Content Insights Blog

Mobile Apps for Patients Model Good Strategy

posted by Lisa Clark

New mobile applications connect patients with their health records, their doctors, and more. Let’s take a look.


Mayo Clinic relesed its first mobile app for patients, aptly called “Patient,” in May.  Yesterday, Apple touted the app at its high profile developers’ conference. Dr. Sidna Tulledge-Scheitel, The Clinic’s Associate Dean of D-Health, says the application covers the entire patient lifecycle, “from the time they are simply seeking information about Mayo, to their first visit to any of the three campuses and finally when they become an established patient.”

Views of Patient App from Mayo Clinic

The app covers just about anyone who may be interested in the Clinic. It features campus info, news, and local community activities + restaurants, so it has the basic content and marketing bases covered. The really revelatory content is accessible only by Mayo Clinic patients with an online services account number. With their login, patients can access content and features such as

  • Health recommendations and alerts
  • Lab results
  • Appointments
  • Prescription refills
  • Messaging their PCP/team

This functionality and content help patients “fully engage in the conversation” about their health, says Scheitel. For example, patients can view their lab results before their next appointment and be prepared to talk about them. Amazing! But, that’s not all this app provides.

Patient offers another very important, and somewhat controversial, type of content —doctor’s notes. Following in the footsteps of Open Notes and the e-patient movement, the Clinic has responded to overwhelming evidence that patients want access to the doctor’s notes taken during office visits. Patients believe this access will improve the quality of care they receive. A 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that  95% of patients want access to clinician notes. Why? So they can “actively participate in their care and know what’s happening,” notes Dr. Kenneth Shine, the executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System.

Mayo Clinic isn’t the only healthcare provider to offer a mobile application like this.


My health insurer Kaiser Permanente, for example, recently launched a handy new app. It saves me a lot of waiting, phone calls and trips to the pharmacy. I also feel more connected to my own health and can take more responsibility for my own care. As you can see below, the app tracks my record, my pharmacy orders, my appointments, and more.

Views of Kaiser Permanente App

I’m not the only one who likes being better connected to my health data and content. Many, many other people feel the same way. There is a growing consumerism amongst patients who expect more services and a partnership with their healthcare providers. In Intuit Health’s 2011 Health Care Check-Up Survey of 1,000 American adults, 73% of the respondents wanted to be digitally connected to lab results, appointments and scheduling, bill payment, and have direct communication with their doctor. Patients “increasingly want to control their health issues, as well as communicate better with their doctor,” says Steve Malik, president and general manager of Intuit Health. Almost 50% would even consider switching doctors for digital healthcare.


Mobile is a collection of touchpoints. A mobile application is one touchpoint, as Colleen pointed out. For a mobile application to be worth the trouble to download and use, it has to fill a niche. It has to be different from other mobile touchpoints such as the mobile version of your website and the myriads of health websites. By combining personal health data and personalized content, healthcare has the perfect opportunity to create useful mobile applications. I can open my Kaiser mobile app much faster than I can log into the patient version of Kaiser’s website, for example. That’s useful.

In the not-so-distant-past, healthcare had a “let’s not rush into things” mentality about patient connectivity and apps. This mindset led to what I call baby-steps content. Many healthcare apps share very generic content such as contact information, ER wait times, and symptom checkers. Contact information and wait times are available on most healthcare providers’ websites. Content such as symptom checkers are available elsewhere online. (WebMD, anyone?) Those baby-steps aren’t enough to meet patient expectations anymore. Patients want the constant connectivity that mobile applications like the ones from Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente.

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