Healthcare Mobile App Development: Types, Trends, & Features
Are you interested in developing an application for healthcare? Or, do you want to resolve some issues in the industry through innovation?
Your intentions are correct and this is definitely the right time for healthcare mobile app development.
The size of the digital healthcare market was estimated to be 106 billion USD in 2019. The market estimation is projected to increase to 640 billion USD by 2026 at 28.5% CAGR, as stated by Statista.
The market is projected to increase to 640 billion USD by 2026.
The need for healthcare automation and digitalization is a vivid fact. In 2019, the COVID-19 outbreak has shown us all that the global healthcare system needs to make serious adjustments in order to adapt to new realities.
This article is a subtle guide on healthcare application development and lists information to help you make the right decisions, namely:
- MLSDev’s experience in mobile app development in healthcare
- detailed cost estimation of healthcare applications
- step-by-step process to start with digital healthcare services
- key types of healthcare mobile apps
- services that come into app development services
- trends to look out for on the mHealth app market
- security and privacy matters for healthcare application development
- healthcare app design aspects
- risks and vulnerabilities that should be considered
- APIs, integrations, and communication technologies for healthcare apps
- how healthcare apps can benefits patients, doctors, and healthcare institutions
Let’s get down to business! Once you’ve read this article, you’ll know where to start and in which direction to move!
MLSDev Expertise in Healthcare Mobile App Development
Let’s get started! Once you’ve read this article, you’ll have a complete course of actions to follow!
Healthcare mobile app development is the process of applying digital technologies to build an application for mobile devices with the goal of helping patients manage health conditions, hospital vitals, fitness goals, find doctors, etc.
mHealth (refers to mobile health) is a common term used for applying mobile technologies and devices (smartphones, wearables, tablets) for healthcare purposes. Healthcare apps help improve medical and public health practices, as well as provide greater patient care through online consultations, service payments, access to patients’ history, and so on.
Our team has experience in delivering complex healthcare projects - from a project’s planning stage to successful development and release. Among the projects that we helped our clients build and deliver to the market is the Idana project, where we had great cooperation with Tomes GmbH.
Idana helps to perform anamnesis on a patient before their actual visit. Due to the project's specifics, our team offered to develop a progressive web app that was compliant with the IEC 62304 standard used for medical device software.
Want to read a detailed story of Idana creation and check client’s testimonials?
Check out the updated case study showing the whole history of the Idana project - from the initial request to the implementation of our client’s idea, with all the steps covered.
Another MLSDev service for healthcare mobile app development is the Doctorate project. This is a doctor recommendation platform developed for Saudi Arabia. The app helps users choose and book a physician based on ratings and reviews from other users.
Our team has extensive experience working on healthcare solutions to provide better services to patients, medical personnel, and to help create an app for hospitals. On the MLSDev website, you can check out extra expertise and healthcare solutions provided by healthcare app developers.
If you want to learn the specifics of healthcare app development in finer detail, continue reading this article.
Alternatively, you can get in touch with us so that we can explain everything personally.
Do you need to develop a healthcare app?
Contact us for the initial, free consultation and we will elaborate on your healthcare app project from both business and technical perspectives. We can advise you on the best way to develop your project, as well as provide a budget and timeline.
Features for Healthcare Application Development
Healthcare mobile app development fully depends on the features that will go into your solution. They impact UI and UX design services, app (client-side) development, back-end (server-side) development, quality assurance, and further maintenance. All these services depend on the specific healthcare app project concept and the solution it provides.
Let's now check out the most common features that you can include in healthcare application development.
- Profile creation
As with any other mobile applications, healthcare solutions usually have a user profile. After creating an account, patients can add their personal information (name, age, chronic diseases, insurance, etc). This type of account can also provide the ability to store their health data and include a personalized dashboard.
This feature is the most important within a healthcare mobile app. It allows for the monitoring of a patient's blood pressure, heart rate, calorie consumption, pulse, and glucose level. This feature is possible thanks to integration with wearable devices, such as heart rate monitoring trackers, glucose meters, and other solutions.
This function allows users to book a doctor visit or appointments with healthcare specialists easily. It is also possible to schedule a drug prescription, sleeping times, water consumption targets, etc. From a physician’s perspective, they are able to manage their time table efficiently and track how patients follow doctors’ prescriptions.
