How to Create a Healthcare App?
What do patients want in 2021 and how to develop a perfect healthcare app? Among the most frequent wishes are a high level of healthcare quality, a personalized approach, free access to medical information, and the ability to independently monitor and control their health status. With the development of technology, not only have patients’ expectations changed – their thinking has changed.
Building a health app is just the right solution for both patients and doctors by meeting patient expectations and providing healthcare professionals with new and convenient tools.
However, their growing popularity and demand are not only due to their ease of use. Of course, mobile apps cannot replace doctors. However, they significantly improve the quality of healthcare services for patients. Many health app development products and their rapid development exceed user expectations, which increase user engagement and retention. Even though the interaction between doctors, patients, and pharmaceutical companies via mobile apps is a relatively young field, there are already entrenched requirements, both technically and from government regulatory bodies.
After reading this article, you will learn more about how to develop a healthcare app, what types they are, and what innovative technologies can be applied. For now, we would like to share some statistics which clearly show that health mobile app development solutions are the future of healthcare services.
- 80% of doctors use smartphones and medical apps for work
- 158,000 medical apps available for download on Google Play
- 79% of respondents are more likely to trust a doctor who gives them the ability to track their health via mobile apps
- 93% of medical representatives believe mobile medical apps will benefit patient health
- 40% of doctors believe that the need for in-person visits will partially decrease due to the popularization of the use of mobile apps
1. Decide the Type of Healthcare App
Before you start to develop a healthcare app, you need to decide who your user is. In general, healthсare mobile products can be roughly divided into the following types: for patients, and medical staff. Let’s look at each of them.
Health Apps for Patients
Patients undoubtedly gain the most significant benefit from health mobile app development. Mobile applications allow people to control their medical care more intelligently and conveniently. This self-care mechanism is especially preferable for patients with chronic diseases because it facilitates treatment adherence and helps monitor vital signs remotely.
By regularly recording indicators in apps, patients can monitor their health and be monitored by the attending physician, and promptly identify abnormalities in health conditions. In addition, remote informational assistance on treatment, diagnosis, or drug therapy allows the user to avoid visiting hospitals every time for any reason, which certainly improves their quality of life.
- Condition and symptom control managers
- Reminders and alerts
- Remote consultation apps
- Chronic disease management
- Apps for the elderly
- Fitness apps
- Apps for weight loss
- Mobile medical record
- GPS ambulance call apps
All of these apps can be atomic solutions or combine several types at once.
Health Apps for Physicians and Medical Administration Staff
However, patients are not the only ones for whom digital health app development brings benefits. Doctors and medical institutions are a massive group of consumers of such software. Mobile apps offer a plethora of opportunities from the medical staff’s point of view to improve healthcare quality. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Medical staff training app
Such apps are designed to significantly improve healthcare professionals’ training process and maintain a high level of awareness. The advantage of such apps is that all necessary materials on medication administration, diagnostics, current treatments, examinations are always available.
Applications for remote communication
These applications facilitate online communication and sharing of experiences among physicians, discussion of uncommon cases, etc. These applications include video conferencing, remote calls, messaging, and webinars. Usually, such applications have additional functionality and look like mobile messengers or social networks for medics.
Such mhealth app development services are especially in demand in hospitals. These apps allow medical staff to calculate, within seconds, the dosage of medication depending on the parameters of the patient, such as weight, age, gender, individual health conditions, or illness.
Remote diagnosis and treatment
The most common medical apps are most often used to check for symptoms. Doctors communicate with patients to make sure they follow the medication instructions, check their symptoms regularly, and follow them until they are fully recovered.
Mobile medicine directory
These medical applications are available evidence-based resources that include information about medications, indications for taking them, dosages, interactions with other medicines, contraindications, costs, etc. This way, the doctor can quickly and conveniently create a prescription and even send it as a message to the patient. The most common medical apps are most often used to check for symptoms. Physicians communicate with patients to make sure they follow the medication instructions, check their symptoms regularly, and follow them until they are fully recovered.
Patient education materials
Medical mobile apps are designed specifically for patients, containing relevant and valuable information (treatment options, comorbidities, and prevention methods). This makes it much easier for patients to track their health status and more straightforward for doctors to provide better treatment.
Telemedicine applications allow healthcare providers to provide care to patients in real-time using the video function. In addition to the standard video signal, they can also track various health indicators if specific devices equipped with sensors are used. The simplest example is a smartwatch. Such apps are often used by patients who cannot access medical facilities directly (or get the help they need because of their remote location or poor health).
Benefits from App Development for Healthcare Facilities
Healthcare is one of the industries with the highest level of competition within, so we can’t help but mention a few of the benefits that hospital app development brings to service providers from a business perspective.
