recently published a great guide on how to navigate the FDA for the emerging wave of digital healthcare innovations including mHealth apps. It is especially useful for any team member of an early stage startup that may not be familiar with the FDA regulatory environment. I liked the simple and succinct examples provided from classification to 510(k) pre market submission to post market recommendations.
Pathfinder also runs the Chicago Lean Startup Circle whose mission is to teach lean startup methods and provide support and mentoring to Chicago’s startup community. There are over 3,000 members and it’s our third year of running the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge. This year we’re adding a healthcare track.
About Author, Mitch Posada is a VP of Marketing at Pathfinder.
You can find him on Google+
If you are new to agile development, you’re probably swimming in a sea of unfamiliar terms: user story, spike, sprint, stand up, points. In this series, we’re going to tackle one of agile’s trickiest concepts: What exactly is an agile “point,” and how does it relate to time and budget?
Points measure the complexity and effort required to complete a unit of work. Pathfinder uses points because we find they are both more efficient and accurate than estimates of hours.
That’s the technical definition, but let’s relate this to something you’re probably more familiar with: Thanksgiving dinner. You’ve decided your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for Thanksgiving dinner is:
Green Bean Casserole
photo credit: Benjamin Swift
A pretty slim offering, but you’ll have the guests bring the other sides and dessert. Now that you know what you’re making, you’re ready to estimate. To show increasing complexity and effort, we’re going to rate on the Fibonacci scale, where the next number in the sequence is equal the sum of the previous two numbers.
1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21
You assemble the team: you, your partner, and your teenage son. Decisions are made based on the recipe, the team’s experience making this recipe before, and the team’s general understanding of the time and expense involved. We don’t dive any deeper, because experience has taught us that the extra time spent hashing through details may actually reduce our accuracy.
Photo Credit: Stacy Spensley
To establish a baseline, let’s agree on a 2-point story. Mashed potatoes are about halfway in complexity between the turkey and green beans, so the team agrees that this is a 2-pointer.
Next, green bean casserole is probably the simplest and least expensive thing here, and the team estimates it as 1 point.
There’s some discussion about the turkey, because even though we’re planning on a pop-up timer, grocery store turkey, it takes a long time to defrost and roast, and requires a bit of monitoring. The team finally agrees on 3 points. Gravy is barely any effort at all, so it is rolled in with the Roast Turkey.
Roast Turkey + Gravy
Green Bean Casserole
Great! But now you find out that your boss is coming. Suddenly, you need a more impressive MVP.
You start scouring the Food Network and Epicurious. You decide to upgrade to a free-range, brined turkey and truffled mashed potatoes. You’ll replace the green bean casserole with Brussels sprouts, maple syrup and bacon. And you call Aunt Fern asking her to please not bother to bring the green jello/cheddar cheese salad, because you’re making Arugula salad with roasted beets, garlic and shallots.
Photo Credit: Father Jack
Your complexity and effort just went up, but that’s OK, our agile process is designed to accommodate change. The team just has to re-estimate, taking into account the fact that we’ve never made these recipes before.
Brined Roast Turkey + Gravy
Truffled Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Your MVP has more than doubled, but you decide the additional time, effort and expense are worth it to impress your boss. And if new changes arise – like additional guests or the sudden need for six different kinds of pie – your team is now familiar with the process, and can easily revise the estimate.
Next week: how to points translate to budget and timeline!
There’s a lot of discussion about ways to “bend the healthcare cost curve.” What do people mean by that, and why do we need to bend it?
I like to answer that question by showing three simple charts.
1. The growth of Healthcare Expenses
2. Where we spend our healthcare dollars
3. What’s coming down the pike: the demographic timebomb
We’ve had a trippling of the share of healthcare costs as a percentage of GDP over the last 50 years, from 6% to 18%. We spend much more on healthcare for those over 65 than those under 65. Thanks to the aging of the baby boomers, we’re going to more than double the percentage of the population over 65.
You put these three factors together, and without significant changes, we are in trouble.
The good news is that there are promising approaches to reducing costs while improving outcomes, and a lot of smart, passionate people working on these approaches. We’re working with some of them on software to help address these challenges.
We’d love to hear from you on how you think of these challenges and what you’re doing to address them.
About Author, Bernhard Kappe is a Founder and President at Pathfinder.
