Q&A: The role microapps can play in the NHS

Ian Bolland caught up with Alison Haughton, senior product marketing manager, Cognitive Group, Progress, about the role that microapps can play within the NHS. They discuss how much they have been explored, and the difference it can make to both healthcare professionals and patients.

What’s the main difference for a clinician/NHS worker using a microapp instead of a ‘normal’ app?

Microapps simplify the cognitive overload of clinicians who often spend lots of time working with different tools, but a centralised hub can provide a single access to all data in the microapps, turning them into a near real-time version of clinical truth. Microapps take-up significantly less resources to build, maintain and use, and also enable hospitals to personalise clinical dashboards. For example, an A&E doctor and ward nurse might both use parts of one same app, but the parts they have access too can be tailored to the needs of their duties.

You say microapps deserve more exploration, how much have they been explored already?

Microapps are not widely used because the proliferation of mHealth “app sprawl” and “ app noise” are relative new concepts. For the former, mhealth apps have been growing at a rate of 25% annually as such, we cannot continue to build apps without being concerned about clinician app fatigue. The “exploration” is truly about healthcare organisations prioritising what apps they want their clinical staff to use. Second, it is creating an engagement protocol document and deciding who and what teams get to develop apps and the business purpose for the app. Third, mHealth apps have to go beyond the cool factor of an N value of 1 and delivery measurable clinical results, e.g., patient scheduling adherence, bed management, etc. Clinical leadership is really in the best position to decide what success will look like. Currently, we have the “Wild West” of mHealth app building and the microapp concept is really about saying: this is going to be a problem, if we continue to build without a clinical app roadmap for organisational success.

How can a centralised hub of microapps improve the patient experience?

From strengthening information security to reducing clinical gaps, diagnostic error and waste, the implementation of microapps can ultimately improve the patient experience. Building simpler IT systems and processes can also simplify the cognitive overload of clinicians who often spend lots of time working with different tools which takes time away from their patients.

What do microapps do to simplify processes?

If we are discussing Health IT – Clinicians are the workflow experts and IT is merely a catalyst to automate operational and clinical workflow gaps. IT folks without the appropriate healthcare background are creating more work for clinicians. IT solutions should streamline processes, not create clinician burden. What works in banking, insurance, and financial services (BIFS) will not necessarily translate to a clinical environment and unfortunately, too many IT professionals have good intent, but they are creating health IT solutions in a vacuum. Ultimately, transparent collaboration is essential for health IT to be a value-add to clinicians.

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