Healthcare App Vs. Medical App Development- Similarities, Differences and Best Practices

The healthcare app development has swiftly risen and became an integral part of the industry. It helps to simplify medical processes and improve patient/user experience.

With the mobile health market value touching $300 billion by 2025, medical practitioners are turning to healthcare applications for bettering care.

Healthcare apps can be broadly distinguished between health apps and medical apps, as each of these have a different set of target audience and provides distinguished services as per requirements and profession.

Let’s understand difference between the two in detail –

Healthcare App vs Medical App Development : What is the Difference

Not every healthcare app can be used used by both patients and care providers, some are made exclusively for medical providers, while others are created for just about anyone. Health apps offer services and support to everyone; and are targeted towards people seeking to improve or cultivate a healthy lifestyle.

Health apps aims at providing prescriptions and medical information based on health conditions, also it development expenses are less as compared to medical apps.

Health apps can be made HIPAA complaint provided that there are certain features (prescription tracking, medical history, or wearable integrations) and patient health information being stored at the backend.

On the other hand, medical apps target only healthcare providers, and it focuses on diagnosis of patients. Medical apps comply to rules and regulations of HIPAA and HITECH, and offers access to ePHI and EHR data.

Types of Medical Apps

1. Telemedicine

Healthcare providers who use telemedicine bear fewer overhead expenses such as front desk support. By developing a custom telemedicine app, providers can reach out to more patients, thus boosting their income as well.

Remote care through telemedicine minimizes exposure to pathogens that a patient may carry, and maintains infection control. Patients are satisfied with the healthcare provider, as they no longer have to travel to clinics for a checkup or wait for care.

Telemedicine helps to decrease readmission to hospitals by providing care for chronic diseases remotely, thus saving hospital expenses. Furthermore, cost savings is one of the biggest advantages of telemedicine for patients and providers alike.

Telemedicine integrated solutions such as telepsychology, teledentistry, or teletriage has opened up lucrative opportunities for healthcare providers to expand care facilities beyond just general checkups.

2. Chronic Disease Management

Chronic diseases are well managed through medial apps by integrating functions such as symptom tracking, reminders for supplement and medication, and nutrition intake.

Reminders help to adhere to plans efficiently – be it physical therapy or medication, healthcare providers are able to monitor results and suggest further chronic care as per analysis. Medical records or healthcare reports guide providers during routine examinations.

Alert feature in a medical app for chronic diseases sends notifications to doctors when health deteriorates or there’s a slight fluctuation in vitals (heart rate or SPO2), this helps to manage chronic illness symptoms and conditions effectively.

3. Remote Patient Monitoring

As per the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), shortage of 55,000 primary care practitioners is estimated by 2033.

Owing to the overall population growth and rise in chronic diseases in the country, remote patient monitoring (RPM), presents a smart solution for maintaining the quality of care and expanding access to healthcare facilities.

For patients with long-term diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, mental illness, asthma, and more, RPM integrated medical apps is a plausible solution, as healthcare providers can also keep track of these diseases.

RMP use devices such as weight scales, blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, pulse oximeters, and heart monitors for tracking vitals in long-term diseases.

Hospital-at-home programs make use of RPMs to provide wide array of services such as nursing, pharmacy, and oxygen therapies for patients who are immobile or have mental illness.

Tracking patient recovery post discharge is another beneficial factor of integrating RPM in medical apps for healthcare providers.

4. Patient Engagement

Patient engagement encompasses interaction between doctors and patients for managing health, diagnosis, and preventive care measures. Medical apps for patient engagement help patients to connect with healthcare providers through video conferencing and messaging.

Features such as alarms and reminders are helpful for medication intake and appointment schedule reminders. Patient engagement apps educates patients about their conditions and forges better relations with the healthcare provider.

With better understanding of a disease, patients get a complete picture of their health, and accept treatment plans, diet, and health goals as provided by the provider.

Furthermore, they begin to take responsibility of their health and the trust between a healthcare provider and patient surges as well. Patient engagement improves outcomes as they are educated and are consistently engaged in their own health.

Types of Health Apps

1. Fitness Apps

According to a report by Statista, in 2019, around 68.7 million smartphone users in the USA used at least one fitness app, and in 2022, this number is estimated to surge till 86.3 million users in the country.

