The growth in technology globally has provoked the rise of healthcare application development, which implies healthcare app solutions for various purposes and types of users in the medical field. However, developing mHealth applications requires complying with legal regulations. That makes it more challenging than developing solutions for other industries.
So let’s take a closer look at the process of app development in healthcare in terms of the common practices, difficulties, and trends.
What Is mHealth?
mHealth stands for mobile health, which implies using mobile technology to provide or receive healthcare services. Thus, via mobile and tablet applications and computer software, doctors can consult patients, prescribe and follow their treatment. Meanwhile, patients can get immediate virtual medical assistance.
Mobile health brings medical help closer to patients across the world. It allows receiving assistance quickly and does not depend on the location of the patient or the doctor. This is especially valuable for remote communities that cannot access a medical facility nearby.
mHealth Market Overview
Because of the increasing use of mobile technology globally, the mobile health industry has been experiencing significant growth over the past several years. As a result, the global mobile healthcare market was valued at $46B in 2019 and is expected to reach $230B by 2027.
The world saw the real benefits of healthcare apps solutions during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Then, it was better for patients to not physically visit a doctor because of the potential virus spread.
And since 97% of Americans own a smartphone of some kind, and developing countries are getting more accessible to mobiles, too, it is convenient to keep healthcare application services growing.
Types of Healthcare Mobile Applications
There are healthcare applications in different field niches, so dividing them by target users is convenient. With this, there are applications for clinics, patient-doctor communication, and personal use (also known as wellness apps).
Mobile and tablet applications for clinics are of great help to both the staff and the patients. These can be simple apps for appointment scheduling or complex software for patient information sharing between departments.
Some other areas mHealth apps for clinics can cover billing, prescription sharing, real-time screening, lab data access, and medical history storage. Healthcare providers can also receive training and educational materials within a few clicks.
Because data is interconnected and can be accessed from various devices across departments, healthcare services benefit from convenience and quickness regarding information access and management.
Besides, apps help reduce the amount of manual work in the job and automate processes like appointment scheduling, hence minimizing the chance of error due to a human factor. So healthcare providers can focus on the patients without the need to take care of tedious organizational tasks.
Remote Monitoring Apps
For cases when the patient’s condition does not require them to stay at a medical facility, but they still have to receive treatment and care, remote monitoring apps are the perfect healthcare app solution. The doctor can provide virtual care based on the patient’s oxygen level, blood pressure, heart rate, and other metrics with remote monitoring.
Besides, applications will not only track the connected devices’ indicators but also log and store information on who provides care and the details of the treatment supplied. That allows virtual healthcare application services to keep up with the standards and quality of traditional, face-to-face medicine provided in a clinical setting.
Mobile Wellness Apps
Personal well-being is essential to people’s lives today, and mobile apps can and do contribute significantly. Moreover, they have a broad target audience since people of any gender, age, occupation, or status want to care for themselves.
A wellness application can be focused on any goal from a long list of potential ones. From sleep and mood trackers, meditation, and yoga apps to meds intake and pregnancy trackers, there are so many areas self-care apps can cover.
Besides, personal well-being applications are simpler to develop in terms of the law. They are not required to comply with the regulations, which is a must for other medical-related software. That is because they are not connected to any medical facility system and do not involve consulting with doctors. Instead, users can collect, measure and work with data independently.
A Healthcare Apps Development Guide
So what does it take to develop a mHealth app? Of course, the apps differ in structure and complexity depending on the goal. However, there are some common practices in what features they offer and what steps the development process consists of.
While the set of healthcare app product features in your solution will change depending on its purpose and the target users, here are some common healthcare app features.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
EHRs contain information on the patient’s health and the provided service, hence beneficial for both the doctor and the patient.
The primary goal of EHR in a mobile app is for it to be easily accessible from various devices. This way, doctors can see the patient’s record and medical history and add new forms to the profile as they go through consultations or treatment.
With EHRs, there is no hassle with paper forms and lost records. Instead, everything is stored in one place and can be quickly retrieved when needed. But, of course, security and regulation compliance are hugely important when adding this feature to an app.