There is a growing trend toward mobile payment integration. Payment features allow users to pay for healthcare services or insurance. Payments may also be made for regular bills for doctor visits, emergency rooms, hospital admissions, etc. Online payment with a few clicks offers great user satisfaction.
- File storage
The EHR system is an integral part of any application for healthcare. These systems allow doctors to store patient files and other information.
As a part of healthcare application development, you can include the development of file storage and management systems for patients. Thus, they will be able to store their medical information inside your solution, including the results of any analyses, x-rays, reports, and other files.
This feature is also very beneficial for doctors since patients can upload their data and get recommendations remotely.
This is another feature that you need to consider for your project. The availability of this feature can help patients find a doctor’s help in a nearby location.
- Real-time chat
The ability to chat with a doctor inside an app will make services faster and will help build trustworthy relations between patients and healthcare service providers.
You can take the communication part of your application further by adding a video conferencing feature to the healthcare application development process. Telemedicine application development is a popular practice today since not all patients have the ability to visit doctors in person.
With video-conferencing, patients can have an in-hospital experience and visit the doctor’s office without leaving their homes.
- Social integration
Social media sign-in is an attractive feature to involve, yet when integrating it into a healthcare app, you should pay extra attention to data security.
For those clients who opt into social media sign-in, include multiple options like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.
- Ratings and reviews
For apps that give access to information about healthcare personnel, this feature will be beneficial. Firstly, any patient will be able to share their experience with a doctor and help other patients make decisions. Secondly, this will boost the engagement of personnel in building loyal relations with customers.
Alternative app features that can be included in a healthcare product are as follows:
- Photo gallery
- Notifications (push notifications)
Depending on the purpose of healthcare mobile app development, healthcare products may include the following functionalities:
How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Healthcare App?
After you identify all the features that you want to include in your healthcare application development, you might wonder how much it costs to develop a healthcare app.
The price to build an MDP (minimum delight product) for a healthcare application starts at $60,000 per single platform (iOS or Android or Web). The final price can reach $500,000 or even go far beyond.
The cost of healthcare application development depends on a number of factors:
- Pre-development, during which you need to analyze the competition, market stage, identify features for implementation, etc.
- Number of platforms that you are going to target (iOS, Android, or both)
- Use of some specific technology and innovations such as Machine Learning, AI, etc.
- Complexity of app design, including customizations, branding, animations, etc.
- Software development vendor you choose to work with
Take a look at the table below demonstrating services that come into app development at each stage of the process.
|Basic version (minimum feature set, 1 platform)||Full product (more features and design of a larger complexity, 1 platform)||Large app (complex app design, development, and support, 2+ platforms)|
|Time||~3-6 months||~4-9 months||9+ months (ongoing)|
Please note that the above cost of healthcare application development is estimated based on an average hourly rate of $40 for software development services in Ukraine.
By outsourcing healthcare application development to Ukraine, you get access to a wider pool of highly professional developers and a much lower development cost as compared to services provided by companies from other countries like the USA.
BA, QA, & PM Services in Healthcare Mobile App Development
Customized healthcare mobile app development companies provide an all-in-one solution.
Aside from the technical skills to code the healthcare application, many additional services are required to launch the final product. Among these are Business Analysis, Quality Assurance, and Project Management.
Business Analysis is necessary to collect and analyze market information and the target audience, then finalize the app concept, and match the business requirements with the technical characteristics.
The deliverables from the Business Analysis service include:
- Market analysis (on demand)
- Competitor analysis (on demand)
- Prepare concept mind map
- Functional specification document
- Product backlog
Quality Assurance is also of great importance in healthcare mobile app development to check functionality, performance, and security.
At MLSDev, the following QA tests are executed:
- Functional testing
- Security and Access Control testing
- Performance and Load testing
- Usability testing
- Many others
Project Management is another service provided during healthcare mobile app development. The PM plans the work for the project, communicates information among all the parties, arranges team talks, illuminates the potential risks, and keeps track of the deadlines.
Continue reading the article to find what steps you need to undergo to create a health app as well as policies and requirements to follow.
7-Step Process of Healthcare App Creation
Healthcare app development consists of 7 steps - starting with the identification of a problem in healthcare, moving on to market research and analysis, and resulting in successful healthcare application development.
