The number of patients using telemedicine apps has more than doubled from 2017 to 2018.

Telemedicine is improving the quality and reducing the cost of patient care.  In particular, remote patients can more easily get clinical services, faster.

Patients are benefiting from telemedicine apps but that doesn’t mean they have the ideal experience.

But what kind of challenges are patients facing that impact the future adoption of the service?

Telemedicine is evolving into a more patient-centric service. The investment in creating a seamless user experience makes their lives easier.

A telemedicine consultation could range from for a minor diagnosis to a physical examination. Patients can even have a photo-based consultation which is as simple as answering a short survey and sending the clinician a picture of their symptoms.

According to IHS Statista 2018, the population of remote patients has increased from 3.84 million in 2017 to 7 million by late 2018.  But there is still a long way to go. There is much to improve in terms of providing quality service and seamless experience for patients.

Here’s a list of the challenges patients struggle the most when they use a telemedicine app.

Lack of Insurance Options

Even with insurance, the price of a tele-consultation can go from $15 to $75.  Telemedicine apps have a limited list of participating insurance providers. Most users have to pay full price for a visit.

Amplifying the range of insurance available in telemedicine will help a wider range of patients.

I Can’t Find My Insurance

But the real question is, what happens when the patient does have insurance and they cannot find it in the app?

A big problem is that insurance providers, in general, don’t recognize the potential of telemedicine. They don’t try sufficiently hard to be part of the solution.

For example, insurance coverage is impacted by federal and state laws.  It’s easier for insurance to not deal with those issue head on and to give up instead.  It’s a short-sighted decision but it is unfortunately common.

Even when insurance providers make an effort to participate, they sometime can’t because the app developer has done a good job of testing.

Unnecessary Bugs

If you are developing a Telemedicine app, you must make sure it works, right?

A big part of that is making sure that insurance plans really work when selected.  You must integrate Usability Testings into your process to discover this and other problems early on.

Usability testings won’t take much of your time and is an easy way to validate what you have built.  For example, you can test with five to seven people to discover how your app is used by real users. You will discover not just what is missing, but also how to fix your app.

Make sure that errors under your control don’t affect patients.  Make you app one that your users will love.

Customer Support Can’t Solve Everything

When the app doesn’t work as expected, a lot of your competitors default to letting users reach out to their support lines.  Don’t fall in this trap,

  1. The typical phone menu is nothing less than frustrating
  2. It takes way too long to get to a live human
  3. More often than not, it does nothing to help them solve their issues
  4. The customer support folks oftentimes have to rely on other departments

Service Blueprints is the right mapping tool to come up with a better solution.  This methodology helps you map your user’s journey while using your app.  It nicely identifies their frontstage actions (i.e., actions that occur directly in view of the user), and backstage actions (i.e., steps and activities that occur behind the scenes).

You’ll be surprised at how many blockers customer support itself is running into while trying to answer patients’ questions.

Trusted Providers

Patients want somebody who shows interest in them, somebody who can diagnose their condition accurately.  They hate it when it is obvious to them that the clinician at the other end is instead focused on completing the call as quickly as possible.

For example, patients really dislike to spend time and money with a remote GP only to be told after a couple of minutes that they need to see a specialist.   The clinician didn’t even try.

User interviews are a quick and easy way to get a sense of how users feel and think. You just need a small sample of patients to interview, either in person or remote. The point here is to listen to them and discover what their needs are.

The first thing you need to do is set the goal of the interview (i.e., what do you want to learn).  Then, you need to create a set of questions, related to it.

During the interviews, avoid asking yes-or-no questions. For example, if an interviewer asks, “So, do you like the providers in the app ?” then the patient could just respond “yes” and not elaborate. It’d be better to ask an open-ended question, “Can you tell me about your experience with providers in the app?”

It’s very important to keep the interview as a casual conversation.  Relaxed users give you more of the information you need.

Bad UI/UX

One of the things that patients struggle the most with telemedicine apps is the high amount of information the app asks of them right up front.  This is very typical when a patient tries to schedule a visit. Sometimes they have to go through 12 steps to see a provider.

The number of steps is overwhelming for them and can easily discourage anyone from using the service.

Progressive disclosure is a way to get the information that you need and not make it overwhelming for your users.  The key is to prioritize the most important data you need to ask the patient at a particular time. This means that for your users everything in the app will progress naturally, from simple to complex.

You are still going to get the information you need, but it makes it less overwhelming for patients to answer a few questions at any one time.

I Get It, What’s Next?

Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can help you with.

Drop me a line at mmedina@nearsoft.com with any questions you might have.