Be Patient with Patient Technology Updates

Last week my aunt called me up and told me that her “fancy iPhone gizmo” was telling her that she needed to update her phone. As I am her favorite niece (well, really her only niece), and I know sooo much about all these techie things, maybe if I wasn’t too busy, could I help her do it? She asked me to walk her through the update process (step-by-step directions are what she needs), because she really wanted to be able to use the new flashlight function that they showed on the news. For those of us who are tech-savvy, we know that this function is not anywhere near “new,” but she had no idea that her phone had the pseudo-flashlight ability until she saw it on TV. For those of you who may not be so tech-savvy, iOS 7 has a function where you can swipe from the bottom of your screen to the top and a little flashlight button appears which actually uses the camera LED/flash as the light. Knowing her level of technical confidence, I wrote down very clear and concise directions on how to update her iPhone’s operating system in an email. The next day I got a frantic phone call (from her landline phone) that the update did not work. She had even “left it running” all night (in case it just needed more time), but the screen was still blank. By this time, she was in a panic (she uses her phone for work) and first had to be calmed down before I could walk through my untrained, very basic “tech support services” repertoire. You may find this laughable (I am sure she did not, although she might now), but all she needed to do was turn the phone on. Okay, crisis resolved. Carry on now.

Until I get another call, about an hour later. Her phone doesn’t work! She wants to go back to the old phone (i.e., iOS 6)! When she used to do X her phone would do Y and now it does Z! How does she change it back?! She just can’t get the hang of it! Imagine her disappointment when I explained to her that once she had updated, she was stuck and couldn’t go back (at least I’m not savvy enough to do this for her). I head over to her house, thinking this would be better than just leaving her hanging, with a now-unwanted updated phone. I show her the new functions and all the “cool and neat” stuff this new iOS can do. I walked through it with her systematically, until she was comfortable with her “new digs” and was actually happy with the changes for the better. On my drive home, I started to think about how often we hear this when we update our apps. Even when we incorporate user feedback, user experience testing, and subject matter expert guidance, people don’t like change. I used to do X in your app and get Y, and now I have to do X and Z to get to Y. I don’t like this at all! Wait, I say, you asked for Z because that would enhance the app for you. Snarky comments about psychologist-directed changes aside, no matter how much you try to include better functions in an update, there will be a user who just doesn’t like it. There is a sort-of muscle memory to your favorite and most often used apps and their functions. Just like my aunt and her phone.

“So what does this have to do with me, the provider?” I hear you ask. Well, the point of this long diatribe is that apps, technologies, and even theories are going to change, and you have to be ready for it. You want to use a certain app combined with therapy to reduce insomnia with your patient? You’re going to need to be willing to work with and be patient with your patient. You’re going to need to be ready to walk through the updated version with them when the app suddenly gains new functions (“Now with sleep efficiency ratings!”). You’ll need to be ready for those frantic phone calls (“I can’t get to the sleep diary! It’s not there anymore!”), and those particular patients who just “gave up” because it was too difficult. Even if you’re not that tech savvy (maybe only one step ahead of your patients), being intimately familiar with the apps that you are “prescribing” or recommending will give you a leg up on assisting your patients through new updates.

Jae Osenbach, Ph.D. is a research psychologist and subject matter expert with the Mobile Health Program at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Dr. Jae Osenbach