Step 1: Identify a Problem in Healthcare
There are hundreds of healthcare apps already on the market. Do you think that all of them are unique?
Of course not.
In most cases, apps duplicate one another and thus bring no value to end-users. It is believed that this is due to ignorance of market information and a lack of research into competitive products.
Check out the diagram below to better understand why it is so important to understand your competitors. Then, you can create your own successful healthcare app business model.
The key idea behind successful healthcare mobile app development is its practical use.
Define what issues doctors, nurses, patients, and your target audience are experiencing and in what way your mobile healthcare app can solve this problem. Your digital solutions should add real value, not just replicate some patient portal by being mobile-optimized.
For that, answer the following questions:
- What problem do you want to solve with your app?
- Who is your competition?
- Are there successful solutions similar to your app?
- How do they attract customers?
- What is their USP (unique selling proposition)?
A general recommendation is to start with a simpler version of a potentially complex healthcare app development project. The cost to build a healthcare app could be very high, especially if you want to resolve a greater problem and build apps on multiple platforms for multiple users.
The graphs above show the projected therapy fields, where the top 3 issues experienced by the majority are diabetes, obesity, and depression. It might be a good idea to start healthcare app development with a solution that will address one of the problems.
Don’t try to offer a solution that will cater to the needs of different audiences, as this will significantly increase the custom software development cost.
Step 2: Get to Know your TA for a Healthcare App
As a reference, 75% of US hospitals attempted to offer a healthcare mobile app without conducting a preliminary analysis of target users. In reality, only 2% of all the patients used the service.
Patient engagement and surveys are great ways to define needs and make a list of future healthcare app ideas. It is better to brainstorm what you can bring to the table and then start working on and testing these concepts simultaneously.
Another important element is to analyze the market and environment where your healthcare app project will be kicked off. The most important aspect is meeting all the mobile healthcare regulations in whichever country you are targeting. The most favorable countries to offer digital health solutions are the USA, the UK, and Germany.
To summarize things, for successful healthcare app development it is crucial to know your TA and what is expected from the product. Then, it is easier to align your healthcare app functionality with consumer wants and needs.
Are you interested in conducting market research and analyzing the target audience?
Our team can help you with the market analysis and finalization of your healthcare app idea. Feel free to book a one-hour consultation with our Business Analyst.
Step 3: Think of a Design for the Healthcare App Project
Design is an important part of healthcare application development and should be created depending on the app type and target audience.
There are three main aspects that you should consider during healthcare app design:
The application should be easy to navigate without confusing users with features that are too complicated. To really nail this part of app design, identify the age group of your healthcare solution’s audience and understand their usage patterns. Some design polls work great for planning the design style and navigation for your target customers.
Before moving on to the design of your application, you need to decide which platform you are going to target. iOS and Android are operating systems with a comparatively even user base. Either way, there are devices in each category with different screen sizes. Your application needs to adhere to the requirements of the platform you choose and be responsive on all screens.
This is probably the hardest part of designing an app for healthcare purposes. You need to understand that different types of users might be using your app in the future, some of them might have disabilities and this will surely impact how they might interact with your app.
In general, older audiences prefer larger fonts and simple navigation. In contrast, youngsters prefer a more colorful interface. As well, it is clear that a mobile health app for consumers is going to be completely different from those used by healthcare professionals.
You might also need to consider incorporating gamification in a design. This factor within the healthcare app development has proven to be effective. Quizzes or other game formats allow users to keep up with medical terms more easily, for example.
We’ll discuss the matter of healthcare application design in greater detail in the section called “Mobile Healthcare Consumer App | Design Aspect”. Keep reading to learn more about it.
Step 4: Start with the First Version of your Custom Healthcare Product
Healthcare mobile app development should proceed with easy scalability and adaptation in mind. At this stage, you can build your application with existing solutions, such as third-party portals, APIs, and services.
The best approach to any healthcare project is to begin with the first working version of a fully-fledged system. Starting with a minimum delightful product is the best decision at the first stage since it allows you to invest a small amount at the start, test your idea, and add more features to your solution with further applications.
Step 5: Test & Receive Feedback
The main purpose of healthcare mobile app development is to release the first version of an app to the market as soon as possible. Every subsequent version should be updated based on user feedback and your strategic vision. This will help you avoid big errors and financial losses that may appear if you launch the full product all at once.
