#HIMSS16: Betting on ways to build better apps


The woman was sitting at the casino bar at 4:30 am playing the slot machine embedded in front of her and sipping on a beer early this morning before the 40,000 plus delegates began the first day proper of HIMSS16 in Vegas.

While arguably personifying some of the worse health behaviors, the argument had been made the day earlier that perhaps her behavior was the very type policy makers and providers should be looking at to make headway with one of the more challenging conundrums of the modern health IT era – how to get people to actually use some of those estimated 36,000 mobile-enabled health related apps and wearable devices to rimprove their health.

The suggestion was made by Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia), a health care consultant, during a presentation at the pre-conference symposium on patient engagement.

Along with physician and app designer Dr. Jennifer Shine Dyer (@endogoddess), Ricciardi gave an excellent comprehensive evaluation of the current status of medical apps and their value to patients.

Dyer, who has done outstanding work in designing apps to help patients with type 1 diabetes, also showed the difficulty of coming up with an app patients will use on an ongoing basis to improve their health.

“Bribing kids doesn’t work,” she said, of her experiences using rewards with adolescent patients to encourage them to monitor their blood sugar.

Now, Dyer said, she has turned to gamification as the potential route to design apps that engage patients.

Asked by a somewhat puzzled delegate what gamification means, she explained, turning the app into a game gives the user social clout, gets their mind of their condition, and perhaps most importantly is fun to use.

And it was gamification on a large scale that Ricciardi referenced when she suggested looking to Las Vegas and the casinos for truly expert advice on tactics to separate people from their cash in a way that is fun and irresistible.

When it comes to apps in health care, Ricciardi noted we are still at the very early stages of adoption. While 80% of Americans report using one or more forms of mobile apps, she said, data show only 17% of these are using mobile apps.

Part of the problem she and many others have noted is that currently apps are not well integrated into the health care system. While 93% of US physicians believe apps can improve outcomes, few are actually enabling their patients to integrate of the information gathered from those wearable devices into their care.

In addition to turning to tactics like gamification, Ricciardi and Dyer also said more good evidence is needed to show this approach can improve outcomes. And perhaps most importantly, apps must be developed that really meet patient needs rather than what the app developer or provider thinks they need.

HIMSS16 SMA Badge [8339409]


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