The One in a Million- finding Trusted, Effective Apps in a Crowded Marketplace

15 February 2019

Dr Elin Haf Davies, CEO & Founder, Aparito and Eric Kihlstrom, Tech entrepreneur, Aging 2.0 UK Chapter Lead are both members of the AXA Health Tech & You Expert Group.

Tech startups are everywhere. Every day you read about yet another tech product with apps being developed to somehow disrupt the world that we live in. Not all solutions include mobile so it’s even more daunting to consider that in 2017, the total number of mobile app downloads was estimated to be a staggering 197 billion.  But how do we decipher which ones have real value and which ones are commercial hype?  The market is  competitive and most solutions end up in the “app graveyard”.  A study conducted in 2018 found that the average lifecycle an app was 28 days.  Marketing and content are often cited as the reason for so much failure.  However, we believe these issues are symptoms of a larger issue around the ecosystem of stakeholders, including the human at the centre. 

How do we really make sure that tech products add value to the way we live today? One of the key issues is to consider how that tech product functions or exists within a greater ecosystem.

People’s lives today exist in extremely complex circles. Nothing is in isolation and you can rarely change one thing without impacting on another. A tech product designed without considering the needs of key stakeholders has almost no real value. The design process cannot be shortcut but is often a source of failure. 

In healthcare this is even more fundamental. Our actions as patients and carers impact on healthcare professionals and the healthcare system that need to look after us. Likewise any change in the healthcare system can have a huge impact on patients and their families.

At two extreme ends of life - paediatric healthcare and care of the elderly alike, the impact of disease and poor health is significant for the individual and their immediate family members alike. Loss of health becomes a major motivation to fight to regain it. But when we have good health the motivation to maintain it is frightfully low.

The YOU in healthcare therefore needs to be readdressed. It is now well documented that information alone is not sufficient to modify damaging behaviour. So what other motivators can be applied?

It sounds obvious but it’s often ignored that “not everyone is the same”.  “One size does not fit all” is particularly true of individuals’ motivation to change behaviour, irrespective of your age.  Solutions range from face-to-face support by professionals, peer groups, sympathetic family and friends to simple text messaging.  According to research of one health technology company, there are up to 15 different ways the supercomputer in your back pocket (your smartphone) can support behaviour change. But the scalability and adoption of a tech product without considering its unintended consequences can have major repercussions.

The key is avoiding shortcuts.  One example of a well designed healthcare solution is Welldoc’s Bluestar solution for managing a person’s diabetes.  After a lengthy user centred design process and clinical trials to validate results, the Bluestar diabetes focused behaviour change solution is clinically proven to outperform normal solutions including medication.  Welldoc’s Bluestar is an example of combining a user centred design process and the generation of supporting evidence. Two essential aspects that should be considered mandatory in the healthcare sector in order to avoid falling foul to ‘fake news’ claims, disengaged patients, high drop outs and ultimately damaging health outcomes,