Therefore, beta tests, distribution tests, user comments, and app ratings, all provide invaluable information about your ongoing strategy with a project.
Step 6: Think of Widespread Distribution
There are a couple of ways to get an app distributed depending on its purpose. Health mobile apps that are solely developed for a specific group can be downloaded from a generated link meeting all the necessary safety policy works.
If a wide audience is going to use an app inside a particular organization, it makes sense to create a private enterprise app store. This brings the highest level of adoption, positive user experience, and can serve as an analytics center for ongoing healthcare app development.
Step 7: Healthcare Mobile App Monetization
The healthcare market offers a range of business opportunities. The majority of healthcare apps available on Google Play or the Apple App Store are free of charge, but are monetized in one of a few ways, namely:
- via device or medicine sales
- subscription model
- in-app purchase model
As well, there is a growing demand for health API, so why not develop one and sell it to other companies?
The solutions developed for a specific healthcare institution are not monetized in most cases, as this tends to improve healthcare service and patient experience.
Why Healthcare Startups Fail
There are a number of reasons why a healthcare app project can fail. The most influential considerations are as follows:
- poor app usability
- lack of feedback from, and involvement of, clinicians
- development without concrete app concept & purpose
- mediocre understanding of the healthcare environment
- failure to use user-friendly content and language
Want to receive an all-in-one checklist on how to make your app successful?
Our team has designed a complete guide: How to Make Your App Successful. A Detailed Step-by-Step Guide. Pro tips and advice presented in this article can help you incorporate best practices for successful healthcare app development.
Mobile Health Consumer App | Design Aspects
Once you have defined the concept of your healthcare mobile app development and have studied the needs of your target audience, you have likely also finalized the functional specifications of the project.
Functional specification includes all the user stories and technical aspects (like third-party integrations) for the future project. A dedicated development team of MLSDev consisting of professional software engineers helps with this task.
As mentioned before this is crucial to create a user-friendly, efficient, and convenient healthcare app design.
The following design characteristics are good to keep in mind when creating a mobile healthcare app.
1. Get Familiar With Colors
It is necessary to define a proper color scheme and fonts depending on the app’s purpose and theme. In most cases, delicate and calm colors work better than those that are vibrant.
Cold tones (white, blue, etc.) are mostly used for app backgrounds to highlight the app features. On the contrary, warm colors are used to get attention and make accents.
2. Apply Proper Notification Design
Notifications are very important in healthcare mobile app development, especially with core reminders and tracking goals.
There could be many notifications placed within an app and, to avoid confusion, different design elements should also be applied. For this purpose, color-coding, choice of fonts, specific animations, or gestures can be used.
3. Take Into Account Android & iOS Design Differences
iOS and Android operating systems have different design guidelines (Design for Android; Design for iOS).
Google and Apple have distinct design patterns, where iOS products use a flat design that is more direct and plain. Alternatively, the material design used in Android products has a more three-dimensional appearance.
4. Apply Insights from the Target Audience Analysis
In any process of healthcare mobile app development, it is important to consider the following disabilities during the design phase:
- blindness or sensory impairments
- low vision
- attention deficit
- physical disability
As well, consider audio and video content representation within the healthcare app. There may be a need to provide transcription, add more white spaces, make images simpler, and apply adequate color contrast.
In general, it is recommended that complex text and fonts not be used.
There are set requirements and standards in the USA:
- ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
- Amendments Act
These standards state that software should be accessible to users with sensory, cognitive, and physical disabilities. The same approach is accepted in Canada, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
5. Simplicity and Usability of Healthcare App Design
Most healthcare apps have a minimalistic and simple design.
It is vital to provide simple authorization with as few clicks as possible. The same rule applies to emergency information access. As well, all app icons should be intuitive to understand and be based on their practical usage.
Key Healthcare Mobile App Development Trends
Just imagine - the market of mobile health is only 10 years old. From the perspective of the healthcare industry, this is the usual timeline for developing a new drug, while for a digital industry it can be compared to an eternity.
The main challenge is to effectively combine these two environments of slow-paced healthcare and digital speed. As well, complex healthcare industry regulations have a great influence on healthcare mobile app development.
