Mobile Apps – the Basics

In 2013, IMSHealth conducted a study of over 43,000 mobile apps. The study showed that more than 50% of available mobile apps were not even downloaded 500 times. And 5 apps accounted for 15% of all healthcare downloads. IMSHealth attributed this to the fact that most of these mobile apps had limited functionality and could not prove that they had any impact on healthcare outcomes.

Many of the healthcare apps today are guilty of providing more content than functionality. Creating a mobile app as a vehicle to deliver information about your product or promote your brand is a guaranteed fail. It falls under the category of “Creating an App for App’s Sake” and it’s a mobile app “No No”. Whether your mobile app is for HCPs, patients, or even your own internal sales force or speakers, create an app that solves a pain point. Helping your users overcome their day-to-day struggles makes your mobile app a daily necessity. This will earn you a high adoption rate and give you the greatest return on your investment.

Getting Started

When it comes to mobile apps, you have plenty of options. Generally, your decisions will be driven by 2 factors…time and money. (What else is new?) Understanding the broad scope of options can help you save on both. But knowing your end user and understanding how they’ll be using the app is just as important.

Below are some questions to ask yourself when getting started:

  • On what devices will the mobile app be used? (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.)
  • Will the mobile app need to access any local tools on the user’s device to function (like the alarm or the calendar)?
  • Will your users need to use the mobile app without an internet connection?
  • How often will the mobile app need to be updated?

Once you answer these questions, you are ready to determine what kind of mobile app you want. Some apps have different advantages over others, depending upon your needs. The capability to access innate functionality of the device (i.e., calendar or alarm) will vary. Here’s a breakdown that might help.


Uses development tools specific to the device (i.e. iOS SDK)

Runs on a web browser with no innate functionality

A web-based app wrapped in a native “shell”
More innate functionality than a web app at a lower cost than native
Distribution App store download
(Apple App Store/Google Play)
Access app directly via web browser of device App store download
(Apple App Store/Google Play)
Innate functionality Yes No Some
Internet Connectivity Not necessary Internet required/very limited offline functionality Internet required/limited offline functionality
Updates Needs approval by app store & redistribution to users Web-based (faster) Web-based (faster)
Programming Expertise Highly specialized Web development & mobile frameworks Web development & mobile frameworks
Time & Budget ↑ Time; ↑ budget ↓ Time; ↓ budget Middle tier time & budget

Make your app intuitive

Base your interface on mobile apps that you know your audience uses. Last year, Mashable published an article citing Google Maps as the most frequently used mobile app in the world, followed by Facebook (44% of smartphone users), YouTube (35%) and Google+ (30%). We’re not saying every mobile app should look like Google Maps, but think about your audience’s everyday life. If you are developing a mobile app for your sales force and they enter their sales calls into a CRM system every day, then base your mobile app on that CRM system. Basing the app on something your users know reduces the learning curve and increases your chances for adoption.

Take the work out of it

At every step in your app experience, ask yourself, could I get here using less? Eliminate clicks and take the guesswork out of things. Add a search bar so users can immediately access the screen they need. Make your Home screen dynamic so it automatically sends the user to the tool they use the most or the last page they visited. Anything you can do to make less work for your user. Remember, you are developing an app to make their lives easier.

Promote! Promote! Promote!

What’s the use in having the sexiest mobile app on earth if nobody knows about it? Here’s where that multi-channel marketing will come in handy. Use your touchpoints to create awareness and communicate value. Advertise through e-mail communications, your website, and even print pieces. Take this opportunity to try out that QR code you’ve been avoiding.


A well-thought out approach to metrics will give you the numbers you need to measure your success and prove the value of your mobile app. When designing your metrics report, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What information are you allowed to collect based on your privacy terms?
  • What actions should you be tracking/capturing?
  • How will you measure the impact on healthcare outcomes
  • What actionable marketing items are you hoping to come from these metrics
  • Where is this information going to be captured and is your app compatible with that database?

Although mobile apps are building momentum, there is still a large amount of confusion around what’s compliant and what’s not. Generally, a mobile app will require a little extra massaging through the approval process. And with so many stakeholders involved, all eyes are on you to succeed.

Parting Thoughts

It is important that you carefully choose a digital partner who truly understands the objectives, challenges, and limitations of your business and your organization’s goals with the project. A good digital partner is one that makes a lot of suggestions and tells you “no” every once in a while. You are going to be spending good money on your app and you will want everything but the kitchen sink. But this is not always possible. You want a partner who is going to realistically manage your expectations. Do not base your decision on cost. This is a situation where “You get what you pay for” really applies.

Creative MediaWorks leverages innovative digital design and cutting-edge web development techniques with a unique blend of experience and proven methods to accomplish just that. Call us today to get started on your next mobile app project!