Several speakers at this month’s SXSW Interactive Conference described the great potential and demand for IT startups to develop mobile applications that could be used to monitor, maintain, or enhance healthcare on a personal level.

At an event called Meaningful Use and Beyond, Fred Trotter, a consultant from the Cautious Patient Foundation, explained how the foundation for software development had been laid by the infrastructure of EHRs and the Direct Project.

“EHRs will be nodes on a new health information network allowing patients and doctors to communicate healthcare records,” Trotter said. “The Direct Project, which is secure clinical email, will allow for anybody to create applications that run on the internet, that do interesting things to these (EHRs) to create new services.”

Trotter predicted that these new healthcare products, services, and the companies that provide them will eventually dwarf those currently in place on the internet because of their potential impact.

“The health internet applications are going to be vastly more important and, I believe, the health internet giants will be vastly more important, than the original internet giants because this is the most personal way that the internet can impact your life.”

A different SXSW event, a panel discussion titled Health: Is There Really an App for That?, focused more specifically on mobile application developers. Panelist John de Souza, president and CEO of MedHelp, advised that potential app developers should focus on providing apps that successfully target users.

“You need to have apps that are relevant to two parties: to the person using it and to the caregiver or doctor on the other end. So have to start going through and (thinking) ‘What are you trying to do?’ and ‘What are you trying to get out of it?’ ” de Souza said.

Another panel member, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist, said the end users of apps can be a good resource especially during the initial stages because of their familiarity with the healthcare workflow and regulations.

“The most effective apps are developed with users. The most effective applications and tools have to be user-centric and user crowd sourced in some way,” she said.

Ultimately, healthcare professionals will adopt new apps and software if they believe it is effective. B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford, said the most successful way for developers to convince people to use their technology is to program and design with “baby steps” in mind. Fogg suggested they should look to “trigger the right sequence of baby steps” that will lead to their technology being adopted.

He went on to explain that once developers have a final product, they need to back up their sales pitch to a potential financial backer or buyer with hard evidence of the app’s ability to change the behavior of those who use it.

“There are insurers and providers out there that are really eager to go with something. They’re not going to go with something unproven, no matter how sexy your PowerPoint slides are or your pilot (is). They did that a few years ago with web stuff and they got burned… It doesn’t have to be a huge scientific study that lasts for years, but it’s got to give them enough confidence if they’re going to put their reputation on the line.”