What technologies and tech innovations can be applied within the healthcare industry?
What technologies can you utilize during healthcare app development?
Let's now cover these tech innovations in detail:
1. Telemedicine Services
It is estimated that the telemedicine industry (healthcare services conducted via online tools) will be worth over $40 billion by 2021. These services have begun to change communication between patients and doctors. The majority of patients (53%) would consider scheduling a virtual meeting or have already done so.
If you are interested in developing a telemedicine app, our team has specifically created a guide: Telemedicine App Development. You can find details on functionality, tech components, challenges, and so on.
If you are interested in developing a telemedicine app, our team has specifically created a guide: Telemedicine App Development. You can find details on functionality, tech components, challenges, and so on.
2. Cloud Solutions for Healthcare App Development
Cloud solutions have great potential in healthcare app development. All the EHR (Electronic Health Records) and EMR (Electronic Medical Records) can be stored in the cloud, making data easily accessible, shared, and verifiable. Through cloud solutions, mobile health app services become more accessible.
Want to build powerful EHR software for the industry?
Get details for healthcare mobile app development inside the extensive article: Guide on EHR Development. Information for essential features, specifics, and key examples to pay attention to.
3. IoT in Healthcare
The Internet of Things has also become widely used in healthcare app development. Wearable devices track and collect necessary information and transmit it to the system. By 2025, healthcare-related IoT revenue is projected to increase to over $135 billion.
This helps to create a health application to monitor users’ health and where physicians can easily track patient vitals. Currently, the IoT goes even further by empowering clinics via administrative time-management and the ability to suggest patient treatments.
Interested in receiving further details for IoT and healthcare?
Our team created the article IoT Healthcare: What the Future Holds for the Healthcare Industry. Learn more about the appliance of IoT for healthcare mobile app development.
4. AI in Healthcare
Artificial Intelligence is expected to bring major breakthroughs in the field of self-examination. There is an even greater possibility for carrying out complex operations without a patient being physically present.
In general, AI technology is worth your healthcare app development investment. This will reduce costs for clinic visits and supplementary costs. As well, major investments have been made to support AI from IBM’s Watson and Google Deepmind to interconnect the tech and healthcare fields.
5. HIC as a Distribution Channel
Health Insurance Companies are a key party that might be extremely interested in healthcare mobile app development services. This year, “health insurers” overtook the app stores as the best healthcare app distribution channel.
It is assumed that patients would be more likely to share their personal and healthcare data for cheaper services and health recommendations.
6. Big Data & Analytics
To manage such a large amount of data, both patient-related data and hospital records, the application of Big Data and Analytics is of great use. These can greatly facilitate resource management by making use of available statistics to analyze and predict patient inflow. As well, this helps to predict diagnoses and offer the most effective treatments.
7. Mobile Payments
With the widespread adoption of mobile devices, it is clear that mobile payments have continued to grow as well. This makes all healthcare transactions easier, especially in emergency situations.
8. Blockchain & Healthcare App Development
Keeping patient data secure is one of the main concerns within the healthcare industry.
Blockchain is expected to be widely used in healthcare app development due to its highly secured system. Its patterns allow for keeping all the data genuine, transparent, and secure.
Want to know the use cases of Blockchain in healthcare?
For extended information about the practical use of this technology in healthcare, you might want to read: Blockchain and Healthcare: Use Cases Today and Opportunities for the Future
To sum things up, if you are planning some sort of healthcare mobile app development, think of embracing some of these innovative technologies. Make sure your solution allows for quicker access to health records and aligns communication among all the involved parties.
Discover how you can add value to the healthcare industry with your project.
Contact the MLSDev team and discuss your project idea. By combining your innovative idea and our technical expertise, we can create something that users will enjoy using.
Security & Privacy for Healthcare Application Development
As mentioned, health data is compiled with highly secured standards since it includes healthcare records, personal info, and financial data.
Therefore, healthcare applications hold the great responsibility of keeping this data safe.
HIPAA, HITECH regulations, and FDA guidelines should be followed by healthcare mobile app development companies in the way the app is designed, programmed, and distributed.
