Arjun Ram
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Arjun Ram

Impact of HealthKit on mobile health

How HealthKit with solve the two major issues plaguing health apps

Health Apps have been on a tear off in the year 2014 growing at a staggering rate of 62% in first 6 months of year. Funding in this sector has also been a phenomenal with companies taking in about $2.3 billion in the first six months.

With momentum like this one would expect engagement stats off the roof but that has been lack luster.

Multiple issues plague health apps! Two of which can significantly contribute to better engagement numbers.

The Death valley of on-boarding!

Have you ever tried to signing up for any of these apps? The process is long and laborious reminding you of the visit to the doctor’s office. Only in this case long forms replaced by screens of questions that you need to answer before you can even find out if the service is valuable. Here is an example of an app that has gotten a ton of downloads.

On- boarding of MyFitnessPal

There are other apps where the signup process is about 12 steps long! Imagine that! While some of these questions really don’t need to be asked in the first sign up flow most apps do! A number of these questions are simply preferences that you could ask the user in subsequent sessions or as they engage deeper in the app.

The drop offs in the sign up funnel increases you get deeper in the funnel. The deeper the funnel the lousier your on-boarding numbers will be.

As health apps start to unbundle do app developers seriously expect the user to pay the on-boarding tax every time that a user signs up? Imagine entering your zip-code for each app you use. What a nightmare! No one does it anymore! Well thats precisely what happens with health apps today!

The user goes through a similar long on-boarding process for a Weight tracking App (MyFitnessPal), Nutrition app (Rise), Recipe App (Yumly) & Fitness App (Fitmob) — Painful isnt it.

HealthKit permission dialig

This is where HealthKit is a godsend!

Instead of getting the user to input each the app developer has the opportunity to import data entered in other apps. A couple of clicks a voila! The app developer has the data that they need & user has the ability to control what data they share with the app developer. Yes, this is a double edged sword — gone are the days of the wild wild west of gathering every piece of data that you wanted that you never used. As a developer you need to watch out for this!

This also assumes that the data is already available which means a popular apps have to support HealthKit. Even though the Apple has delayed the launch of HealthKit due to a last minute bug — there is word that a good number of popular apps will be supporting HealthKit when it launches!

Here is a partial list — MyFitnessPal, Fitstar, Lifesum, Noom, LoseIt, Strava, Runkeeper, Withings. Not a bad start!

If you are building an health app you would be at a disadvantage if you end up having a long sign up flow. Bigger apps might get sneaky like MyFitnessPal making users to enable HealthKit instead of enabling it by default. Regardless kudos to them for supporting HealthKit.

Recommendations & Context resulting in a much better engagement

Behavior modification is key to a healthy you.

Behavior modification is the holy grail of any health program. How do you nudge the user into better habits leading to a healthier mind and body.Human body is quite complex and is impacted by a multitude of factors like food & nutrition, water, activity & exercise, sleep, mood & many more. Expecting one app (including the Health App from Apple) to help us understand the impact of these factors is unreasonable & unlikely! Especially on mobile with apps being unbundled & where attention is low.

Given this constraint the apps are limited in their ability to get the user act on recommendations and truly enable behavior modification.

Lack of Context leading to user apathy & bad engagement

Data is currently locked in data silos within these apps and given the lack of context you end up with scenarios like these

  • Automated notifications at a certain time to log foods
  • Asking the user to walk 10K steps a day even if he has already gone for a bike ride or if there has been a snowstorm.

Its hard to expect users to engage when presented with scenarios such as these. Of-course a developer can ingest data from other apps by supporting different API’s (be it wearables or fitness apps) — but thats like building bridges between islands.

For the first time the developer has the ability to ingest a lot more data and provide contextual actions/recommendations to the user. Imagine the following possibilities

  • Your on-demand nutritionist guides you with food recommendations as he notices your weight increasing.
  • A healthy eating out guide that offers you suggestions based on what you have eaten during the day.

So what are you waiting for! The two week delay gave you an opportunity to opportunity to increase engagement & get more users in the door quicker!

Feel free to leave a comment on engage with me on Twitter.

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Arjun Ram

Arjun Ram

Operator & Product leader. Helped Oracle, Goldman Sachs, Citadel build businesses & delightful products. 2x Startup founder. Dog Lover and a dad!

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