Cloud-based EHR provider Kareo recently launched an Apple Watch app. The app takes advantage of the watch’s interface to improve practice communication, reduce patient wait times and improve productivity.
I recently asked Amber Glende, brand marketing manager at Kareo, to shed some light on the app’s development process and the importance of innovation in health care IT.
1. Which departments/teams were involved in the development of the app?
It actually started at one of our hackathons. Kareo’s hackathons are a great outlet for anyone in the company to conceive of and build innovative applications. We hold them twice a year to stimulate internal innovation and development. Last November, our CMIO, Dr. Tom Giannulli (who has many talents but is also an accomplished engineer), led a group of engineers, designers and product team members in the hackathon project. The group created the first Apple Watch app version using the available Software Development Kit (SDK).
2. How did the team get all of the necessary buy-ins to proceed?
We don’t have a traditional top-down approach here. Kareo very much subscribes to lean startup principles. We value innovation and understand new ideas will come from everywhere so we empower our employees to run lean projects without the typical necessary, drawn-out, hierarchical buy-ins. We have continuous discovery and continuous delivery always happening in parallel. If you have an idea, you can take action, prototype and test. The core litmus test is “will it help independent healthcare providers succeed?”
3. Were there any regulatory, compliance, or security concerns, and if, how did you overcome them?
HIPAA is always a primary concern. Our first question was: Is the data transmission between the watch and the phone secure?
Apple confirmed for us that the platform is secure in transmission.
Our second question was: Can we authenticate the person wearing the watch? Here we created an encrypted pin code that the user enters when wearing the watch. When the watch is removed the app gets locked. Users must reenter the code when they put the watch back on and again at some point every day.
Ultimately we had to ensure the data was secure at rest and in transit.
4. How did Marketing and IT collaborate during development?
Our product marketing positioning is around enabling a return to a quality patient-provider relationship.
EHRs are often blamed for impairing this relationship. After all, it’s common sense that forcing a doctor to stare into a computer screen undercuts a doctor’s ability to engage with their patients.
This “lack of face time” problem is one we believe company wide, one that it is critical to solve both in our content and product development. Our combined marketing and IT efforts, therefore, focus on how we can increase practice efficiency and augment physician-patient “face-time” so that doctors can be more fully present with the patient in the exam room. We believe it’s critical to enable patient engagement. We can’t expect patients to engage when doctors are not engaging with them.
5. How did you test it to ensure that physicians would want to use it?
This is a fun question. You see we had to test an application with users who didn’t even have the device. At the time there still wasn’t much public talk about the Apple Watch’s upcoming release. We asked doctors what they thought about the notion of Apple Watch, if they thought they’d buy it when it became available, and if so, what they hoped to do with it at work. It was in this last question that we based our first version of our Apple Watch app (we’re now in our 6th iteration based on ongoing customer discussions).
About three months before Apple released the Apple Watch, Dr. Tom and Ben Haur, the product manager leading the team, were invited to fly up to the Apple Watch Labs in Sunnyvale to test the App on the soon-to-be launched device.
After that testing, they came back with a variety of changes based on those initial physician discussions and their actual first look at the product.
6. Are you marketing to physicians as a separate service or included in other services?
The Apple Watch app is a companion to our free EHR. It’s essentially a quick peek into your calendar, so you must be using the EHR calendar for the App to genuinely help you be more efficient. All the functionality in the app is available to all our EHR users.
7. Why is it important for health care organizations to adopt new technologies quickly and find ways to innovate?
Healthcare is rapidly moving from a b2b to a b2c industry. It’s no secret that healthcare technology lags behind most other industries. But now that patients are footing more of the bill and consumerization is rapidly building momentum, healthcare organizations will have to keep up with consumer demands or risk going away. Consumers are beginning to demand that their healthcare provider offer access to helpful technology the same way it is available in other aspects of their lives.
8. When is it available in the App Store?
The Kareo Watch App is now available in the App Store. The typical one week approval process took over three weeks this time. It appears that the Apple Watch release is keeping the Apple App approvers busy!