Popularity of these apps is due to personal coaching on daily workouts offered by health coaches. These apps are an excellent source to keep oneself healthy, plus it keeps up the motivation by sending alerts and reminders about health goals.

Individuals can get help through free fitness tips and tricks for planning out a suitable exercise routine. Users can record and monitor their blood glucose levels and blood pressure, along with checking progress each day.

2. Nutrition and Meditation Apps

As per a research report, nutrition apps help to set clear goals, have a wide food base, and allow personalization, thus encouraging people to use them.

Conversely, another research report states that, diet-tracking or nutrition apps aren’t transparent about costs and may not offer satisfactory customer support.

Furthermore, meditation, a part of wellness, is considered to work with the goal of mindfulness in mind. These apps cannot replace meditation courses or offline therapies as if the mind is on the phone then its already distracted, hence going away from house to meditate offers additional benefits. Although, beginners can make use of these apps for relieving stress, to improve focus, and to relax after a day’s work.

Healthcare App vs Medical App Development : Best Practices

Both healthcare app development and medical app development need to follow the industry best practices to ensure that they offer a memorable user experience and are able to engage its users.

Furthermore, security and compliance to regulatory requirements is a must whether you are opting for healthcare app development or medical app development.

Experienced healthcare mobile app developers such as Arkenea that are well versed in the compliance requirements, can help you navigating the regulatory landscape and ensuring that the app developed follows the app development best practices.

Here are some best practices that you need to follow whether you are developing a healthcare mobile app or a medical app.

1. Platform Agnostic

Platform agnostic refers to design philosophies and attributes of software; a platform agnostic product runs equally across all platforms. In case of healthcare apps, they are required to function smoothly on computers, smartphones, and tablets.

Integrations such as patient engagement and remote patient monitoring, or for booking appointments, these have both side – patient and doctor.

For instance, if a patient schedules an appointment through a medical app and later on reschedules it, this change is reflected to the medical staff using the same app irrespective of the type of device being used – computer, tablet, or phone.

A healthcare application that coordinates activities seamlessly between stakeholders is much more compatible on multiple platforms.

2. Interoperability

Interoperability is one of the biggest challenges faced by the healthcare organizations, especially healthcare IT providers who offer large health networks, for them inconsistent data across the network is a major issue.

Data is often place at numerous places, and the healthcare sector spend hors searching for it. A solution for this issue is to adopt a unified interface and network, so when the ground work of EHR is done, sharing information is much easier.

Furthermore, varying interoperability standards is another challenge, hence facilitating standardization between care can help to tackle this challenge. By developing a unique patient identifier is a way to assure hospitals can transfer or exchange medical data and ePHI efficiently.

Mismatched EHRs of patients can result in errors in patient care and cause harm to them. From an interoperability viewpoint, averting errors and matching EHR patient data accurately is a key element in developing a robust healthcare IT infrastructure.

Furthermore, interoperability challenge can be overcome by coordinating with the stakeholders to create consistent policies across the healthcare industry.

3. Compliance

Compliance makes it easier for patients to trust a healthcare app as adequate measures are taken to keep ePHI (Protected Health Information) protected and secure.

Data breaches results in loss of trust in a healthcare app and reputational damage as well, therefore with HIPAA compliance a robust data protection strategy is in place to tackle such situations. HIPAA compliance is thus a critical feature to include when developing a healthcare mobile app.

A compliant app isn’t subjected to punitive action when data breach occurs, thus risk of business and reputational damage is lower as compared to a non-compliant healthcare apps.

Furthermore, the HITECH Act assures that business associates and healthcare organizations comply with the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules.

While developing a HIPAA compliant healthcare app, ensure that the development team is aware of it rules, and has a proven track record of providing solutions that meet HIPAA compliance requirements.

4. Feedback From Patients

To have a clear picture of patients’ expectations, healthcare providers can seek feedback from patients. Learning about what patients like or dislike in a healthcare facility or during scheduling appointments, helps to improve patient satisfaction and keeps them engaged as well.

Positive feedback helps to boost online reputation of a care facility, as a majority of the people trust online reviews while approaching for medical checkups. By understanding how care impacts a patients’ perception about care quality is crucial for building a reputation and a brand in the market.

Furthermore, patient feedback opens up opportunities for improvements and bettering care facilities all the time, also negative feedback is helpful for addressing concerns such as privacy and security of healthcare data.

