Healthcare Mobile App Development 101: Everything You Need To Know

As a custom healthcare mobile app development company, we have been developing healthcare apps for over 10 years. This article will provide you with deep insights from our experience and industry experts to get your journey started in healthcare mobile application development.

According to a recent survey, 56 percent of US physicians said that they have discussed an app or a digital program with a patient related to their diagnosis or treatment in the past year. 

While the benefits mobile applications offer in improving patient outcomes and promoting interoperability are multifold, developing an application for the healthcare industry also involves major attention to detail in areas like data privacy and security, making healthcare mobile app development a bit different than conventional app development. 

If you’re looking into taking a deep dive into developing medical or healthcare mobile applications, here are some of the popular healthcare mobile app categories that you can pick from.

  1. Types of healthcare mobile applications
  2. Step by step guide for healthcare application development

Types of Healthcare Mobile Applications

1. Clinical and Provider Focused Healthcare apps

These applications can range from medical referencing guides to provider apps for streamlining the clinical workflow with EHR integration capabilities.

2. Telemedicine apps

Mobile applications for scheduling and availing virtual consultations with healthcare providers in audio/video conferencing and text messages.

3. Remote monitoring apps

Healthcare applications that integrate with medical devices allowing collection and analysis of healthcare data and patient vitals such as blood glucose levels, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, oxygen-saturation levels etc. for ensuring healthcare delivery in a remote setting.

4. Lifestyle healthcare applications

These include diet, nutrition, exercise, and fitness focused apps. It also includes menstruation, pregnancy and baby development related applications. Apps that track sleep or help practice mindfulness also fall under lifestyle applications.

5. Healthcare reminder applications

Mobile applications that remind patients about their medication schedule and prescription refills due are reminder apps. Many private practitioners and hospitals have reminder apps to inform patients about their upcoming appointments.

6. Medical resources and information apps

Apps for searching for information about diseases, their symptoms and possible diagnosis. These can also include medication information applications and provider information apps to connect with the right specialist.

Arkenea has over 11 years of experience in developing healthcare applications. Get in touch with us today for a free consultation and quote.

Step by step guide for healthcare mobile application development

The competition in the mobile app market is extremely fierce. Standing out from the crowd, reaching the target audience and receiving downloads while managing to engage and retain the users is no small feat in these ultra-competitive times.

Starting out right is extremely vital as a task well begun is truly half done.

Here is a 10 step process that healthcare entrepreneurs looking to enter the healthcare mobile app development space need to follow through to maximize the chances of success. 

1. Brainstorm and validate the healthcare app idea

The key to turning your app idea into reality and developing a successful healthcare application lies in knowing what problem you want your app to solve for its users.

Focusing on the purpose rather than the product leads to development of an application that your audience actually needs rather than an app that you think your users want. 

The actual use cases and the target audience that you are developing the app for fall across a very wide range. As a result of this, there is a whole list of healthcare app features that you may feel are a good fit for your app and need to be incorporated.

However, having a clear vision of the problem you want your app to solve gives you a much necessary focus and prevents you from biting off more than you can chew. 

Make sure you conduct a thorough analysis to make sure that you aren’t wasting your time and resources developing an app similar to one that already exists out in the market.

If your app functions along the same lines as an existing app, make sure you have something that sets you apart from the competition and raises the bar a little higher. 

Define the problem, elucidate how your app will help you solve it and more importantly, who it is solving it for. Having the target audience clearly outlined also helps you focus on the specifics you may otherwise have missed out on.

For example, if you are developing a mobile app for the inpatients at a hospital, you are more likely to focus on ensuring interoperability with the existing hospital management system rather than when developing an app for a more generic user base. 

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2. Conduct a competitive analysis

Market analysis is a crucial step in healthcare mobile application development journey. It not only gives you an insight into the target markets needs, it also helps you determine what solutions already exist.

