What Makes a Good App?

Good mobile apps have features that users want to access many times, in many locations. Read further for tips on building apps that engage patients.

Improve the standard.

Mobile devices often include camera, phone, GPS, calendar, and audiovisual recording functions. Excellent apps use these fundamental functions to improve upon existing standards. For example, it’s convenient to make a medical appointment by phone or online, but a mobile app could help you schedule an appointment, add it to your calendar and then automatically remind you the week and day before the appointment.

Offer benefits that aren’t achieved online or on paper.

It’s a fun time to be creative with mobile apps. Don’t be limited by treatment as usual. MHealth apps are improving patient self-care and symptom management in new ways daily. From home, apps can be used to track heart rate variability, use biofeedback, and send pictures of lesions for immediate review by a provider without the necessity of follow-up visits.

Include minimal text.

If your main feature is a document, then users would probably prefer to read it online instead of going to an app market, downloading the app, reading the app on a small screen, and then deleting the app. The exception is for documents that need to be accessed without Internet connectivity. For example, if you have a resource that sailors may need while shipboard, then appifying it makes sense.

Keep it simple.

The best apps have just one or two main functions and do them well. One risk of adding several components to your app is that you add development cost and app size to provide features that may be rarely used. For example, our most downloaded app is Breathe2Relax. Based on metric data, users enjoy the breathing exercise but rarely watch the videos. As a result, we’ve put less emphasis on videos in our subsequent apps.

Julie T. Kinn, Ph.D. is a research psychologist at DHA Connected Health.

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. Julie Kinn