Increase customer loyalty
If a hospital app has detailed information about procedures, doctors, and services, it increases credibility. The ability to make an appointment online, see test results, or find out the cost of care in advance also increases customer loyalty.
Paperwork is a thing of the past, and doctors are much more comfortable accessing a patient’s medical history online. A mobile app for the clinic should include a database of patients (electronic health records or EHR system) with their medical history. It allows physicians to explore patient data anywhere and anytime, make a new appointment and manage their time more accurately.
Increase patient awareness
With the app, you can do newsletters, announce news, promotions, and other information. In this way, one-time clients turn into regular ones.
2. Define the Strategy
So, you already have an idea, or maybe you already have the initial business, which includes information about what functions your application should have and whose tasks it will cover – patients, doctors, or it will be an integrated solution. It’s time to think about how this product will bring you profit.
Choose How to Monetize the App
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for building a health app has increased significantly, increasing the scope and possibilities of monetizing mobile apps. Depending on
the specifics of your product, choose the most appropriate of the following strategies:
- A classic monthly or annual subscription will work for services with physician consultations and chronic condition diagnosis management.
- Freemium model, which provides only part of the application for free. As a rule, this includes applications for sports, yoga, weight management, etc.
- Sales of products and services can be consultations with a doctor or the delivery of medicines from a chain of pharmacies.
Either way, the market for mobile health apps and solutions is still in its early stages. However, a large number of people are interested in entering the market regularly. The value of mobile health apps is growing exponentially. And while the rest of the world is on alert, health apps will only grow in popularity.
Determine the Omni-channel Strategy for Your App
Today’s users live in an omnichannel world. This means that people often interact with the same product differently (website, mobile app, chatbot in messenger). So, you need to think ahead about what touchpoints are best for your app, showcasing all its best sides.
The second thing to think about is creating an ecosystem. Do you plan to create a web version of your product or a desktop application? Will users be able to control the app with Siri or Google Assistant voice?
Many factors go into this decision. For example, older patients are more likely to choose a website and tablets because of the image size. At the same time, younger people are more likely to use a smartphone as their entry point, perhaps using Alexa/Google Home. The main referee determining your omnichannel strategy is your target audience.
Don’t go after coverage of all channels simultaneously as the release of the app. Increase their number as the product develops. This way, you can analyze the effectiveness of each one separately and focus your resources on the most effective ones. However, a health mobile app development strategy has to conclude this aspect in advance.
3. Understand and Abide by Healthcare Regulations
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and regulations issued under HIPAA are a set of U.S. health laws that set requirements for using, disclosing, and protecting separately identifiable health information. The scope of HIPAA was expanded by adopting the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) in 2009.
HIPAA applies to Covered Entities (specifically, healthcare providers, healthcare plans, and healthcare clearances) that create, receive, maintain, share, and receive Patient’s Protected Health Information (PHI). HIPAA also applies to Covered Entity Business Partners who perform certain functions or activities involving the PHI as part of providing services to or on behalf of the Covered Entity.
HIPAA Privacy Rule
The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires the use of robust security measures to protect the privacy of patients’ personal information (personal information, insurance information, medical history, and more). In addition, HIPAA regulations impose strict restrictions and conditions on using and disclosing this data without the patient’s permission.
It also includes the right of patients to receive complete and accurate information about their health, including the ability to check and obtain copies of their medical records and to request corrections in the event of inconsistencies.
The Security Rule requires appropriate administrative, physical and technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and security of electronically protected health information.
How to comply with HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules
To comply with HIPAA, healthcare mobile app development must follow HIPAA Privacy Rule and HIPAA Security Rule. In simple terms, it must have an exceptional level of security to prevent the leakage of users’ data.
All mobile health apps used in the United States must comply with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Its primary purpose is to implement and meaningfully use health information technology.
It is responsible for addressing the privacy and security concerns of electronically submitted health information.
Learn more about HITECH.
4. Launch the App Development
Before creating Healthtech and medical solutions, stop for a second and think about some essential things. We will give you some helpful advice based on the vast experience of our web and app development company.
Decide Which Platforms and Devices to Support
The first technical question is, which mobile platform do you want to develop, iOS, Android, or both? Considering that the healthcare industry apps need to be exceptionally secure, you will most likely look at native development. However, the possibility of cross-platform solutions in healthcare mobile app development should not be ruled out either. It all depends on the type of application and its functionalities. It is better to consult with experienced developers (we will talk a little later) about finding them.
