Building Mobile Apps for Healthcare: How to survive among 318,000 existing apps on the market

The digital technology revolution has made a significant impact on global industries seeking to develop customized solutions for specific needs. Among those taking greatest advantage of what this revolution can offer is the healthcare industry. In the past few years, there has been an explosion of healthcare-related apps. There are currently an estimated 318,000 medical mobile apps worldwide, and even more hit the market each day. The health industry has clearly learned how to navigate the challenges of handling sensitive and complex medical data.

They have also come to understand that millions of people depend on mobile gadgets to help them make daily life simpler. Through the creation of medical mobile apps that monitor nutrition levels and individual health conditions, healthcare providers are able to give users better quality services and value-added solutions including the convenience of shared health tips, treatment information and appointment scheduling, among other possibilities. Moreover, with the help of mHealth, technology helps clinics and practitioners save effort and create more time for performance of administrative functions.

Key Benefits of mHealth apps

Let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits of medical care apps and solutions

  • Allow patient to conveniently book, cancel and change appointments even from home.
  • Facilitate easier and faster doctor-patient communication/engagement as well as information exchange services.
  • Monitor and track height and weight changes, cholesterol and glucose levels, and other critical health indicators.
  • Receive notifications on the mobile devices about the latest hospital events and health news.
  • Better insights into healthcare issues based on detailed data as well as precise information processing.
  • View doctors’ photos, profiles, their publications, credentials, and records.
  • View pop-up maps showing the location and direction of the hospital, its sections and wards and the floor that the hospital is located.
  • Cost and time saving for doctors, patients and health-related enterprises.
  • Access to electronic medical records, lab test results, appointment reminders and reports from ultrasound scans, MRI scans, X-rays and much more.
  • A patient can request prescription refills or call a doctor or care facility during emergencies.

Necessary features of a well developed healthcare mobile app

Choosing the right functionality for a mHealth app is one of the most difficult phases of the development process. It is a delicate balance between trying not to miss a critical function, and overstuffing the applications with functionality that makes the app harder to navigate and work with. In essence, any notable healthcare mobile app should target and provide all the necessary usability and essential functionality to both patients and providers.

Here is an overview of the most critical features and functions to be taken into account before development begins.

  • User Registration/Logging in.
  • Editable user profiles detailing personal info, such as phone number, email and any special condition.
  • The ability to measure and monitor the vitals.
  • Integration capability for social platforms.
  • Monitoring, tracking, and reminders for chosen activities.
  • Ability to record and store patient’s chosen activities for a period of time.
  • The ability to schedule, change and cancel appoints.
  • Imaging management.
  • Push notification of urgent alerts and updates.
  • Geolocation integration.
  • Payments and prescriptions.
  • Pop-ups with maps and direction information.
  • Menu settings.
  • Access to doctor profiles.
  • Food journal and exercise plans.

Five (5) main categories of healthcare apps

There are five main categories of medical mobile apps out. While there can be a number of other types of healthcare apps, we will focus on the following parent categories and what each of them offers.

General Hospital Apps. These kinds of mHealth apps usually focus on messaging and branding. They generally include information about hospitals, lists and physician availability, healthcare service offered, a virtual tour of the hospital, and ER wait times.

Clinical and diagnostic apps. These are specialized reference and medical apps that detail personal health records as well as e-chart reviews, digital images (MRI, x-ray), symptoms checks, medical conditions data and lab results.

Medication Tracking Apps. These types of apps encourage patients to follow medical prescriptions by way of tracking doses, meals, reminders, and medication scheduling.

Health awareness and fitness apps. These medical apps help patients keep up with appointments, weight management, pregnancy care, track fertility and other vital information from exercise to diet monitoring and nutrition.

Chronic care and management apps. Healthcare apps in this category can help manage conditions such as diabetes, cancer, blood pressure and mental issues. Critical functions here include the creation of appointments, prescriptions, alert creation as well as providing medical references for doctors and patients.

Five (5) steps to developing an ideal healthcare app

Before developing a health app, be sure to have a clear concept of the application design, operating system choice (iOS or Android), understand the healthcare legal framework, have an idea of healthcare insurance requirements, business needs, and explore any gaps on which you might capitalize. Here is a typical sequence of actions that you might want to adopt to build your application.

1.    Identify gaps that your app can close.

Before deciding on the type of app to develop, identify a unique use case that provides real value to end users, that is patients or providers.  As earlier mentioned, healthcare apps amount for nearly 318,000, so competition is fierce. Make sure your app solves a definitive issue and improves customer care. This is also a perfect stage to think of the unique content and functionalities that your app can provide.

2.   Study your market.

App developers need a clear understanding of their audience and what they want in order to develop the most useful application. Put into consideration the expectations of patients and doctors when choosing functionalities to include in your app. For instance, a patient might want to monitor glucose levels, control calories, and heart rates on the smartphone, while the doctor would be interested in an app with EMR/EHR analytics support and 3d party integrations on the tablet.

3.   Talk to experts.

Once you have solidified your idea and studied your market, ask an expert to review your idea and offer any necessary advice, insights, and experience they have learned. You might be able to gain important insight on market saturation, budget expectations, find compliance pitfalls and much more from experienced developers or healthcare providers.

More specifically, focus on privacy and data security aspects since this is one of the most sensitive areas of healthcare. Ensure that your app conforms to government regulations and privacy policies such as HIPAA. Talk to security experts in this area who can advise you on how to handle issues such as data leakage and unauthorized access.

4.   User experience is Key.

While integrating functionality, be careful not to lose sight of the importance of good user experience. Medical professionals and patients require an easy-to-navigate menu as well as clean, functional interfaces. If users, that is customers are happy with its native user experience, they are far more likely to use it and recommend it to their friends.

5.   Test, test, and test again

The testing phase is another key area of development that cannot be ignored. Think of it as insurance against potential bugs and other issues that might have sneaked by during the development phase. Many developers tend to overlook this bit. Before releasing your applications for use, thoroughly test every project for every use case across multiple mobile platforms and devices. Do this without compromise. Allow your team and users to rate and give feedback on your every app, which can also help in future development.

Lily Smirnova, CoreValue –  Business Development and Marketing expert with 6 years of experience in the IT on the crossroads of technology and life sciences.

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