Tracking overall health or different metrics benefits both patients and doctors. Monitoring blood sugar, for example, can be of great help daily for patients with diabetes, while meds intake will be helpful for anyone who just wants to take vitamins daily.
Besides, regular logging is informative for the doctor if the patient is receiving treatment. Tracking the dynamics of the patient’s well-being allows for timely treatment in case the need for a change arises. Therefore, with the health tracking feature, it is easier to identify the impact of prescription and treatment success in the long run.
Scheduling and Reminders
Appointment scheduling is an essential feature in a mobile healthcare application, regardless of whether it is physical or virtual visits patients can schedule. That requires patients to access a doctor’s work calendar to see available slots they can book for their visit. Doctors, in turn, can manage their calendars accordingly in case appointments are added or canceled.
Reminders and notifications contribute to user experience significantly. It is convenient if the app notifies the patients or the doctor about an upcoming appointment.
Besides, in-app reminders can be helpful for patients in other aspects, like meds intake or measuring and logging various metrics to keep the patient consistent.
Real-time Chats and Calls
Accessing doctors online via a chat or call is a must in today’s mid-pandemic world. So what is the deal with telemedicine capabilities in your mHealth app?
Patient-doctor communication needs to be encrypted to ensure the shared data is secure. The option of file sharing is also desirable in the chat to share test results, X-ray images, etc.
Another beneficial addition to the online communication capabilities can be chatbots. For example, after the patient fills in symptoms, AI and ML algorithms can output recommended next steps. They include treatment options or consultation with a doctor. That can save doctors’ time on consultations while still providing help to patients.
Payment and Billing
In-app payment and billing features add convenience and safety to telemedicine and virtual healthcare service providers. However, receiving the service through the app and paying for it through an external online tool would be risky. Thus, to keep things secure and trustworthy, adding a payment gateway to the app is something worth working on.
Reporting and Analytics
Reporting and analytics are crucial to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. Based on the data the patient has tracked, a report generated in the app will display the dynamic of the patient’s condition. That allows for the doctor’s simple and fast glance at the patient’s well-being.
As for wellness apps, this healthcare app product feature is also definitive for user retention and engagement by enabling them to see their long-term progress. They can identify patterns and take action to improve their performance, such as by noticing what factors decrease the quality of their sleep.
Enabling healthcare app users to access valuable resources helps boost user engagement for apps designed for medical personnel and patients.
When it comes to service providers, training materials that are within several clicks can be highly beneficial to personnel onboarding. Or, care plan templates, guidelines, and protocols may greatly help medical specialists in their day-to-day work, especially for newbies in their medical careers.
Similarly, medical facilities may prepare educational materials and upload them to the app. Later, they can share them with patients for easy-to-grasp recommendations on treatment or well-being.
Wellness apps, in turn, can benefit from featuring helpful resources the most. Since users are figuring out things on their own when using self-care apps, providing them with access to in-app information, tips, and research findings that they may find useful can be engaging and valuable to them.
Cloud integration is an excellent healthcare app solution for patients’ information management and storage. Storing patients’ records in the cloud allows for security and simple access from anywhere in the world and on any device. Regardless of the type of mHealth app considered, keeping data in the cloud benefits its users.
The process of app development for the healthcare industry consists of 6 stages. Let’s discuss each step in detail.
The mHealth application development process starts with identifying a particular problem the application will solve for the user. An example of an issue the app will solve is mood tracking to find patterns and identify triggers so users can improve their mental well-being.
Then, it is time for market research to validate the idea. Is there a solution to the problem already? Will your app offer a better solution than those already existing on the market?
Basically, the goal of this stage is to determine what your idea is and whether it is viable and interoperable. Maybe the market research leads you to realize that you need to work more on the idea to increase its potential.
2. UI/UX Design
After the idea has been validated and established, it is time to start drafting the interface of the future app. The UI/UX design of the app must be intuitive and not confusing. That helps users feel comfortable using it and understand where to access each of the healthcare app product features at a glance. Screens, buttons, and the way everything looks need to be both visually appealing and functional.