Once it is clear what problem your app has to solve, start researching on all existing complementary and competing mobile apps in the market. What features do they offer. What are their strengths and weaknesses.

The competitor app’s weaknesses have to be converted into areas of opportunities for you while their strengths lay down the minimum benchmark levels that you would need to succeed in the market. It is impossible to build a superior healthcare mobile app unless you closely analyze what your competitor apps are doing in the first place.

High competition in the healthcare app niche that you are targeting may make the market more competitive for you to penetrate. However, it also means that there is a demand for an app like yours and is an area of opportunity.

Conducting competitor research will also allow you to shortlist on the features that you would need to include within your healthcare mobile app. The end result of competitive analysis should be a list of features and functionalities that will make your application better than any alternative available in the market.

3. Decide on the platform of app development

Once you have shortlisted the problem and the audience your app is going to solve it for, the next step forward is determining the platform you want to focus on when developing your application. 

Android, iOS or both at the same time? Assuming we’re talking about a mobile application. However, there’s a huge market and primarily led by web applications as well – the industry of healthcare SaaS software. The fundamentals however remain the same, which are covered in this entire article, whether you’re developing a web-based SaaS software or a mobile application.

The answer to this dilemma lies in introspecting on your requirements and the resources you have available at your disposal.

Native Android and iOS apps offer an enhanced user experience but they also require double the time and resources to individually develop an app for both Apple and Android devices. 

Based on your target audience’s preferences, you can prioritize one platform first. Conversely, if your audience is spread across a range of devices, both iOS and Android, go for cross-platform development.

It is cheaper to develop than native apps with the ability to work across multiple platforms. 

Cross-platform frameworks like Flutter and React Native enable faster development of apps across multiple platforms powered by a single shared codebase which can be deployed simultaneously across both the platforms. 

4. Determine the approach: going all-in or building incrementally

When developing a mobile application, it is natural to aim for something that is all-encompassing and has the perfect set of features but taking an MVP-first approach is likely to contribute more to the app’s success. 

A minimum viable product (MVP) is the most basic version of your app which has all the core, must-have features and is devoid of all fancy bells and whistles in the form of nice-to-have features which are added on a later date in future iterations of the app.

A number of successful apps of today like Uber, Facebook, Airbnb and Instagram started out as MVPs so following the MVP-first methodology definitely lands you in good company.

It accelerates your time to market, gives you a chance to validate your app idea and incorporates user feedback in the future version of your app bringing you closer to achieving a product-market fit. 

Start with building the simplest version of your healthcare app and align it with your future, feature-packed vision by building incrementally.

5. Design and develop the healthcare app for a superlative user experience

Whether you are developing an app aimed at the healthcare professionals or are targeting patients as the end-users, the user experience that your app provides has the chance to make it or break it. Start by designing a prototype for your app. 

Prototyping doesn’t have to feel like rocket science. It can be as simple as drawing the design flow on a piece of paper or a whiteboard. Conversely, you can choose from a range of prototyping tools available to design your digital app prototype.

And if even that doesn’t sound like an appealing plan, hiring an app development company that provides prototyping services can help translate your app ideas into functioning clickable prototypes that let you validate your app by collecting real-time user feedback. 

Pay extra attention to the UI/UX design of your application. The design of your app has a huge impact on its overall usability and user engagement.

An app that provides a sub-par user experience would likely end up being uninstalled at some point in time. The healthcare app doesn’t just need to function well, it needs to look good as well. 

Taking an iterative approach to development and building incrementally in distinct modules lets the developer make changes to the app without affecting its overall functioning.

Ensuring integration with third-party APIs and frameworks that already exist out there helps development proceed at a faster rate as it eliminates the need for the team to reinvent the wheel. 

App integrations with EMRs and EHRs are crucial to promoting healthcare interoperability.

With the recent strides into the internet of medical things (IoMT), connecting with healthcare and fitness wearables and making use of the data being collected to promote healthcare outcomes is also something you would need to look into.

