The Rise of Messaging as a Platform

Let’s do a little experiment: Take a look at the applications on the home screen of your smartphone. How many are messaging apps?

I have seven messaging apps on my home screen, or over 20 percent of the screen real estate.  You are likely to have several as well: Messaging apps like Facebook®Messenger, KakaoTalk®, LINE, Snapchat®, Viber®, WeChat®, and WhatsApp® dominate the app marketplace. Six out of the top 10 most-used apps globally are for messaging, and they also boast the highest numbers of sessions per user, according to KPCB’s annual Internet Trends report.

Messaging apps show no sign of slowing down either: The top messaging apps are all growing, adding hundreds of thousands of users per day. So it begs the question: In a world where messaging is nearly free, why are there so many messaging applications?

Messaging apps have several things going for them:

  • Ease of Use: The core functionality of messaging applications doesn’t fluctuate much, so it’s easy to jump in if you get a new one. Messaging apps are also highly flexible and extensible (most allow add-ons like emoticons/emojis, hashtags, mentions, etc.)
  • Sticky: Messaging apps have incredible retention rates compared to mobile app averages. After install, only 36 percent of users launch the average mobile app within the first month, versus 68 percent for messaging apps. In month 12, the divide is enormous: Just 11 percent of users launch the average mobile app, but messaging apps have hung on to 62 percent, according to app analytics company Flurry.
  • Push Notifications: Any messaging app is going to let you know you have a new message via  push notifications, which are free for developers and users. Push notifications happen in near real-time, and they’re also data and battery efficient, so your message thread can span hours before your device needs a charge.
  • Networks and Workflows: Messaging apps are typically built with certain networks in mind and their workflows are designed accordingly. For example, you might talk with family and friends on Facebook Messenger, with your professional network on LinkedIn®, and with your neighbors on NextDoor®.

The last item is what is really critical for a messaging app to stand out in a crowded world, and also what I like to remind healthcare leaders of when they express concern about putting another app in their clinicians’ hands. Secure text messaging solutions built with healthcare in mind must go far beyond consumer messaging apps: Healthcare-grade apps support clinical alerting and workflow management in addition to text, voice, and multimedia. They also support communication between all endpoints: Wi-Fi phones, pagers, desktops/laptops, and voice badges in addition to smartphones.

Healthcare-grade messaging solutions integrate with clinical systems, the directory, on-call schedules, and user status/preferences. They also protect patient information via encryption and HIPAA business associate agreements (BAAs). Finally, they also offer a full log of what was said, who said it, and when it was sent for full traceability.

The key to effective communication is to find the messaging app whose features best fit the user. For personal use, it may just be the emoji options that best express your feelings and moods. For clinicians however, this need is more advanced. These teams require features such as integration with the hospital’s directory, on-call schedules, and the ability to receive encrypted messages from third-party systems such as patient monitors, nurse call, and critical test results.