CBI Scene Blog

Tips on mHealth & Healthy Habits

Posted by Mark Cullen on May 23, 2014 2:24:00 PM

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Sad but true, there are thousands of great health apps that are never fully utilized. Seemingly great technologies too often fail due to lack of engagement. Research shows that many apps see a rapid drop off in users within the first three months after downloaded. So, how do we encourage patients to incorporate mobile technology into their daily lives so it becomes a routine habit, rather than a spur-of-the-moment download that falls by the wayside?

There are a few simple precepts that will greatly increase the chances of retaining users once they have downloaded an app. First and foremost, it is imperative not to try and alter the consumer’s behavior at a macro level. Instead, consider a product design that:

1)      Is simple and easy to navigate

2)      Builds upon existing habits

3)      Provides a quantifiable benefit

There’s a great deal of focus these days on technology as a behavior modification tool. While developers are bringing some sophisticated methodologies to this area, the fact remains that it’s very difficult to modify engrained behaviors. Given that, capitalizing on consumer habits and making minor adjustments to those habits, is an effective method that can yield powerful results.

Here are some more tips from my personal experience utilizing pharmacy applications:

1) Keep Engagement Simple

Simple text messaging tends to be a leader across many industries in terms of getting people to engage. In the area of mobile pharmacy, text has proven to be a highly effective tool for driving refills because there’s nothing easier than replying “1” to a text message in order to refill a prescription. It takes less than three seconds from the beginning to the end of the transaction. For more complex communications, like setting reminders to take medications, easy-to-use apps directly integrate with the pharmacy’s dispensing systems are very efficient. Patients are not required to type in all of their medication information; they can see a consolidated view of all of the messaging around any prescription, whether it is refill, pickup, or dosage-related.

Of course, these types of interactions, which look very simple on the surface, rely on an integrated, smart network that links multiple systems together. While this wouldn’t have been possible five years ago, now, as we build new connections between disparate health entities, we’ll start to see much more of this kind of frictionless consumer experience…one that is ultimately better for the patient.

2) Take Advantage of Existing Habits

Pharmacies are in a unique position to take advantage of existing habits, since people are conditioned to having to wait, often for fifteen or twenty minutes, while having their prescriptions filled. So the simple process of the pharmacist saying to the patient when they walk into the pharmacy, ‘If you’ll provide me with your mobile number, our system can send you a text message when your prescription’s ready for pickup’ is very powerful.  You’re using an established habit (visiting the pharmacy) to capture the patient’s contact information and then giving them something important, time and convenience in this case, in return.

3) Every Transaction Has to Have Value

When you enroll a patient waiting for a prescription in a text messaging service, what you’re really saying is, “If you give me your mobile number and the permission to message you, I’ll give you back the thirty minutes of time you had already set aside for waiting” – which is a really strong value proposition that can effect change. Then, when the message arrives indicating the prescription is ready for pickup, the patient makes the connection to convenience and is more willing to listen to the next communication, which may remind them to take their medication or refill another prescription.

The cumulative impact of these communications is better adherence, trust and the establishment of a virtuous cycle of patients acting healthier. The positive experience of each small transaction contributes to the reception and success of the next interaction, and before you know it, the patient is engaged. That’s real change! 

From New Habit to Managing Health

The process described above conditions patients to engage in the management of their medication. Becoming comfortable with refilling prescriptions makes them receptive to other types of mobile outreach programs oriented to managing their health, whether setting reminders to take a medication, watching a video about how to properly use a device or seeking help or support for the conditions with which their medications are associated.Small, non-intrusive interventions when patients are thinking pro-actively about their health is a highly effective approach. 

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Mark Cullen, CEO of mscripts, is a seasoned entrepreneur with 20 years of experience managing the development and growth of companies. An mHealth pioneer, Mark started development of the mscripts platform in 2008 when he saw the unmet need for managing prescriptions, adherence, and health from a mobile device. People around the United States use the mscripts Mobile Pharmacy Platform to manage their prescriptions and health, receive dosage reminders, and stay adherent to their medications. mscripts customers are large national and regional Pharmacy and Retail Chains. The company is growing quickly, with the platform currently in production at thousands of retail locations around the nation.

In addition to mscripts, Mark has served as: President of Exeter Group, a leading information technology consulting firm, Executive Vice President and COO of Sallie Mae Solutions, and co-founder and Executive Vice President of Exeter Educational Management Solutions, an ERP system provider to leading higher education institutions around the world. Mark holds a BA in Political Economy from Williams College.