My personal pet peeve is medical apps for specific conferences

I am not usually one to rant and rave about the various injustices and inadequacies of medical apps; however, recently I have encountered a new phenomena which has sent my blood pressure skyrocketing.

I am of course talking about medical apps for specific conferences.

If you aren’t sure what I mean by this then just look at the following screenshot which greeted me when I opened the Medical Category of the iTunes Store this morning.

The ‘New’ section displayed 20 applications of which 10 are related to annual meetings or conferences. I appreciate that many conference organizers want to be seen as innovative and thus consider it essential to have a medical app that is linked to their conference.

However, in my opinion, these apps are not particularly useful or innovative and actually have an overall negative impact on the medical app ecosystem.

Here is why:

  1. Many of these apps are out of date. Looking through the 10 that were displayed on the Apple homepage, only 2 of them were for meetings yet to happen! That means the other 8 have already passed!
  2. This issue goes well beyond the home page, as there are literally hundreds of apps dedicated to conferences and meetings.

As a result, users are overwhelmed by the number of apps available and it becomes increasingly difficult to find the apps which may be relevant. I think the issue gets worse when you look at the actual quality and content of this medical app ‘genre’.

These apps advertise that they can help delegates monitor schedules, download abstracts, give location maps, take notes in lectures, access contact details and more. I feel that all of this information is available in a well designed website and that providing WiFi access would be considerably cheaper than building a dedicated app.

Similarly, many of these apps actually have poor functionality which would probably discourage users from using the app in the first place.

Perhaps the biggest annoyance for me is the lack of thought after the event. These apps are often not removed from the app store, lose a significant amount of their functionality as a result of online data connections no longer active after the event, and instead become relics of a distant meeting. I find it immensely frustrating having to trawl through app results which are out of date as I feel like I am just wasting my time.

I don’t like the idea of creating an app “simply because we can” as  I feel that it dilutes the quality of medical apps available. Furthermore, it makes finding good apps that much more difficult.

I do like the idea of a conference app; however, I think that these would be better suited as web applications which users can access and store on their mobile device rather than as a native app. Additionally, these apps should have their own section of the medical category of the app store and should be automatically removed after the date of the meeting.

Many of these conference apps are based on software called EventPilot which is shown below. ATIV Software make the argument that having a conference app will:

  • Increase Event Revenue
    • Benefit from a large variety of sponsorship opportunities in the conference app and you retain 100% of your sponsor ad revenue.
  • Improve Sustainability, Reduce Waste
    • With the EventPilot conference app, cut printing, shipping, and distribution cost and offer true paperless events, conferences, and meetings.
  • Provide a Rich Offline Experience
    • Set new technology standards with our professional native conference apps that keep you “wifi worry free” and engaged long before and after the event. All other smart and web-enabled devices are supported with the optional web version of EventPilot.
    • Save Money on WiFi
  • Demonstrate Your Industry Leadership
    • Set yourself apart by choosing the best event app technology available and publish to native iOS and Android apps branded for your event. The additional PR, public awareness and buzz by offering the EventPilot conference app augment your marketing strategy and competitive advantage.
  • Offer Attendees Exceptional Value
    • Show how much you value your attendees by providing unmatched functionality that saves time, acts as a communication and network platform, and adds value as a reference tool for members not able to attend. The EventPilot conference app is the Swiss Army Knife for attendees.
  • Medical and Scientific Events
    • With EventPilot’s intuitive navigation, attendees of healthcare or pharmaceutical meetings can easily manage thousands of posters and scientific abstracts offline.


I personally disagree with many of the reasons stated above, particularly that it will help save money on Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi has become all but obligatory for medical meetings as delegates require internet access for laptops and mobile devices.

Perhaps the most valid point made above is the reduction of waste by not printing paper; however, I cannot see why all of the points displayed above, including that one, cannot be solved with a well designed (and mobile optimized) website. It would be interesting to see just how many of our readers use dedicated conference apps when they go to meetings. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

*The views in this post represent those of the author and are not representative of*


Tom Lewis


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2 Responses to My personal pet peeve is medical apps for specific conferences

  1. Wouter January 28, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    I used the RSNA app recently and found it very helpful. With 50-60.000 people around, wifi at the conference was unreliable at best and with that many people it is not likely to be much better in the next few years. Besides that, offline access to the schedule is great when traveling abroad without expensive roaming enabled, you can use it in the airplane, on the bus/metro and while in the hotel (which often have ridiculous charges for wifi use). On top of that searching was very quick and you could add sessions or individual talks to your own personalized schedule with one click. The app could be better, but for now at least it was a much better solution than just putting up a mobile website.

  2. App User February 10, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    A lot of the apps are off-the-shelf templates modified and edited according to the conference organiser where the customisations are mainly brand related (images to use, logo, colour scheme) and where the client picks and chooses any extras or add-on’s for $$$.

    However the biggest draw-in factor is the fact that many of these can be used offline and I personally feel that if I could have an app-only option and forget print, I would. Although I’d like to know how many people out there would actually do the same – or download the app and pick up the print brochure therefore making the sustainability argument a bit of a waste.

    And in terms of out of date apps, then it really should be good practice for these apps to be made unavailable in the app store though many organisers may wish to keep it if the conference will happen again like an annual meeting. Apple could also do something about the App Store search algorithm for these types of apps. But the argument of “we have too many conference apps therefore we should think twice about publishing any more” really isn’t a valid one considering (hopefully) the flow-on innovation effects – why stop at a standard conference app when you could develop something truly innovative.

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