To answer the age-old question: iOS or Android, we recommend paying attention to such aspects as:
The geography of your potential users
If we are talking about the U.S. or Oceania, it is iOS. If you aim for Europe, and even more so Asia, Android will bring a potentially large customer base.
The method of monetization
Statistically, Apple device users are more likely to make app purchases in the app store than Android users. At the same time, the integration of advertising content in Android apps is better perceived. It causes fewer negative effects from the user’s side than its integration in Appstore products.
In terms of technological capabilities, there is almost no difference between the platforms in the context of medical mobile app development. On any operating system, you can create an app that disrupts the market. The best advice here is to base your choice on the needs and preferences of your target audience.
Find an Agency/Development Partner
How do you find a reliable and experienced company that you can trust in mhealth app development? Our experts have put together a shortlist of what criteria to look for for a mobile development vendor.
- Look for Full-cycle development companies. They obtain a complete technological arsenal in the app development niche. This allows them to develop a healthcare app using the most suitable technology in each particular case.
- Deeply investigate portfolios of the candidate companies. Focus on projects similar to your products. Download and test drive the apps developed by the company you consider them as a technical partner. Would you be happy with apps like those?
- Check the company’s reputation and reviews using different independent resources—Google, Facebook, Gartner, TrustPilot, G2 Crowd, Capterra, Glassdoor, Yelp. A reliable company does not necessarily have dozens of reviews.
- In mobile development, there are no certifications officially recognized by iOS and Android technology providers. As mentioned in the points above, the best proof of qualification of developers is their portfolio. However, it’s better when a provider is familiar with HIPAA regulations and has experience building health apps.
- Building a health app can take several months to several years. During this time, you will regularly interact with the development team, discussing the task priorities and the project’s progress. It is crucial that you feel comfortable communicating with the contractor from the very beginning, whether you are satisfied with the speed and completeness of responses to your questions and engagement in your business goals and requirements. If you experience difficulties with communication or feel a low commitment to your product’s success, it’s unlikely to suddenly change for the better in a while or after you’ve paid.
- Aim at the middle — a software company that offers the lowest price for health mobile app development, especially when it is uncertain for you how this price is achieved, should make you cautious. Experience has proven that you shouldn’t expect the best product quality purchased for the lowest market price. When you bargain and make the price even lower, and nothing significant was removed from the scope, expect a respective quality drop. At the same time, companies with big names will additionally charge you for their brand reputation and awareness.
- The business environment is dynamic, and companies must be ready to change and adapt accordingly. Given that, the flexibility of the vendor’s approach to service delivery is another critical point to consider. This refers to how quickly and efficiently the contractor is willing to respond and adapt to the dynamically evolving needs of your business, particularly the project, and integrate new changes into a workflow.
- When choosing a vendor for health mobile app development, data security is an important aspect that you should pay special attention to since data leaks can result in financial losses and lawsuits when talking about violations of HIPAA and HITECH regulations.
Make Your UI/ UX Design Accessible
If you’ve picked a good vendor who can provide you with experienced designers, you have nothing to worry about. When you develop a healthcare app, remember that user experience is king. The main thing is to make sure that users are comfortable using the app. The access to all functions is apparent, and buttons are in familiar places. Don’t neglect such Usability and User Acceptance Testing. It is better to spend more time on UX optimization than to read angry user reviews.
5. Establish an App Integration
When you create a medical app for medical facilities, you have to keep in mind that they will have to work as a component in the global healthcare software ecosystem.
All mHealth applications must be linked to EMR and EHR systems, depending on the type of application and its area of use.
“Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are the digital version of paper records in a physician’s office. EMCs contain all of the patient’s medical history, treatment modalities, and outcomes. Compared to their discontinued paper counterparts, EMRs give physicians many advantages, especially with the use of a mobile app as an entry point:
- Sort data by time and other parameters
- Quickly identify patients who should undergo preventive screenings or checkups.
- Check specific patient parameters that track specialty sensors regularly, such as blood pressure, pulse, etc.
- Monitor and improve the overall quality of care within the practice based on data analysis.
“Electronic Health Records (EHRs) focus on a patient’s overall health, going beyond the standard clinical data collected in the doctor’s office to encompass a broader view of patient care. One of their main goals is to share information with other health care providers: labs, specialty physicians, etc. They accumulate all possible information from all physicians involved in a patient’s care.
When it comes to building a health app for fitness, general wellness, and home health monitoring, the product should integrate with all popular trackers and various mobile devices when it comes to an Android app.
Consider the Following Aspects of Integrating Health Apps and EHRs
1. Application should support mobile-integrated treatment (MIT) in a single EHR.
2. During development, the possibility of duplication between systems, where mobile app users and users of other devices with access to the EHR may enter the same data in different fields, must be leveled out.
