Designing longevity in medical mobile apps
On the 7th June, Dr Ian Culverhouse presented at the Human Factors Centre Workshop, held in the London Museum.
The day brought together experts from industry and consultancy to share knowledge of best practice and experiences of applying HF to medical devices. During the day, Ian presented the challenges and solutions to designing longevity into medical mobile apps.
So, why has this become a talking point?
In the last three years, health and wellbeing apps have held the top spot in the app store charts, with a monumental growth of 330%. Everything from capturing your 10,000 steps to offering guided meditations that fit within a busy lifestyle, consumers are increasingly able to take care of their health themselves: whenever and wherever they please. However, achieving market success with mobile apps within the medical sector is arguably the biggest challenge faced by industry today.
In 2017, the average retention rate for mobile apps after 90 days was just 20%. Developers behind leading apps such as Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn know that establishing a critical mass of the population adopting your app is only the starting point. The real test of an app comes after the initial excitement, desire and engagement levels have dropped. This drives a necessity for developers to continually trial new features and update their app to avoid the user reaching for the uninstall button.
According to Business Insider UK, most apps which achieve and maintain an above-average rating require a minimum of nine updates per year. For 95% of apps which fall outside of a regulated industry, there are no limits to the number of updates that can be issued. However, within the medical device space, achieving a balance between regular updates and the effort required for verification and validation activities presents a significant barrier in comparison to consumer (non-medical) apps.
We will not wait
For patients living with chronic diseases it can often be difficult and frustrating to hear of med-tech breakthroughs, yet be made to wait for years before they reach the market. In the world of connected diabetes care, groups such as “we will not wait” are working outside of the regulations by hacking existing devices to better suit their needs. This type of end user behaviour raises the bar for regulators and industry to take action and find a new way of working to enable medical mobile apps to be developed faster and more frequently, whilst maintaining design control to ensure safety of the end users.
Forums like the Human Factors Centre Workshop are crucial in helping to advance the field of Human Factors, by enhancing industry knowledge of the value it can bring to design, and eventually leading to improved outcomes within healthcare.