The medical sector can greatly benefit from intelligent solutions that mobile technology offers. Apps can assist doctors in their medical practices and be powerful tools for delivering better care and working efficiently. To understand what lies behind a win-win scenario for both app users and app owners, let’s look at the success stories of three mobile medical apps to learn some valuable lessons.
Ten years ago, Oliver Kharraz cofounded Zocdoc along with Cyrus Massoumi. Zocdoc is an online service that allows patients to find doctors and book appointments to see them within 24 hours. The New York-based company helps doctors manage their appointments.
Zocdoc’s services are available all across the United States. Kharraz says the product is a win-win for doctors and patients. Once patients use Zocdoc, they become repeat customers. The Zocdoc cofounder says that the platform attracts people looking for doctors at the rate of 800,000 a month. Patients use Zocdoc every month to book more than 1,800 different types of medical procedures across 50 specialties. The service is free for patients; doctors pay $250 a month.
Zocdoc allows patients to
- See local doctors in their insurance network
- Book appointments with over 50 different medical specialists including dentists, primary care physicians, allergists, OBGYNs, dermatologists, urologists, psychologists, ophthalmologists, podiatrists, optometrists, pediatricians, and more
- Read verified reviews from other patients and see doctors’ professional statements, credentials, and languages spoken
- See open appointment times and book instantly
- Keep track of their medical calendars
- Search by specialist and condition, such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, yellow eyes, bleeding, cysts, or sore throat
- Check in on the app to complete all necessary paperwork
- Receive text reminders before appointments
Zocdoc improves the way doctors work, making sure they see patients every minute that they’re available.
They were persistent and sought advice. Zocdoc’s cofounder Cyrus Massoumi once waited in a waiting room for five hours to speak with the doctor he wanted. People driven by passion are unstoppable, and his persistence did pay off.
Steelkiwi advice: Find a mentor with a good record who can give you valuable advice and reveal the pains and needs that need to be filled.
Stuck with the business idea. Zocdoc’s founders kept their focus on their core mission – to fill open slots in doctors’ appointment calendars. Instead of having their fingers in different pies at once, they established credibility among their users with one simple solution. Now that they’ve proven that the app works, Oliver and Cyrus can work toward increasing revenue per customer with new services that appeal to doctors.
Steelkiwi advice: Choose one direction and go with it to see what prospects lie ahead.
Sought investors. Building a platform like Zocdoc comes at a price. The Zocdoc team found early investors in Vinod Khosla, Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. After that, the Founders Fund and SV Angel helped out. So far, Zocdoc has raised $95 million. Later supporters included the Founders Fund, Ron Conway, a prominent Silicon Valley investor, DST Global, and Goldman Sachs.
Steelkiwi advice: Have a clear vision that can attract additional funds.
Delivered a great UX. The Zocdoc platform gives care providers a great user experience and enough inbound leads to fill their free slots. Rushing a release is never good, as it comes back to bite app publishers in the form of bad user experiences and negative word of mouth.
Steelkiwi advice: Quality takes time, so take things slow.
Started off small. Starting with a small number of customers is a great way to get things moving. In Zocdoc’s case, they offered their services to individual doctors instead of pursuing large hospitals and clinics. The Zocdoc team has shown that you can build a business with small providers first, then open up opportunities with large enterprises based on your good track record.
Steelkiwi advice: Don’t try to go big right away.
Targeted one region first. Focusing efforts on one geographical area was particularly essential in their model and is important for many healthtech startups. Focusing on critical mass in a specific region makes sense from a sales and marketing standpoint.
Steelkiwi advice: Choose one region first.
Shifted the strategy from patients to doctors. Zocdoc attracted doctors first to create a critical mass of available appointments. When patients arrived, the app already had specialists to choose from. By and large, doctors suggest that their patients schedule appointments through a digital cycle. If a doctor (or business) suggests a preferred way to interact with them, most people are likely to use it.
Steelkiwi advice: Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable.
Launched an appealing campaign for healthcare professionals. Doctors care about what technology can bring to their medical practices. Zocdoc is able to fill empty appointment slots when scheduled appointments suddenly get cancelled. For many care providers, Zocdoc is now the primary source for new patients.Therefore, they recommend it to their peers and the app gets promoted. Moreover, this cycle of promotion is free.
Steelkiwi advice: Word of mouth works when your solution works.
Figure 1 is a free Android and iPhone app founded by Gregory Levey and Dr. Joshua Landy. The app started out enabling HIPAA-compliant photo sharing between healthcare professionals. The app lets doctors get diagnostic advice from peers and teach medical and nursing students.
Figure 1 gives free and instant access to thousands of real-world medical cases from healthcare professionals across 185 specialty groups and prominent institutions, including the American Cancer Society, The BMJ, Doctors Without Borders, and Mount Sinai Health System.
The app boasts 2 million registered users. CEO Gregory Levey highlights that about two-thirds are in the US. The second-most engaged user base is located in Latin America, which is why the Figure 1 team also hired a lot of Brazilians and has a whole Portuguese-speaking staff of the office to make the app in both Spanish and Portuguese. Figure 1 also has a lot of members in the UK.
Figure 1 allows doctors to
- View and discuss cases they may never see in their own practices
- Expand clinical knowledge and access a community of millions of healthcare professionals
- Share anonymized medical cases securely and efficiently
- Page specialists for real-time feedback
Defined the pains and kept a straight focus. Since its launch in 2013, Figure 1 has focused on helping doctors receive unique content and empowering them with networking capabilities so they can make vital decisions on time.
“Doctors are used to being spammed by pharma companies, medical device makers, clinical trials people and they hate it...They do, however, love to hear from other doctors,” says CEO Gregory Levey in an interview for TechCrunch.
