Note to mHealth tech developers: Simplicity = Adoption

One of the most critical aspects to mobile healthcare technology is consumer adoption and patients embracing all the emerging tools and devices. And one key to adoption is ease of use, whether it's a fitness band, a smartphone, a body fluid monitoring device or something more intricate, such as Google Glass.

Ease of use is not so simple to attain, however, and it reflects the third missing puzzle piece in the mHealth innovation landscape. The key, as I hinted in last week's commentary, is K-I-S-S, the universal acronym for "keep it simple, stupid." It's a fitting philosophy for any mHealth device and app maker striving to make mobile health tech a valuable part of the health industry as there's a huge fallacy in play.

That fallacy is that consumers and patients are as tech savvy as mHealth developers and device makers. In reality, they are not. In fact, I feel confident saying that the majority of patients are still getting their wits together when it comes to using a tablet or a smartphone. Those who work in technology often assume that everyone is a techie; that everyone is using the Internet as much as they are, that everyone understands wireless networking and cloud systems and how a processor works.

But most people outside of tech don't know much, if anything, about information technology--and a good portion of the population probably has no interest in the inner workings or innovations taking place in IT. They view a smartwatch or a fitness app like they view an appliance or tool they use around the house. They want it to have all the needed parts, operate with ease, perform as expected and to not have to call tech support to figure out how to make it work.

Yet a great many mHealth devices and apps are flooding the market and ignoring the issue of usability. One problem is a lack of consumer education from vendors. It's sort of a Wild West scenario in downloading a health app and learning as you go to make it work. As mHealth is hitting the medical practitioner and healthcare environment at the same time it's hitting the consumer base, medical professionals can't be expected to be the support team for apps or devices as they're in the same predicament.

In addition, a big part of the consumer and patient population aren't going to get much more tech savvy, given the demographics of who needs to use most of mHealth tools. They're not 18 years old or even 30 years old. A good portion are hitting their 50s and 60s and dealing with age-related medical issues. They are a user group that didn't have computers in kindergarten. They didn't use a white board in middle school classes and they didn't have a smartphone in high school.

In order to make mHealth technology valuable, viable and sustainable, today's product development--from apps to devices--must be designed with simplicity and ease of use from the start.

As I noted last week, device makers and app developers must keep patient and consumer needs in mind when creating mHealth tools so the technologies solve a problem, fulfill a need and provide features users will find valuable.

But all that work will yield little result if the actual tool requires a 20-page instruction manual. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)

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