The exchange of data between the multiple elements of the system and the mobile application has to be secure. However, security must be built to not interfere with efficient communication without compromising system efficiency.
4. When developing the technical requirements, it must be ensured that patient-oriented applications support the broadest possible range of mobile devices.
5. Applications should show high bounce rates and performance rates, even in conditions of a low-speed connection.
6. The mobile application should use the same standards (units of measurement, definitions of terms, and fields) as the EHR system with which it is to be integrated
7. Once again, the development team should have experience with similar solutions.
Keep in mind that these are just a few examples of the amount of work required to integrate with the EHR system effectively.
6. Stay Ahead by Adopting Cutting-Edge Technologies
Artificial intelligence is one technology that has found wide application and more often becomes a basis for digital health app development. Let’s look at a few examples of AI enhancing the capability and quality of healthcare services.
- Applications and software products for the recognition of medical images (MRI scans, ultrasound scans, cardiograms, and CT scans)
- Startups for drug development (microscopic analysis, study of drug efficacy, virus research, and search for effective vaccines)
- The use of machine learning technologies in the field of prosthetics (intelligent systems develop comfortable prostheses taking into account human anatomical features)
- Assistive applications that enable doctors to make more accurate diagnoses
- Cancer treatment startups. Algorithms can recognize a cancer cell at an earlier stage than is possible for the human eye.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT, Health IoT) combines software, healthcare systems, and individual smart services. IoMT improves and develops the healthcare industry, helps provide care remotely, and collects more information about the patient.
Smart devices (e.g., smart gadgets, sensors, heart rate meters) collect and process data, such as general health indicators, allergic reactions, test results. They help medical staff quickly generate personal statistics on patients and their medical records. At the same time, medics can use information from the connected systems to treat patients more effectively, provide timely and appropriate care, and prevent exacerbations of chronic diseases.
The main benefits of using smart gadgets and intelligent medical solutions:
- Increased mobility of hospital staff, the productivity of their work
- Accelerated processing of patient data
- Reduced likelihood of human error
Blockchain in healthcare, medicine, and pharmaceuticals can be used for managing electronic medical records, drug supply chains, anti-counterfeiting, controlling organ donation, conducting clinical and biomedical research, remote patient monitoring, improving insurance and billing procedures, and medical data analysis.
Medical students use them to learn surgical skills, while experienced surgeons use them to plan complex procedures. Some doctors are exploring the use of this technology for pain relief. VR is still in its infancy in the healthcare industry. However, headsets may soon find their way into operating rooms and clinics. Below we have listed a few areas where virtual and augmented reality have been used.
- Virtual reality training
- Visualizing CT and MRI patient data and thus creating personalized maps for surgeons
- Enhancing Rehabilitation Practice with Gamification
- Reducing stress and pain with VR
7. Leverage Mobile App Analytics
Just creating a fabulous app is only half of it. You need to improve your product constantly. You have to be aware of all healthcare trends and implement them in your product. Beyond the trends, there is always room for improvement. That’s why you need mobile app analytics.
A/B testing is a tool that allows you to create a healthcare app that will provide the best user experience. Some aspects of UX can only be evaluated in practice when real users start interacting with the application by performing specific tasks. Ongoing A/B testing leads to significant improvements in user experience and increases critical performance and user satisfaction metrics.
Mobile App Analytics
Mobile app analytics is an instrument that allows you to identify weaknesses in your app that cause difficulties for users. It also helps you understand how users react to the integration of new features or visual design elements. Analytics allows you to increase user retention and attract more new users.
8. Adopt Market
Keep in mind that when you develop a mobile healthcare app, you will need to educate potential clients about it and communicate its value to their business. It is recommended to set at least 30-35% of the total budget for marketing and promotion.
To successfully capture the market, you need a quality marketing strategy precisely targeted to your target audience. At this stage, your main goals are to increase brand awareness and attract people to your application.
To do this, you can create a landing page for your product. It is advisable to start a blog to publish relevant content, infographics, and demo videos about the product. Once people know about your app, you move on to the next stage—user retention.
Use Social Media
Social media is one of the most cost-effective tools for expanding your audience.
Create Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. Tell how your application can help users achieve their goals better and faster, communicate with people in the comments. Make sure the link to your website and app store download page is in your profile.
Don’t neglect social media ads and Google ads. This is a great way to give your product a substantial boost and reach potentially interested consumers.
Healthcare mobile app development is a complex and costly process due to industry specifics. However, with a reliable and experienced web and app development company, you will be able to create an application that will disrupt the market, leaving no room for competitors.