Steps Involved in Healthcare App Vs. Medical App Development

1. Define Target Audience

Understanding target audience helps to attract potential users of an application. For medical apps, target audience are all healthcare professionals (general physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmaceuticals, laboratory staff, etc.).

Whereas, for health apps, the target audience are those who workout, yoga instructors, health and wellness coaches, dietitians and nutritionists, athletes, etc.

By defining  a target audience, healthcare organizations, clinicians, or companies set a clear roadmap for a marketing strategy and move forward with a definite mindset.

Resources and time are maximized to create the right kind of content for people, so they remain loyal to a healthcare facility and app. Furthermore, this is an effective way to find potential customers from a separate audience base as well.

2. Budget Planning

The cost of developing a medical app is affected by the choice of platform -Android or iOS based, which depends on the target audience; the cost of developing medical apps for Android is higher than iOS platform.

The size of a medical application is determined by the features and functionalities integrated in it, the more the features and time required to develop a medical app, the more the expenses.

Design is another aspect that affects costing of a medical application; for providing an exceptional user interface, engagement, and user experience, designing is considered to be at the center of the development process.

Medical apps need a customized approach, hence the cost of developing a customized medical application is higher than the general one.

Apart from this, type of development team affects expenses for both health apps and medical apps.

An in-house team is considered to be expensive as compared to outsourced team, however in case of former team there’s control over the app development project, which lacks in the latter one.

As per a data, on an average it costs $425,000 to develop a healthcare application when developing with an in-house team, whereas a health app costs range from $50,000 – $150,000.

3. Choosing Platforms

Selecting a platform for medical and health application, will pave way for the type of app to be developed – EHR apps, patient management, health app for women, or remote patient monitoring. Choice of platforms include Android or iOS.

Consider selecting a platform that allows for seamless updates and modifies the application without any glitches. Both iOS and Android platforms are suitable for medical and health apps, however it’s the cost that makes a difference. As per a report posted on PRNewswire, it’s less expensive to develop on Android platform as compared to iOS.

4. UX/UI Designing

UX/UI designing is different for medical apps and health apps. For medical apps, the aim is to design it in such a way that its accessible for every potential user – patients. This is done by considering all health limits that a patient has (poor eyesight or no eyesight, color blindness, or hearing impairment) and try to overcome these limits in the designing process.

By selecting colors that doesn’t impact color blindness defect or by selecting fonts that are visible to those with poor eye sight is essential in medical app development.

Type of colors chosen for developing a medical app are cool colors as they provide a soothing effect to the eyes and don’t pull much attention or are irritating.

Colors such as blue, white, or green work best for medical apps, however for health apps these colors may beg to differ. For instance, apps such as Strava, Down Dog, or Meditation use colors as per message, product, and services sold to people.

5. APIs, Integrations, and Features

Healthcare APIs are essential as they securely combine functionality, data, and services quickly. APIs in the healthcare sector make it simple for providers and patients to share and acquire information. Internal APIs help to increase interoperability, analytics of applications and services, and efficiency within healthcare organizations.

Medical apps include features such as symptom trackers, appointment booking, access to medical records, health education, prescription, and more. These features are integrated according to patient and doctor needs to provide care facilities.

On the other hand, features encompassed in health apps are diet and nutrition, workout regime, training, push notifications, social sharing, exercise tutorials and more. These features depend on target audience and usage, for example fitness coaches, wellness trainers, athletes, or workout freaks.

Medical apps include essential integrations such as EHR/EMR, video conferencing, remote patient monitoring, or wearables. Integrations help to provide better patient experience and ameliorate care facilities, along with offering privacy and security to ePHI.

6. Testing

Ensure that both medical apps and health apps are tested before launch or usage as this helps to remove and eliminate errors during the development process.

While testing, for medical apps, HIPAA compliance is confirmed, as failure to which can lead to legal consequences. HIPAA compliance isn’t mandatory for health apps because compliance is validated for cases where patient information is stored at the backend.

7. Launch and Maintenance

Once all issues are debugged, both medical and health apps are ready to launch in the market. Post development stage, maintenance and support is essential to keep the app running.

Consider periodical updates and customer support after deployment of both medical and health apps.

So, this was all for medical and health app development. To know more about healthcare app development and if you’re looking to develop a healthcare software and application get in touch with Arkenea – experts in the field of healthcare software development.