Modern healthcare apps can make use of Artificial Intelligence algorithms in order to leverage the data collected to obtain insightful and actionable inferences. 

6. Pay adequate attention to testing

The quality requirements for healthcare applications are quite stringent and the testing phase of the application should leave no room for error at all.

The bar for quality, safety, security and accuracy in medical applications is raised quite high so your app needs to pass through highest quality assurance standards before getting published at the app store. 

Whether you choose manual testing or automated testing, here are the quality assurance aspects that the software testers need to keep in mind before releasing the healthcare application to the market. 

  1. Data security- Healthcare data is a primary target for the hackers so all areas of vulnerability need to be identified and eliminated in the testing phase itself. Encryption of healthcare data through a transport layer security helps in data validation in the healthcare app. 
  2. Data privacy and confidentiality- Strict authorization and access control measures have to be set up within the healthcare application to ensure that the data is only received by its intended recipients. 
  3. Usability- There can be absolutely no room for error in case of usability in a healthcare application as usability problems can translate into clinical issues impacting the overall health outcomes. Even small usability problems encountered in the app can add up resulting in an unfavorable user experience. 
  4. Performance- The healthcare applications may need to give ready access of patient data when required so performance testing becomes very important when developing healthcare apps. Your app needs to be testing against high load and performance benchmarks.  

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7. Do not overlook the data security

mHealth applications that collect any kind of personally-identifying information need to meet the regulatory compliances like HIPAA.

The health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA) applies to both the covered entities and their business associates.

The repercussions of non-compliance are hefty fines so following through the HIPAA checklist is something all healthcare app developers need to be mindful about. 

Working with a specialized healthcare software development company such as Arkenea, which has a wide range of experience in healthcare app development and is well-versed with the compliance and security challenges involved pays off better in the long run. 

A software development firm that specializes in healthcare can go over and beyond their requirements and give you valuable insights drawn from their previous experiences.

Based on their previous knowledge they can help you right from conceptualization phase to the app launch, thus becoming important stakeholders in your success. 

8. Have an app monetization plan in place

Money matters and an app monetization plan is something that you need to be planning proactively about rather than including it as an afterthought.

A number of health-tech entrepreneurs have questions about the cost of healthcare app development when they are starting out. However, while planning for the initial costs is important, it is equally important to have a money-making strategy to not only recover that investment but also turn your healthcare mobile app profitable in the long run.

With so many free app options available, having a paid app will only limit your reach and downloads on the app store. However, if you feel that paid apps is the method that you want to pursue, offering a free trial to the users before they sign up for your app is a good strategy.

Subscriptions, on the other hand, are one of the most common and successful app monetization methods in case of healthcare mobile apps.

Whether you are planning to launch a freemium app. offer subscriptions, in-app purchases or rely on advertising as your revenue source, a plan of action from the initial stage is crucial for success.

9. Maintenance and support

The app development journey does not culminate at the launch of the app but rather extends beyond that. Maintenance, support and scalability are important factors that you need to keep in mind and plan for when developing a healthcare mobile application. 

In order to succeed in the competitive healthcare market, collecting customer feedback and incorporating it in the future iterations of your app is crucial.

The long-term ramifications of development dictate development of a rewarding partnership with an experienced healthcare app development company rather than relying on one-time stakeholders for development and maintenance of your application. 

The Cost of Developing a Healthcare Application

How much would it cost to develop a healthcare mobile application?

This question remains on the forefront of all healthcare entrepreneurs looking to develop an app in the healthcare niche. The answer to the question remains subjective. Healthcare application development costs depends on numerous factors such as the type of features and functionalities you choose to include within your app, the design complexity of your app, the platform of development that you select, the location of the mobile app developers that you choose to partner with and the hourly development rates in the region.

According to a survey by mobihealthnews, the average cost of developing a healthcare mobile app comes around $425,000 in the US. High-end apps which have more complex features would likely cost more while the simpler apps which have only basic functionalities would be cheaper to develop.

