By Arlene Marie Karole, CHCP, CMP, MSA
While the app may seem to be common place as it’s infiltrated every part of our lives from our first waking moment to our bedtime—checking email, purchasing an airline reservation, making bank deposits, listening to our latest book on Audible, watching a video on Amazon Prime or listening to a meditation on Calm to help quiet our minds after a hectic day—the app is still quite unique to serving a specific niche.
While my job entails many responsibilities, in part, I’m tasked with delivering stellar educational conferences. I assist and guide physician course directors in the planning of their program, secure funding to ensure financial viability and create eye-catching marketing materials to grab attention and help drive attendance.
After receiving feedback from attendees and all stakeholders via post-conference surveys and by word of mouth, I recognized it was time for some changes. Attendees shared that their experience with our current registration process and the retrieval of conference materials is both antiquated and cumbersome. For example, there is a link to register, a link to access our brochure, a link to surveys and the links go on and on. To address their needs, I started to think about how we could better streamline our processes and content. And voilà! The idea came to me! Why not simply condense these links and all pertinent content into one-easy downloadable, yes, you guessed it, app!
From Idea to Execution
However, the following four questions came immediately to my mind:
- How does one create an app?
- How much will it cost?
- How exactly can it streamline processes to meet the needs of all stakeholders?
- And how if I want to move it forward, do I get leadership buy-in?
First step—I started my research and found that there are numerous existing mobile app developers available at very reasonable costs. They have apps that are multi-functioning, customizable and brandable to look and feel and mirror your organization.
Second step—I engaged my IT team to get their thoughts. As technology is not my area of expertise, I’m resourceful and always engage the best in those areas I need the most support to seek guidance. They answered my questions directly and shared nuances about the app that I wouldn’t have even thought to ask about. With their extensive industry contacts they also shared a myriad of app developers with whom they were familiar. In addition, we discussed the ones I had come across in my research.
They advised even the simplest app developed and built from the ground up would be costly. With many already on the market that meet our needs and are cost-effective, after careful consideration we agreed that using an existing developer would be the best option.
Next step—I set up a call and started to work with an app developer I had liked. I gave them my wish list and the specific needs I had in mind for our app. I wanted to be assured this would be the most cost-effective and best way to proceed, as then I’d be ready to pitch it to my leadership for their buy-in and approval.
I’ll share with you some highlights and terrific benefits of having a conference app! The app provides one centralized access point to conference information for all stakeholders from faculty and sponsors to attendees—providing an exceptional experience that’s easy and user-friendly while promoting engagement and an interactive and collaborative opportunity for all.
Also, with our busy faculty—physicians and clinicians always on the go whether seeing patients or managing administrative duties—they may not have regular access to a desktop computer. The app would allow them quick and easy access to register or view conference content at their fingertips.
The app can be downloaded easily from the App Store for Apple users, on the Google Play Store for Android. For those hard to coax attendees not wanting to download an app, there is a web-enabled mobile website as well. Although new things can be uncomfortable for some, keep trying! Furthermore, not only does creating an app ensure the obvious basics allowing for a more seamless process for registering, accessing brochures and surveys but offers a multitude of other most noteworthy benefits as well. Here are a few:
Cost Effective – Live Polling Audience Response System (ARS)
As my programs are self-funded, keeping costs down is critical. One cost-saving feature on the app includes a built-in live polling audience response system. This now saves me a considerable amount of money per program, in fact over $30,000+ annually as I no longer have to outsource to a company to provide an ARS system.
As our health system has a green initiative, the app promotes sustainability aligning with our policy and helping to reduce our environmental footprint. While we have traditionally printed out hundreds of handouts with lined pages for note taking, the app offers a feature where you can take and save notes under the Sessions and My Notes menu icons. If you’re someone like me who on occasion likes to print out notes, the app allows you the capability to email your notes to your inbox and then print out through your computer—this too is a cost-saving feature.
Often before, during and after programs, we are asked by our attendees for faculty information. The app allows us to upload and post bios and presentations under the Faculty and Sessions menu icons.
An exceptional feature on the app is that once attendees agree to opt-in and share their information, it allows them to network like never before. They can private message one another, share photos, access social media and more.
A Few Eye-Popping Stats
- Mobile users are spending 87 percent of their time in apps, versus just 13 percent on the web. Source: ComScore
- And if you’re wondering, as I was, how many mobile users there are worldwide, it’s 5 billion! Source: GSMA
- The average number of apps people use daily is nine. Source: TechCrunch
- Android users have access to 2.1 million available apps through Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store remains the second largest with access to 1.8 million available apps. Source: Statista
The app will change for the better the way we deliver educational programs and information to our attendees and all stakeholders we serve. Bottom line—the app allows for one centralized access point to users with real-time information, it offers each individual user the ability to personalize their learning experience, it is cost-effective and user-friendly and ultimately, it allows not only me and my team but all to work smarter, not harder.
If you’re deciding on spending your time, energy and investing in an app, hopefully my experience has shed some light and given you some direction to help you with your decision.
As we get ready to roll out our app in the month ahead, follow me on Twitter for updates on how it’s working and new tips on planning.
Arlene M. Karole, CHCP, CMP, MSA, is director, Office of Academic Engagement, Education and Communications, Cardiology, Northwell Health in New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.