Increase the Engagement Rate of Your Digital Health Product

4 min readApr 12, 2024

Digital health apps generally have the lowest engagement rates of any software product. A thoughtful engagement strategy can change that.

There’s no sense dancing around it — people do not want to engage with digital products in the healthcare space. Data shows that engagement rates within healthcare are below interactions with lawyers and people look at their financial health data far more than their actual health data.

Why don’t people engage with digital health products?

In many ways, the resistance to engage with healthcare products makes sense. For one, people are typically using these products when they’re in a tough spot, physically and mentally.

For another, the healthcare system isn’t set up in a way that intuitively engages people. Care doesn’t take place in one coherent ecosystem. Patients typically have a primary care physician, plus an army of specialists who may or may not be part of the same healthcare network. Plus, they usually need to coordinate their own care themselves, despite not having medical expertise. Patients don’t have a great deal of say in what they’re interacting with and when. It’s a friction-laden experience from top to bottom and there are often issues with interoperability between platforms.

As a healthcare organization, that can lead to a number of issues, from low engagement on digital health solutions to poor ROI on technology investments.

How can you increase engagement with your digital health product?

Addressing these problems requires a well-defined engagement strategy. You must create a positive experience for people who interact with your product so they’ll continue to use it. Consider that people who use healthcare products aren’t customers, they’re patients. Typically, patients don’t often have the luxury to shop around and compare healthcare products like they do with consumer products.

Put it all together, and you start to get a complete picture of the issue. Engagement strategy in healthcare isn’t a technology problem, it’s a people problem. A lot of challenges with engagement in healthcare can be solved with existing technology — but requires a dedication to improving the user experience, and a reframing of priorities to make healthcare solutions that prioritize patients.

As a healthcare organization that’s concerned with improving engagement, consider the following questions:

  • Who are your patients?
  • What is the context of their interaction with the application — in other words, when and why are they opening the application?
  • What is the true problem patients are experiencing? What are they going through, and what feelings might they be having at the time?
  • Where is friction taking place?

Establishing an engagement strategy requires human-centered design, with an emphasis on empathy, to make products that will work. Design thinking is another useful took when doing this work as it revolves around creating positive experiences for customers, with a focus on user outcomes.

Thinking through an engagement strategy should take you well-beyond the features and requirements of the product’s functionality. Instead, consider how using the product makes people feel — humans feel deeply, and this is especially true in healthcare, a matter of life and death. What can your product do to remove fear? To create comfort? Is there an opportunity access human emotions, or to encourage ritual use? It goes past the utility — the login process, the layout and fonts — and asks, how is the product going to connect with patients, to better meet them where they are in order to guide their experience?

Design products for how people will actually use them.

One misstep shared by products in the healthcare space is an attempt to design based on what you would like users to do. Instead, design with an understanding around what they’re actually going to do, and make a behavioral intervention there. Understand triggers: are they using the application because their implanted device told them to, or because they got an email?

Context is crucial here. There will always be some patients who manage their condition well, and others who are struggling. What behaviors are the first group exhibiting that are different from those in the second group? Can you design behavioral targets, using the data you have about each kind of patient, to drive engagement? It’s important to consider that our understanding of behavioral science changes all the time, and what you did on an app six months ago might be due for reconsideration over time.

Engagement happens in really unusual pockets in healthcare, and success requires honesty around what engagement looks like. By taking into account human emotion and human behavior, and not creating an experience that’s transactional and utilitarian, your chances of success increase exponentially.

This is also an opportunity to reimagine what engagement looks like for patients. As a healthcare provider, your every day is, for many patients, their worst day. Some of the hesitation to use the product might come down to the sheer fact that using it is a reminder of the severity of their condition, or the long road ahead.

It might not be that users log in and use the app every day — and that’s okay. You’re not building the next trendy social media app. Focus your measurement of success on the metrics that matter. Because at the end of the day, it’s not just about how many downloads or likes you have; it’s about how many lives you’ve saved.

Original post here.

Authored by Denny Royal.




Blending strategic insights and thoughtful design with brilliant engineering, we create durable technical solutions that deliver digital transformation at scale