Jumping into the app sphere
Jack Perisa, FACP, and developer of Cliniknote, a cloud-based clinical notes app, shares his app insights with APA Innovation Advisor Barry Nguyen.
What makes a specialist sports physiotherapist go into the digital app development world?
I never had the intention, but as any physiotherapist can appreciate, we all, at some stage, work with some form of technology and digital hardware. A lot of this new digital technology has been designed to make our work as physiotherapists more proficient, effective and accessible. Some of them include online virtual consultations, apps that capture and measure patient data and patient-reported outcome measures. And they have all been designed as a digital solution to a problem in the physiotherapy world.
And what was the issue or problem that enticed you to enter the digital sphere?
No matter what area of physiotherapy one works in, one thing that is common to all is the requirement to take clinical notes or keep records covering in detail the consultation with a patient. In searching for an adequate solution, which I could not find, I decided to develop an app to streamline this process digitally.
What exactly was it about clinical note taking that made you look for a solution?
Working in private practice and as a clinical practice owner for 20 years, storing and retrieving files, receptionist hours, administration time and misplaced notes and reports have been a major cause of frustration.
Working in a private practice with multiple physiotherapists, our reception staff could be searching in filing cabinets for as many as up to 100–120 files per day. That can equate to 10 to 12 hours of reception work per week. Cost could be saved, and administration staff can utilise their time more efficiently.
So how did you go about developing an app?
The first step is to have as many ideas written down on paper as you can before you approach a developer. Developers do not know what you want when you present an idea. It is like going to a builder and telling them to build you a house. Without detailed drawings they have no idea how the app will look or feel. As you speak to more developers and people in the digital world, you get to know and understand what they need so that they can let you know if your idea is possible. I spoke to at least eight developers before I decided which team to work with.
What does it entail to build an app?
When I chose my developers, we brainstormed the idea and concept with a minimally viable product and also the ultimate end product. You need to know the bare minimum of the app’s functionality, and then also plan ahead on any extra features you may wish to add on. This will determine how the original app design is carried out and in what digital language it is written. This can potentially save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
Do you have any extra tips?
When I had decided on the developers, I had them actually come to my clinic and they observed my clinic in operation. They saw the receptionist asking patients to fill out forms, and physiotherapists record their clinical records. This gave them first-hand knowledge on what I do, and when I spoke to them they understood exactly what I was trying to relay to them. When you have an app idea, have the developers observe exactly how you do the task or process manually.
Tell us a little about your app?
I have built a native app which allows you to record and take clinical notes on a regular iPad with the Apple pen. Not only that, for those who don’t like to use a pen, it allows you to record notes in all formats (text typing, handwriting to text conversion, voice to text conversion). It also allows you to upload your existing clinical note talking templates, or you can digitise them with the inbuilt template builder.
Can you tell us about the costs involved?
Designing and building an app can be very costly depending on the scale of the app. My research has shown that apps can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $450,000. Cliniknote is somewhere in the middle. One thing I can share with you is that the Australian government offers research and development grants for any apps or products that are new to the market and require research to be built. The rebate at present is 45 per cent of the research and development cost. I would advise to look into this when coming up with an idea that is not already built.
Can you share any other places of information potential app builders can go to get started?
Starting is difficult. Firstly, speak to other physiotherapists and see if they would like the type of digital product you are considering. You do not want to spend time and money on a product that will not be used. Then you need to speak to as many developers as possible, and like anyone you employ, have a look at their previous work quality. Places in Sydney such as Fishburners and other start-up hubs are a good place to start. This is where a lot of start-up app developers congregate and work from. They will give you introductory meetings with developers where you can expand on your idea and understand the costs and time to build anything in the digital world. Start-up accelerators and incubators can help you with further funding and business mentorship and advice.
Cliniknote is already in the App Store. I am currently in the last stages of beta testing with my clinic and a few others. You can go to cliniknote.com to have a look at some of the screenshots and features the app will have. I am happy to take any feedback and see if it can be integrated into upcoming upgrades.
Jack Perisa has been working in private practice for the past 20 years. He is a Specialist Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist (as awarded by the Australian College of Physiotherapists in 2018), and he is also an APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist.
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