Physician input necessary for building viable health apps

Still building that next great app, even as you wait for FDA to clarify its new guidance? We found a few solid tips from InformationWeek Healthcare and iMedicalApps to at least keep your app development on the right track for usability and efficacy.

Here are a few highlights:

Keep physicians/clinicians in charge. It might be tempting to let developers or IT techs take the lead, to ensure the app works technically, but the true value of a healthcare app is that it reduces hassle and improves a treatment, and that insight can only come from a clinician, InformationWeek Healthcare posits.

The article uses the example of a mobile app for diabetics, where a veteran endocrinologist knows all the daily challenges patients face. Also valuable: Bring in patients or developers who have the disease, or know someone who does. You might even have your development team bring in current apps and test them, to get a sense of where the technology stands at the moment.

Note: If you're a teaching hospital, medical students may be a powerful resource for app development teams. iMedicalApps points to an enthused med student who helped develop a popular app/guide for community-acquired pneumonia.

Focus on core problems, not easiest fixes. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's technology development center chief Casey Helfrich tells InformationWeek that their popular EMS Navigator started by finding out what other apps couldn't do. The conclusion: Other apps didn't have all the resources EMTs needed in one place; that functionality became the focus of the development effort.

One of the chief complaints of the EMTs, Helfrich says, was too many "fluff features" on existing apps. The message: Don't worry about bells and whistles until you've got the core functionality down pat.

Choose between native and cross-platform apps. Trying to do both is wasting resources, according to a separate InformationWeek Healthcare article. Native apps offer a deeper functionality reach, and often are more elegant and intuitive for end-users.

But cross-platform apps can allow your software to ride on whatever device your clinicians are using, which can be crucial with possibly dozens of different devices running around the average hospital.

To learn more:
- read the InformationWeek Healthcare story
- check out this accompanying commentary
- dig into iMedicalApps' coverage

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