5 User Engagement Strategies and Action Steps for Your Healthcare App

One of the biggest challenges for any app is how to keep users engaged. With the explosion of available apps, it might be tempting to turn to gimmicks or trendy interfaces. But while these tricks might get a few extra people to download an app, they aren’t likely to keep users interested for long. What’s needed instead are user engagement strategies that drive users’ engagement with your app.

That being said, developing an engaging app takes more than having a good idea and an ingenious design. User engagement strategies aren’t tricks. They require significant time, effort, and analysis. At Little Green, we have found, through working with our healthcare app clients, 5 keys to keeping patients engaged and using an app for months or even years.

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User Engagement Strategies:

1. Onboarding

Think of the onboarding experience as your app’s first conversation with a user. Just as you aim to make the best possible impression when meeting with a potential client for the first time, you want your app to make the best possible first impression on new users. So, make sure the onboarding experience is simple and exciting.

With onboarding, your goal should be to bring people in and get them used to using the app. It’s fine to guide users through the features of the app during the onboarding process, but the focus should be on getting users to experience the benefits of using your app as soon as possible. As with all user engagement strategies, the sooner you can get buy-in from users, the more likely they will be to continue using the app.

2. Push Notifications

If your app goes quiet for long periods of time, users will forget about it and eventually delete it. This doesn’t mean that you should annoy users with SPAM, but if you notice users dropping off at certain times, consider sending relevant push notifications that draw users back into the app.

For instance, suppose your app is designed to help users quit smoking. One way to keep users engaged is to send weekly notifications with new videos that encourage users to learn about the latest research or unexpected tips for how to avoid smoking. You can also selectively time notifications based on events or promotions that might be of interest to specific users.

Keep in mind that push notifications can be customized in sophisticated ways. You can target devices, platforms, users who have performed certain actions, and more. Specific targeting will keep your app from annoying users, while making it easier for users to seamlessly incorporate it back into their daily lives.

3. Incentives and Rewards

Although many apps offer points, badges, or other reward systems, not all of them do it well. The human brain is complex. An incentive that works today may not continue to work months down the road. One type of incentive might work really well on a certain demographic, but not at all on a different demographic.

We have to essentially outsmart our brains in order to keep users engaged. One way to do so is to create “surprises” within the app. So, while a user is doing a regular task within the app, the app could prompt the user to do an additional task that offers bonus points, for example.

Surprises keep users engaged because variability manufactures desire. Rewards are essentially feedback loops. Feedback loops are everywhere in life; they help us to create both good and bad habits. But when the feedback loops we create become too predictable, they fail to generate desire and users get bored with your app. So, be sure to spice things up for your users with those little surprises.

Wondering what is the most effective way to gamify your healthcare app? Why not take a page from the gaming app playbook? Cognitive flow, positive reinforcement, simplicity, and autonomy all play important roles in gamification user engagement strategies.

4. Personalization

Another key to keeping users engaged is personalization. If a user feels that the information being provided is generic, he may get the feeling that he could get the information elsewhere and dismiss the app, regardless of the other benefits it provides.

Make sure that your app automatically keeps track of relevant personal information and offers information that is tailored and customized for each user. Also, brainstorm other features that individual users might be interested in using and offer those as incentives for increased engagement.

5. Connection to Real Life Consequences

Beyond offering incentives and rewards within the app itself, make sure that your app connects positive health changes to real life consequences. For example, if an app that is designed to help patients control their blood pressure also has a journal for recording nutritional information, connect the dots for users between a week of hitting certain nutritional goals and recording lower blood pressure numbers. Offer suggestions for improving numbers over the course of the next week or month too.

Now that we know what keeps user engaged, let’s talk about specific action steps you, as the creator, can take if you are considering developing a new healthcare app.


Action Steps:

Consider your audience:

Great apps not only function really well, they are designed with their audiences in mind. Our app, HeartStar, was created to help those with hypertension modify their behavior. The app makes it easy for even the most math-challenged individuals to track and understand their measurements. But for those users who really love to “geek out” (we mean this in the most loving of ways, of course) on stats, it’s also easy to export data, compare your stats with relevant studies, and share your numbers with medical professionals.

The app should be customizable. It should address a specific need or problem that your audience has and offer them something new that they didn’t know already or solve a problem that they struggle with on a regular basis.

Consider the interaction design:

Focus not just on creating a great app, but on creating a great experience for your users. You want your app to be as much a part of a user’s daily life as their toothbrush, especially if your goal is to change patient behavior. The app needs to be created with interaction in mind.

The app should be fast and easy to use. It should be snappy and offer users the ability to get in, do what they want to do, and get out with just a few taps. Attention to detail here can make a huge difference. So make sure you find the right group of software developers to make your idea and your research really come to life.

Get to know and love your analytics:

One final piece of the user engagement strategies puzzle is analytics. You will want to track your analytics before launch, during launch, after launch, always. Knowing the number of users who download your app is good, but you can also learn how, when, and where your audience is downloading your app. These in-app analytics will give you lots of clues as to how you can improve user engagement.

What clues can you get from your app’s analytics? Cohort Analysis available in Google Analytics will help you better understand user engagement. For example, if you discover that new user engagement drops off steeply in the third or fourth week after they download your app, consider a smart email campaign or push notification timed for just before the drop-off mark.

Want to learn more about how to keep user engagement for your healthcare app flying high? Contact the pros at Little Green Software. We love to help our clients create apps that improve patient health and exceed expectations!