You can find him on Google+
Especially in healthcare software development, where FDA compliance and HIPAA compliance require such attention to detail, it is crucial to have one person whose job it is to know the customer and guide the project. Often times companies will rely on third party software developers to maximize efficiency, but it is important for both parties to understand expectations. When approached the wrong way, it is easy for the relationship with a third party software developer to muddle a project rather than streamline it. The comprehensive book on B2B relationships could dwarf War and Peace, so I’ll focus on one key role in healthcare software development that can make or break a project: the Product Owner.
The Product Owner is an individual who takes ownership of a product on behalf of a company, and while that description may be straightforward, the expectations surrounding the position often are not. If you are an agile healthcare software developer, then you already know how important it is to not assume that you know your customers’ needs (my blog post), but this doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be someone involved in a project who understands and can speak on behalf of the customer or user. The Product Owner has the vision for a product and is responsible for guiding the project; he or she holds the roadmap. Understanding the market is a part of this responsibility. This individual will often be expected to bring in real users who can test and report on a product, but he or she also needs to understand the users’ personas. The Product Owner’s understanding of his or her role can make the difference between healthcare apps that engage users and those that gather dust.
Scrummethodology.com aptly calls the Product Owner “the one person responsible for a project’s success.” Although this may seem daunting, certain guidelines can ensure that this role increases productivity and efficiency like it’s meant to. Reid MacTavish, Sr. Project Manager at Pathfinder Software, has led healthcare software development projects for clients who have understood this role and some who have not. MacTavish describes the Product Owner as “Someone who has contact with the user; someone who understands the user and can work with the designers (to guide the project).” MacTavish describes the ideal Product Owner as one who:
-Prioritizes what the team works on
-Works with designers on defining requirements
-Is decisive and makes timely decisions
-Brings in actual users for demos
-Listens to user feedback and adapts to design
-Gets his or her hands dirty and plays with the software to measure its progress
-Engages in healthy debate (giving in too easily isn’t helpful, nor is fighting every step of the way)
MacTavish also feels that a healthcare Product Owner should have at least a basic understanding of software development. Other experts echo the belief that Product Owners should have some technical know-how. This is necessary in order to share the full vision of the project with the rest of the team.
Understanding the importance of a Product Owner can make all the difference when it comes to healthcare software development, especially when working with a third party developer. If you can’t identify an individual (emphasis on one single person) who fills this role within your organization, it would behoove you to take action. Help them understand the duties and responsibilities, empower them, and give them the road map!
So, you’ve developed a great product and now you want to take it to market. Let’s just say it’s a widget. You’re so excited about it that you want to announce it over loud speakers, “Hey everyone, try my new widget, it will change your life!”. This may be what you want to do, but it’s not the right move. Where do you go from here?
Five tips to market your product are:
Tip 1 – Know your product
What is unique about it? What sets your product apart from your competition To be successful, your widget needs to do something that no one elses does or at least, does it better. Why did you develop it in the first place and what pain does it relieve? Take those “special” things and make them a BIG deal. While your widget is in production, talk it up and getting people excited about it.
Build your website with dynamic content about your product and build your SEO to get found. Here are a few blogs to check out to get started on this: Kissmetrics- http://blog.kissmetrics.com/, Full Quota http://fullquota.com/blog/ and Word Stream – http://www.wordstream.com/blog.
Tip 2 – Know your customer
Build persona’s to hone in on who your ideal customer is, visit HubSpot’s blog by clicking here for more information on building persona’s. When you know who your best customers are, it makes it easier to target that market and build your niche. You want to know how your product fits into their life.
Some questions to ask:
Where does this customer live? (city, suburbs)
What problems do they have that my product can solve?
What are their interests and hobbies?
What are their behavior patterns?
What is their socioeconomic situation?
Tip 3 – Know your competition
What’s so special about their widget? If yours fills a need that isn’t already being filled or not being filled well, take advantage of that. Don’t call out your competitor but if your widget lasts longer, costs less, is brighter or better for the environment, talk about it. Expand on those competitive advantages to build your niche.
Do some research and find out what tradeshows, conferences, groups, meet -up’s, etc. they belong to and attend and sign up. Doing these types of things, not only helps to to know your competition better but it also aligns you with your ideal customers and builds your following. At the conference try some Guerilla Marketing tactics such as handing out a special offer on a postcard or a tchotchke (trinket or doodad) with your information on it. Or, you could be really crazy and organize a flash mob where the participants hold up signs with your website or stick post-it notes on passersby.