As well, regulations may differ by country and it is important to check them out in any target market. Here we shall give a brief description of privacy regulations by region:
Healthcare Application Development Standards in the USA
When speaking about healthcare information security in the United States, the HIPAA regulations are first to come to mind. This Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act sets the standards for managing patient data. If it is not in compliance with these rules, an app cannot be approved.
HIPAA compliance is a must when it comes to building a healthcare app for the US market. The HIPAA Security Rule Toolkit will help you through the process.
1. HITECH Act
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) was implemented during the Obama administration. The act aims to cover the loopholes in the HIPAA regulations and streamline the development of Electronic Health Records.
Section D of the HITECH Act covers the topic of privacy and security with regard to electronic health information.
Important: The HITECH Act regulations were incorporated into the HIPAA Final Omnibus Rule in 2013. The two acts now make up one piece of legislation. If your app is compliant with the latest US HIPAA guidelines, it’s automatically compliant with the HITECH Act too.GitHub has an extensive guide on how to develop a HIPAA-compliant application.
GitHub has an extensive guide on how to develop a HIPAA-compliant application.
There is one more piece of legislation that will change the whole world of electronic records privacy starting in 2020. We are speaking about the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) from 2018 that comes into force this year.
Note: for information security standards in other states, check The Definitive Guide to U.S. State Data Breach Laws.
Called “GDPR in the US,” this act profoundly extends customer rights for digital security. This includes:
- asking for consent to collect customer data
- letting the customer know what data the company collected
- preparing a costless report on collected data on customer request
- disclosing third parties that have access to this information
- revealing the purpose of data collection
- deleting the collected information on customer request
Forbes Technology Council Member, Joshua Lawton Belous comments on California’s novelty: “the privacy movement that started in the EU is quickly spreading throughout the United States.” It is very likely other states will follow California’s model.
Key Takeaway: Since other US states are expected to tighten screws on companies collecting personal data, you may have to tune up your healthcare app. We recommend focusing on California privacy rules from the early stages of app development.
3. NIST Compliance
When it comes to dealing with electronic health records in the US, compliance with the guidelines from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a must. NIST develops standards, tools, and technologies to protect healthcare data.
Tip: When making your mobile healthcare app compliant with NIST standards, the NIST Cybersecurity Practice Guide, Special Publication 1800-1: "Securing Electronic Health Records on Mobile Devices" with printable PDFs will be beneficial.
Healthcare Mobile App Development Standards in Canada, Europe
The most authoritative informational privacy legislation in Canada is The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
The general guidelines of PIPEDA are very similar to the European GDPR rules. Yet, the provinces of Alberta, Quebec, and British Columbia have their own privacy legislation that differs slightly from PIPEDA.
1. The United Kingdom
The British information security legislation for health apps will require compliance with the Data Protection Act of 1988.
The official body responsible for cyber-related security issues in the United Kingdom is the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The NCSC gives advice and guidance on different information security topics, including personal data and mobile use.
Important: Although the United Kingdom is not a part of the European Union anymore, organizations that deal with digital information still have to comply with the GDPR rules.
2. European Union
The most important laws to comply with in the European Union are part of the General Data Protection Regulations, implemented in May 2018.
To put it briefly, if you want to be compliant with GDPR, you have to:
- give customers access to information about the purpose, volume, and methods of data collection
- use the data only for purposes that were declared by your company
- only collect the minimum amount of data you need to process
- delete data on demand
- store data only for the period required for processing
- not disclose information to third parties
3. NIS Directive
The Network and Information Security Directive is another essential legislative policy. This document sets security measures in spheres like energy, transport, healthcare, and digital transformation, etc.
To learn more about the NIS directive by area of business and by country, you may want to check out the NIS Directive tool.
4. International Standards - ISO
ISO is an independent international organization whose job is to set standards for environmental management, food safety, quality management, IT security, etc. Their guidelines are not obligatory, but when it comes to sensitive healthcare data, the ISO badge speaks of the intense focus on quality and responsibility.
The ISO/IEC 27000:2018 overview provides you with information about information security management systems that will help you better manage the security of personal or financial information.
Once you hire a software development firm, pay precise attention to how this team handles data encryption, authentication requirements, app expiration policies, and risk mitigation in all parts of the system. It is crucial to plan the healthcare app architecture and layout accordingly in the early stages.
Want to know how to create a secure healthcare application?
