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SFP iPhone App

For Starters

First and foremost, you are welcome to download the app I created which will give you ideas on how to create your own app (it's free!). We all have benefited from the good work done before us. I hope the work I've done will help you create an EVEN BETTER APP for your practice. Go to the bottom of this article to use a QR code reader to go to the "Skyline Family Practice" App or type in "Skyline Family Practice" (and SEARCH) when on your smartphone app store with your smartphone (available for iPhone, Android and Windows smartphones).

Building the APP

Start with how you want to have each screen of the app. Design this around your office philosophy and your patient population. Get a yellow legal pad and draw the structure of your app.  Then go for it!

Before you begin,here is a link you might find helpful: http://appmc.hn/1pKRQ9A

Building an App is not as hard as you might think.  Although my journey was about 3 months (from concept to completed app - I'm in full time practice). You can do it much faster (probably in 1-2 months)!

I've outlined a lot of the other processes and ideas in a blog post that is on the AppMachine website*. The case for developing the app both from a patient oriented and business perspective is in the blog post. Some of the features and the steps I took are available to help you develop your own App:

Link to blog post on creating the SFP app

Although AppMachine has the service and platform on which I developed the app for our practice, please don't feel like you have to use that web-service. There are many out there that can do the same thing.

Some further hints and ideas follow.

Start simple

Create content such as your office hours and how you can be reached after hours.  The phone numbers in an app (on many smart phones) will automatically start the call by tapping on number. Introduce your staff and put your policies in the app.  The list goes on.  Later, like in our app, you can create more content and functionality (like linking to your practice web portal and having an appointment request ability).

Other applications used for developing the App components

Although there are many other apps that can be used in developing a functional app, you really don't even need those for basic app development within AppMachine or other web-based app programs. However, I found the following applications to be invaluable (and the reasons why they worked for me):

  • Camtasia Studio (also used Adobe Premier Pro) - Used for creating and rendering videos. You'd then put them on your website (see Ipswitch or any other FTP program) and then reference the video in a "URL block" on the APP.
  • Adobe Dreamweaver - a fully featured WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor - useful for creating webpages. CoffeeCup HTML Editor is a more reasonably priced editor that is slightly more intuitive. Adobe allows me to insert the correct HTML tags and other coding optimized for smartphone screens.  You use this to create content you may want to link to from within the App.
  • Ipswitch WS-FTP (FTP program to upload files) - to connect to our website to transfer the files (documents or videos referenced in the APP) onto a website (we have) to allow a file (such as a video or document) to be accessible within the App (using the URL or List Block in AppMachine).
  • Adobe Acrobat - for creating a PDF (portable document file) which is a standard web-enabled document used on the web. The PDF format is good for using with forms you may use in the office. CutePDF is a freeware PDF creator which you can also use (there are many PDF creators out there now).
  • Google Forms - I created a satisfaction survey form for our practice.  This service is free. This service allows us to collect feedback from patients and their families. Google Drive is the place to do this (you will need to get a google account in order to use this service). It's then an easy matter to use the URL block to link the form.

YouTube

If you don't want to create your own videos, you can often find what you want to present to your patients on YouTube. For instance, we've found the parenting videos from the Centers for Disease Control to be very useful. It's easy enough to link the URL (website address) within the app module which then will give your patients access to the video from within the app. A potential problem is the fact that a YouTube subscriber's video may be 'taken down' and become unavailable. If you have used that YouTube URL address, then it would not be available in the App since the URL linking wouldn't work.

Further information on videos

The new "de facto" standard for videos is the MP4 format. This is a well compressed file that has generally good quality. When given a choice, don't go much lower than 480p resolution. Also, to help videos load faster, it is a good idea to keep them in an around 3-5 minutes at a maximum (when you can). This keeps the size of the video down and helps keep the video more likely to be quickly loaded by all smartphones with all types of connections (2G on up). In other words, try to keep any videos you make under 15-20 Megabytes when you can. A warning is warranted with regard to file formats. Don't use FLASH formats (SWF with javascript, etc). They are not processed by iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, etc) and, so, will not work.

Using Documents

I have found using the PDF format to be the best format documents and smartphones. Certainly, patient education documents you may want to reference can be in the HTML language (HTML - hypertext mark-up language). If you do use HTML documents you reference, make sure you have a tag between the HEAD tags in the HTML document to help optimize that HTML document for viewing on smartphones. This tag is the <viewport> tag that will help a HTML document size to fit the smartphone screen which could be as small as 320 x 480 pixels in visual real estate. PDF documents can also be 'optimized' for viewing on a smart phone but this is well beyond the scope of this article.

Closing remarks

This article and the links are by no means an exhaustive review but should spurn you to strongly consider creating your own app.

By using the various features in the APP, our patients can 'stay connected' with us.  We help them get timely information, or, have that information readily available through the app for their use. It's nice to show a new diabetic what resources they can have easy access by having them download the App. It was recently helpful to "PUSH" messages to our patients when we had an upsurge in calls on how to remove ticks (we are in an endemic Lyme disease region). We pushed the message to access our app for information on Lyme disese and tick removal. The phone call traffic on TICKS dropped dramatically. Besides the "wow" factor, the APP has and continues to be a helpful adjunct for patient engagement with our practice.

I would encourage you and your practice to consider this journey!

Tripp

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*Disclaimer: I have no financial interests in AppMachine nor any other company (and their products) mentioned in this article!

04.08.2014
 
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