Found the right monetization strategy. When the Figure 1 co-founders thought about monetizing their platform, they decided to avoid targeted ads or peppering healthcare professionals with anything that didn’t feel like a valuable part of the platform. The Toronto/New York-based startup has begun generating revenue by adding sponsored content and polls to its platform.
Steelkiwi advice: Find what’s valuable to your users.
Offered peer-to-peer content and mentoring. Figure 1 invited brands to sponsor programs where doctors teach other doctors about things like rare diseases, medical procedures, or interesting new medical applications. Figure 1 has worked with major Fortune 50 health brands including Shire, Novartis, and the CDC Foundation.
The new sponsored content formats in Figure 1 include Grand Rounds, Figure 1 on 1’s, and Figure 1 Insights. For example, with Figure 1 Insights, the company polls verified healthcare professionals about a certain issue or trend. Figure 1 on 1’s generates questions for a featured specialist and questions are voted on by other users.
Steelkiwi advice: Encourage interaction.
Verified credentials for certified access. Anyone can join Figure 1 and see content, but they can’t post or comment on anything without certified access. In order to post photos and make comments, Figure 1 first verifies that a user is a healthcare professional. Then they grant access to more features. This helps the app win new users and retain existing users.
Before any doctor shares an image, they need to make sure they have proper consent. Physicians need to delete any identifying features from photos and captions, such as patients’ faces, tattoos, or potentially unique facts like the dates of a hospital stay. Redacted parts of a picture are scrubbed from the image file. In cases when an image cannot be shared, a doctor can describe the case using text.
"After that you submit the images, before they’re released for anyone to see, they’re reviewed by our privacy moderators, and then once they’ve been moderated or released, if anyone has any concern about any images, they can be flagged or removed immediately." – Dr. Landy
Steelkiwi advice: Create a safe and trusting environment.
Appealed to students. About 70% of medical students in the US are members of Figure 1 platform. Doctors use the app as an educational tool, which is another important marketing focus of the platform.
Steelkiwi advice: Create a learning environment.
Unbound Medicine is a medical company that has a number of apps featured on Apple’s top paid medical apps list. One of their apps is a reference application called Diagnosaurus (DDx). DDx is a reference tool that helps healthcare providers perform diagnoses quickly and confidently. Doctors can search over 1,000 diagnoses by organ system, symptom, or disease. The application is also an educational tool to help medical students make differential diagnoses. DDx is available in English and offers in-app purchases.
The main features of DDx are self-contained and can be used without an internet connection. Users can
- Access 1,000 differential diagnoses
- Highlight and make custom notes within entries
- See entries organized in a quick-read format
- Get links to other potential diagnoses
- Find indexes of diseases, symptoms, and organ systems
- Add favorites to bookmark important entries and save specific searches in a personal archive
- Find answers quickly with a Universal Index Search
- Learn with DDx Teacher: The Adult Bedside Differential Diagnosis Tool
- Search by keywords
To aid in diagnosis, diagnoses are organized by anatomical area and organ system, have labels of acute or chronic, painful or painless, and use other helpful schemas whenever possible. This app can also be used as a review of symptoms guide, with common questions grouped by organ system.
DDx was developed by physicians for medical students worldwide. It’s not designed to provide actual medical advice or to be used in place of input from trained clinicians, however. The public should not use DDx Teacher for self-diagnosis.
Let’s take a closer look at the core values that Unbound Medicine adheres to.
Delivering eloquent quality. “Unbound Medicine has really focused on the product and ensuring we give the user an optimal experience… When you have a quality product and you get some people using your product, word spreads quickly,” says VP of Marketing Brian Cairy. Unbound has been providing point of need information since 1999, and they’ve developed a loyal user base.
Steelkiwi advice: Seek quality.
Creating an educational environment. DDx was developed specifically to be used by physicians to train medical students worldwide. It’s an educational tool for medical students and other healthcare professionals.
Steelkiwi advice: Knowledge is valuable among professionals.
Marketing actively. Like most healthcare technology companies, Unbound relies on a number of marketing channels to help spread the word about its offerings, including industry conferences such as the Medical Library Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the National League for Nursing.
Steelkiwi advice: Make yourself known by taking the initiative.
Building trust. “I think the positive reviews we get in the app stores and the solid reputation we have built over time is the biggest factor,” says VP of Marketing Brian Cairy when asked about DDx’s success. “Many of our customers have used us during their training, then transform into use as practicing physicians and nurses.”
Steelkiwi advice: Building a reputation is hard work.
Engaging audiences on social networks. Unbound also keeps up with its users via its Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Steelkiwi advice: Create an online social presence.
Updating the design. The DDx team has consistently updated the app’s interface. Since its launch, they’ve been working on ongoing content updates along with a new look and feel. They’ve enhanced the graphics, added features to help users organize their work with highlighting and custom notes, and updated icons and banners to reflect new editions.
Steelkiwi advice: Keep things fresh.
Every medical professional needs a reliable tool and/or a planner to help them stay on top of things and be effective in their medical practice. App publishers who want to target care providers should seek quality software that can sell itself.
The apps mentioned above have certain similarities:
- They get the job done quickly and reliably;
- They’re easy to use and kept up to date in terms of content, user interface, and user experience;
- They offer meaningful solutions for their target audiences;
- They have trustworthy teams of developers behind them;
- They create safe spaces for users where they can interact with peers and exchange information.
At SteelKiwi, we’ve developed an app that helps patients connect with care providers in no time, letting doctors see patients every minute they are available. If you have an idea for a mobile medical app, we would be happy to become your reliable partner. Get in touch with us and we’ll assist you from idea to launch.