You can consult with our team regarding all precautions and regulations to follow with your healthcare app idea. Just drop us a line to book a consultation with our Software Architect.
Important Notes on Risks & Vulnerabilities in Healthcare Mobile App Development
The following are also vital points to have in mind when planning the process of healthcare mobile app development:
First of all, you need to consider the target hardware (desktop, tablets, smartphones) and its specifics.
It may be recommended that you develop an app for one platform and then convert it to the next one later on. However, in some cases, it is necessary to launch the product on the web as well as a mobile system simultaneously.
The way users interact with each platform differs. Here, smartphone users prefer quick information access and short texts. Clinics would prefer to work with information on tablets. At the same time, during healthcare app development, the solutions should be accommodated on mobile screens and vice versa.
Compatibility with management systems in hospitals
During the Business Analysis phase, it is necessary to check interoperability with existing healthcare systems. When creating an app for a hospital, not all systems have adopted cloud solutions to access information; some instead rely on traditional hosting services.
These days, for security reasons, data is not stored on devices, but rather, in the instance of a limited number of simultaneous API requests, the data is stored on servers.
By default, servers or cloud-based tools (e.g. AWS) should be accessible. For this reason, data kept with these services should be stored in a highly encrypted format.
Applications specializing in fitness have repeatedly become the target of attackers over the past few years, as many developers offer users the opportunity to enter personal data to increase the app's efficiency.
MyFitnessPal App Case: Several years ago, a piece of code allowed hackers to steal information from user profiles. This vulnerability has long since been fixed, but the same patterns are often used to crack similar applications.
According to Arxan's research:
- 97% of apps do not have protection against binary file execution
- 79% of applications are not sufficiently protected at the level of transport protocols
- data leaks are common for 56% of applications
Therefore, multiple breaches are commonplace in the healthcare app market. As the US Federal Trade Commission randomly checked 12 healthcare apps, they discovered they were sending personal data, including identifying information, to 76 third parties.
Healthcare app development uses many third-party services like Facebook, for example. According to Mobilsicher, 30% of apps on the market use Facebook SDK for their free high-end analytic possibilities.
However, this allows for the collection of information about a user and the potential to feed it to third-parties. This also corresponds to their loose privacy policies. As reported by Miriam Ruhenstroth from Mobilsicher, information about depressive cycles, parenting, heart-rate, etc. becomes an asset for advertising companies.
Note: By building a healthcare app on Facebook SDK, you may be vulnerable to undesired data leaks. It is better to invest in your own SDK and market it as an additional benefit.
Thus, think twice of what third-party services to use in healthcare app development to avoid information leaks and misuse.
APIs in Healthcare Application Development
To integrate a new application into the existing healthcare environment, different third-party services and APIs can be useful. These ready-made solutions allow users to store and access healthcare data.
1. Box API
This service allows users to securely manage files within a healthcare app while being HIPAA compliant. It is possible to share healthcare records, lab results, and medicine prescriptions. Box also offers web and mobile SDKs used with a range of programming languages (Ruby) and operating systems (iOS, Android).
2. Human API
This API includes a few blocks with features for managing patient profiles, checking prescriptions, storing test results, and accessing your vitals. Human RESTful API gives well-written documentation and extensive guides (available for web, iOS, Android).
The BetterDoctor API gives a localized selection of healthcare personnel so that patients can learn all the details about their future doctor for the best fit.
This API works along with healthcare platforms that connect doctors and patients similar to the way LinkedIn is used to connect business individuals. The Doximity API extracts information about doctors and their practices. Its documentation is short but concise.
During healthcare mobile app development, this tool helps to get access to information about healthcare workers and patients, notes from a clinic, manage prescriptions, and read & reply to messages in the doctor's messaging center.
The API is useful, but has limited functionality compared to other services. It focuses on mobility and is available on iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and responsive web.
6. Apple HealthKit API and SDK
How to build an mhealth app for iOS.
Apple has a specific software development kit for healthcare mobile app development with regular updates. This API helps build healthcare apps on iOS.
7. Google Healthcare SDK & API
Cloud Healthcare API and Google Fit SDK, developed by Google, help to design and develop healthcare solutions for the Android operating system. Google provides supporting documentation and adds more detail to build a complete healthcare ecosystem.