Now that there is a UX/UI design for your application, the next stage is to start building a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is a simpler version of the mHealth app offering some primary healthcare app product features. At this stage, it is crucial to have an engineering team experienced in building mobile applications.
An essential stage of mHealth application development is testing the application before launching it. That means using the application from the user’s perspective to check whether it performs as desired. If any issues in the app’s performance come up, they can be fixed before the go-live. Therefore, people get a well-performing application after it launches.
The goal of launching an MVP is to test its success by gathering the audience’s feedback and watching how it performs. So after the app has been developed and passed the testing, it is launched.
Then, taking the users’ feedback into account, the MVP can be extended into a more complex mobile application featuring a richer functionality. From now on, the app can change as many times as needed to cover all the desired healthcare app product features, each time going through all the stages of the development process.
6. Support and Maintenance
After the mobile healthcare app has reached the end-user, the development process is still not over. The task is now to support the steady performance of the app. It means providing timely and regular updates to the app to be compatible with users’ devices and requirements.
Challenges in mHealth Apps Development
As mobile applications for healthcare are still on the rise, it is natural that some questions regarding their development are still lacking answers. With this in mind, here are some of the most critical challenges facing mHealth app development.
Compliance & Regulations
One of the biggest challenges in developing a mobile healthcare application involves making sure it follows compliances. For example, mHealth apps in the US must comply with the PHI and HIPAA regulations. Meanwhile, those in a European country need to meet the GDPR rules.
Regulations are necessary because they define what kind of user data can be collected, processed, and stored and the periods for data usage.
The reason why this may be a difficulty is that different countries have different regulations on this matter. So while it is not a problem to ensure compliance for an app targeted at the US market, the app aimed to work in different countries must comply with regulations in each country it is available, which may be demanding and time-consuming to achieve.
Data security is a severe concern in mHealth application development because doctors and patients access and share medical records through the app. That poses a privacy and security threat regarding patients’ health records in case of a data breach or other hazards, like when either user shares the records via an unsecured wireless network.
Some solutions may include data encryption, multi-factor authentication, and app usage session expiration.
Another concern related to personal information privacy and security in mHealth apps is related to in-app payment solutions. In case there is no strong security integrated system capable of protecting users’ payment information, users can suffer financial losses while app creators may face a lawsuit.
Lastly, improper data storage and no data backup are risky in case of data loss, which may seriously impact the health of patients and their treatment.
Interoperability is another challenge in app development for healthcare application services. Interoperability implies that data transmission between various devices, including smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and medical equipment, is seamless and functional.
Since all the gadgets and devices are based on different operating systems, the software must communicate well across each of them without distorting the data or posing any security concerns.
Trends in Healthcare App Development
The industry of healthcare application services is expanding and will keep doing so. So what are the narrow ways mHealth application development is going to take?
Here are some of the prospecting directions that are gaining popularity and need more solutions in the form of mobile applications:
- taking care of the elderly
- connection with medical equipment
- online waiting room
- psychological support
Besides, another trend happening in the area of mHealth applications is gamification. Whether it is for patients in the course of receiving treatment or wellness apps, turning the process into a game just makes it easier and more fun to go through.
In addition, gamification engages users, making them stay on the app longer or open it more often, which is a clear marketing opportunity.
Mobile healthcare apps solutions are growing in popularity because of the increasing use of technology and the actual value they bear. There are applications to improve the operating of medical facilities, boost healthcare providers’ effectiveness, and enhance patient service quality. Besides, self-care apps make up a large sector of the mHealth industry.
Some typical healthcare app product features are EHRs, health tracking, appointment scheduling, real-time communication, payments, etc. The process of mHealth application development consists of 6 stages and is prone to challenges associated with regulation compliance, data security, and interoperability.
Still, the industry will keep growing since areas still require solutions. So if you are looking for healthcare application services to start building your product, contact us, and we will discuss your idea together.