Why launching a feature-rich mobile app patient portal has been so difficult, until now
Bridge’s new version 3 is faster to implement and costs up to five times less than alternative mobile-ready patient engagement suites
Healthcare organizations have been challenged to develop a high-quality mobile app patient portal. But, what is considered a high-quality app in the eyes of the patient? A study by Medical Web Experts researched the top published mobile apps in the market and found the following criteria should be met to provide healthcare consumers with the best experience. The mobile app should:
- Be branded to the healthcare organization
- Provide rich and relevant features
- Have robust functionality natively built-in, which doesn’t require the user to leave the platform
In today’s market, amongst enterprise patient portal vendors we rarely see an app that meets the above criteria and is affordable for healthcare organizations. There are feature-rich apps, but they are not branded to the healthcare organization. There are apps that are branded and appear to have rich functionality, but patients quickly discover they are being sent to a variety of websites or even other apps to find such functionality. The barriers to achieving a “high-quality” app primarily come down to technical limitations and cost, which include the expense of the app, as well as the increased costs associated with staff time and efforts to manage the app.
Cost is the biggest obstacle facing most healthcare organizations, especially those with fewer than 500 physicians. The high cost is generally a result of the significant number of hours associated with the development of a custom mobile app and the interface into the EHR/PM, or the cost associated with buying an existing mobile app solution and then integrating it into the EHR/PM. Per the Medical Web Experts study, a custom, high-quality mobile app that integrates into an EHR/PM source system can cost between $150,000 and $250,000. This is, of course, considerably lower than custom app development costs were even just three years ago when some of the modern coding technologies did not exist.
Depending on the healthcare organization’s IT environment, the creation of a high-quality app can be extremely challenging. The greatest hurdle that inhibits an organization from publishing a mobile app is that all of their patient information is not available in a single system. Often, larger healthcare organizations acquire smaller clinics or merge with other health systems. This often results in that organization having multiple EHR and RCM/PM systems in use. If the data is not all in one place, the mobile app must then support multiple interfaces to access each of these systems. This adds a significant layer of complexity to the project. How and which login a patient will use to access PHI-sensitive information in the app poses another challenge. The app could be configured to provide the patient with the same login that they use for their patient portal, but if multiple patient portals exist, how would this work? If a new login has to be created for just the app, the patient might need to now remember a unique login for the patient portal (web application) and another for the mobile app.
Lastly, many healthcare organizations have acquired multiple “piecemealed” patient engagement solutions to fill the functionality gaps in their EMR, PM, Patient Portal, etc. The most common siloed solutions are for appointment reminders, self-scheduling, patient intake, account management, telemedicine, and patient surveys. Today’s healthcare consumers expect that these patient-facing features should be accessible in the mobile app. However, this has created additional problems for healthcare organizations attempting to meet their patient’s expectations because with all these one-off solutions, the number of interfaces that need to be built into the mobile app multiplies.
In summary, the technical challenges and limitations faced in creating a streamlined mobile app are a direct result of how many systems need to be interfaced with and the interface capabilities of these systems.
New Technology is Changing the Market
Bridge Patient Portal is an all-in-one web-based patient engagement solution. With its most recent version, v3.0, Bridge incorporated the latest application development technology. This allows Bridge to offer a client-branded mobile app that replicates the functionality of the web application. Having a single code base that can be used for both web and mobile reduces the time and cost it takes to publish an app, in addition to reducing the entire effort to manage the mobile and web application.
Bridge has learned that cost is the greatest barrier to healthcare organizations implementing a high-quality mobile app. The time it takes to implement a solution of this scale and the effort required by a healthcare organization to support such an implementation are major decision-making factors. The chart below analyzes the cost difference between a patient portal web-only application, a patient portal provided mobile app and a client-branded mobile app. A third party “piecemealed” solution with both web and mobile functionality costs between $870/mo and $1270/mo per provider.
Cost comparison between Bridge Patient Portal’s all-in-one mobile/web application and existing 3rd party options
Based on the above calculations of what is typically found in the market, Bridge’s solution is easier to implement, more feature-rich, provides a better patient experience, and costs between one-third and one-fifth of alternative solutions.
The costs for the 3rd party patient engagement solutions and customization costs were collected by Bridge Patient Portal on its competition over the course of multiple years. As there is a significant disparity between each solution and how it is priced, Bridge has amortized all the costs (including setup and customization fees) over a three year period. The 3rd party vendors used in this price comparison are considered to be “best in class” for each of their categories, and are vendors that Bridge regularly competes against or displaces.