Tip 4 – Build your following
Building a buzz can be achieved by becoming a thought leader in your industry and expanding on step 3.
Some ideas that don’t cost anything but time and could end up being your best strategies:
If you have a larger budget, consider advertising using online banners, pay per click (ppc), affiliate marketing, remarketing, radio, tv, billboards, etc.
Find something special you can reference when sending an email or when following up with a potential customer. Wear a shirt with a picture of your widget and maybe in a bright color like yellow. Mention the widget and the shirt when meeting new people and maybe even go so far as to put it on your business card. When you follow up, mention that you are “The widget guy in the yellow shirt”. If you do this consistently, you WILL be the widget guy in the yellow shirt and may even become “remarkable” when that person is speaking with someone else. It’s the same principle as what Afflac has done with the duck.
Tip 5 – Keep your customers coming back
If you take step #4 and build upon it and provide customers with outstanding customer service and a great product, they will come back. Word of mouth, customer testimonials and referrals are the best kind of marketing you can possibly ask for. It’s more than okay to ask a customer for a quote for your website or for a brochure. If posting on your website or marketing materials, make sure you get their permission as no one wants to stumble upon a quote that came from them that they didn’t know about or approve.
Loyalty programs work amazingly well for getting and retaining customers. The airlines got it right when they started offering points for travel a long time ago. By offering customers discounts, upgrades, club memberships, etc., they built a loyal customer base. I know of people who will book trips at the end of the year and fly to several destinations in one day just to secure their statuses.
Partner up with another company and join forces to gain access to each other’s customer lists. To work best, the company you choose to co-market with should be non-competitive but your customers could cross paths. If you send out a newsletters or promotions point your customers to them and have them do the same. You can also consider co-hosting an event and share the attendee list. Use a registration such as Eventbrite which will give options to sell tickets to your event if a fee is required. You can also customize the registration form to ask leading questions about why they are attending.
These are a few tips that may help get you going on marketing your product. Things to remember are; know your product, know your customer, know your competition, build your following and your customers will come back, with friends.
I hope you have found some of these tips from Pathfinder Software helpful. If you have, share this blog and if you have more suggestions, I would love to hear them.
The explosion of the mobile health (mHealth) arena seems to have many players in the
healthcare industry running a race they haven’t trained for. There are roughly 40,000 mobile health and wellness apps in the marketplace today, up from about 6,000 in 2010. That type of growth shows the demand for mHealth apps, but as user engagement remains relatively stagnant one must wonder how developers are deciding what to build. In order to increase user engagement while limiting the clutter on app store shelves, mHealth needs to be introduced to another fairly recent phenomenon called the Lean Startup.
Only about 10% of smart phone users have downloaded mobile health apps and those who have aren’t using them for very long. Like the shiny new toy a kid gets for his birthday, the majority of mHealth apps are ignored as soon as the initial excitement wears off. The question of how to increase user engagement is one that has rippled through the health care community. This was a recurring theme at the 2012 mHealth Summit in Washington D.C.
The problem starts as soon as the decision is made what to build. Just as the modern developer knows that the waterfall methodology is outdated, the modern product manager knows that the classical approach to new product development will no longer suffice. The Lean Startup is a movement that stresses constant learning and direct interaction with the customer. Discovering what a user is looking for greatly reduces the risk of building the wrong thing. This is summed up in the Lean Startup mantra, “Get out of the building!”
Coined by tech entrepreneur Eric Ries and described in his 2011 book, the Lean Startup is an entrepreneur’s adaptation of the Lean Manufacturing movement that came from Toyota. Your grandfather’s style of launching a new product was to build it and then execute a savvy business plan. The lean approach recognizes that new products are built based on hypotheses that must be validated or invalidated through experiments. The modern entrepreneur, who may very well work for a large corporation, views a business model as the end goal rather than the blue print.
With these principles in mind, it’s no wonder mobile health apps that are built on assumptions fail to bring value to the user. Users have so little interest in current mHealth apps because they weren’t consulted when the apps were built. Product managers and developers have to recognize that they are not proxies for the customer or user. Face-to-face interviews with actual members of your target market will expose shortcomings and superfluities in your plan. Don’t be discouraged! Determine your hypotheses, test them, and celebrate each validation or invalidation as one step closer to a product that will engage your users. Why are you still reading? Put some hypotheses together and get out of the building!
flickr images by: methodshop.com, Victor1558, and AJ Batac