Here are the features that impact the healthcare application development costs.

  • App design
  • Feature complexity
  • Development platform targeted (iOS/Android/cross-platform)
  • Expertise and size of development team
  • Development time frame

A Health App’s Must Have Features

The features to include in your healthcare app will depend on the type of app that you choose to develop. However, the here are a list of features that can add to the overall user experience of the users of the medical app that you develop.

1. Login and user registration

Login and user registration are the first steps that the users need to take after downloading the app so this feature needs to make the process as seamless as possible. The less number of steps required, the better will be the user experience. Social signups can also be facilitated so that the user does not have to fill in their details in long, elaborate steps. However, the data collection policy with 3rd party integrations needs to be clarified to avoid any concerns regarding data collection.

2. Appointment scheduling features

The healthcare mobile app you develop can be utilized to streamline appointment scheduling for your healthcare organization. In addition to choosing their preferred medical practitioner, the appointment booking feature should make it possible to select their preferred date and time for appointments. Once the appointment is booked, the same can be confirmed through the admin panel and message can be sent out to the patients for the same.

3. Profile look up

The healthcare mobile app that you develop needs to make it easy for the users to select their preferred practitioners. A Smart filter that enables users to search and filter the doctors based on their area of specialization, years of experience, reviews, ratings, educational qualifications, location, etc is a much needed value-add.

4. Reminders and push notifications

The healthcare app can have reminders sent out for upcoming appointments, prescription refills required and medication reminders. Push notifications is a feature that really works well for mobile devices. The doctors can send out the prescriptions through the ePrescription feature and patients would get automated reminders for the medications, ensuring better patient compliance and enhanced outcomes.

5. Software Integrations

Integration with other medical software such as EHR software can bring in an aspect of interoperability to your healthcare workflows. Additionally, cloud integration of data can make the app accessible by patients while on-the-go. The patients can view the previous history, medical reports and other healthcare data through secure and authorized in-app access. Storing data on the cloud also ensures that cross device accessibility remains possible. In case the users change their phones, the data is not lost.

6. HIPAA secure database

If you choose to integrate health and fitness wearables and remote patient monitoring devices with your healthcare app, a HIPAA secure database can collate all the patient data securely, which can then be accessed when through the app dashboard. Since healthcare data is sensitive in nature and needs to be compliant with the guidelines outlined under HIPAA security and privacy rules, secure data integration is a must-have feature for healthcare app development.

7. In-can app messaging

In addition to real-time video and audio consultations, in-app messaging feature is a great value add for situations which do not require an audio/video consultation. The doctors can respond to the patient messages in their own time, which further enhances resource utilization. You can also choose to integrate advanced technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to leverage AI-chatbots which can help patients resolve their routine queries while the more urgent and complicated cases can be referred to the doctors.

Would Your Health App Require FDA Approval

FDA applies a risk-based approach for determining which applications require an approval. The ones those pose minimal risk do not require an approval while the ones that pose serious risk need an approval from FDA. If an app is used to automate processes, help in self management of diseases or complete a non-medical task, an approval from the FDA is not needed.

While determining whether your app requires an FDA approval or not may seem tricky, FDA has a listed out the examples of device software functions that it regulates on its website. General medical mobile apps aimed at streamlining the practice workflows will not require approval. However, if the healthcare app that you are developing is intended to function as a medical device. You would require approval from FDA.

Our Experience in Developing Healthcare Apps

With over a decade of experience, Arkenea consistently ranks among the top healthcare software development companies.

From developing telemedicine platforms and cloud-based EHRs to surgical workflow programs and doctor engagement applications, our team of experts has helped healthcare companies achieve success at the app stores while raising millions in venture capital.

We’re also ranked among the top custom healthcare software development companies by DesignRush.

Get in touch with us today for a free project estimate.