Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center started developing the idea for a patient and family experience mobile phone app in 2016, after receiving some negative feedback from patient families.
They said “it was very difficult to navigate our healthcare system,” said Melissa Cloud, Cincinnati Children’s director of integrated operations, calling out pain points like keeping track of paper parking tickets and finding their way to their appointments.
The answer, at least for some patients, was an app. That way, patients and their families could carry around that information in their pocket, without having to gather stacks of paper throughout their visit.
Four years later, 37,000 people have the app, dubbed Caren, loaded onto their smartphones.
“The strategy around the Caren app was really focused on: ‘How can we improve the patient and family experience?’ ” Cloud said. “Taking out those stressors.”
As smartphones have become tightly intertwined into so many Americans’ lives, hospital executives have realized that to play a central role in their patients’ health, they need to meet them where they are—via their phone.
Having an app to engage patients is “table stakes,” said Tom Kiesau, leader of the digital transformation unit at the Chartis Group. But while most health system app strategies historically have centered around the electronic health record’s patient-specific patient portal, a growing number of systems have wanted to offer more customized apps.