Pro advice: It is worth mentioning that developing a healthcare API could be a great option. There is a strong demand for these ready-made solutions that connect the health market, and store and exchange healthcare data among users.
Throughout the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic, specialized healthcare APIs are helping with tracking and monitoring the disease growth and spread. The corresponding healthcare apps come in handy as helpful tools in the study of the disease.
Here is a list of the healthcare APIs that might be used in your healthcare mobile app development:
1. COVID-19 Stats API
The API feeds data from publicly available sources. The information is updated on an hourly basis by Johns Hopkins University. You can check data by country by using a filter. The API is available here.
2. CORD-19 Search and Navigate API
The CORD-19 Search and Navigate API was developed for the search of COVID-19 related information like infection rate, fatality rate, types of masks that are most effective to protect from contamination, etc. It is powered by Vespa and runs on the Vespa Cloud.
3. About Corona COVID-19 API
This API gets statistics only from trusted sources and can be applied to reach a global audience.
4. CDC Content Services API
This API feeds on data provided by the American Center for Disease Control and helps to display the CDC media content. This API provides the following media: images, widgets, buttons, infographics, HTML, etc. The default response format is JSON.
5. Yellow Schedule API
This API is compliant with HIPAA regulations and is applicable for telemedicine applications and software, as well as healthcare websites. The application is JSON-based and can be used for scheduling appointments, creating patient records, and tracking health details.
Communication Technologies Used in Healthcare Devices
The work of many healthcare apps requires the collection and processing of real-time data about a patient’s health. There is a wide range of devices - from smart socks to watches and other sorts of wearables that can feed data to healthcare apps.
The transmission of databases during healthcare app development relies on the following communication technologies:
1. Bluetooth LE
A short-range wireless technology that allows for the transmission of data between two connected devices in the range of up to 10m. It is very popular with different sorts of wearables like the Polar Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor.
Since Wi-Fi technology allows for wireless access to the internet, it is mostly used for healthcare apps that need real-time communication with databases.
It works in the following way:
An mHealth device connects with an app via Bluetooth or other short-range technology, and the app sends/receives data from the server via Wi-Fi. However, now some mHealth devices have direct access to the internet. Example: Oticon Opn S hearing aid that gets connected with devices like a smart ring, smart TV, etc.
3. ZigBee (6LoWPAN)
ZigBee technology allows for the creation of highly secure wireless personal area networks (WPAN) with the help of small radio transmitters. It is perfect for devices working autonomously and is used, for example, for devices monitoring physical activity (heart rate, blood pressure, etc.).
This technology is very similar to Bluetooth and operates on the same frequency range. However, its functionality range is 30m and it consumes less power compared to Bluetooth. Unlike Bluetooth, ANT+ connections can transmit data to all devices in the field at the same time. An example of this is the Wahoo ANT+ heart rate monitor, which sends data to a mobile or a tablet.
The global positioning system is responsible for finding the location and speed of an object. This is perhaps the most widely used technology when it comes to fitness app development.
6. 3G/4G LTE
This technology is responsible for transmitting data to mobile networks. Smartwatches based on Android Wear or Watch OS technologies that also have heart-rate tracking functionality can send data directly via 3G/4G LTE.
Near Field Communication technology allows for short-range data transmission between compatible devices. It is most widely used by services like Samsung Pay and Google Pay. In the case of healthcare apps, it can be used for checking in and out of hospital visits.
Types of Healthcare Apps
In general, all healthcare apps can be divided into two categories - professional healthcare apps and healthcare apps for patients.
Doctor apps are used for medical instructions, access to healthcare records and diagnoses, prescriptions for medicine, and essentially all other internal matters.
The other category consists of apps used by patients in clinics and personal healthcare apps.
Professional Healthcare Apps
Here, we briefly describe the ideas for healthcare mobile app development in terms of professional solutions for doctors.
- Healthcare reference & database apps
These apps are like databases designed to store information about diseases, drugs, and prescriptions in one place (e.g Medscape, Epocrates, VisualDX).
- Professional networking apps
Thematic social networks where healthcare providers and professionals can connect, interact, exchange knowledge, and grow their community (e.g. DailyRounds, Figure 1, Among Doctors).
- Patient health tracking apps
Solutions that help doctors monitor the health of their patients throughout the healthcare treatment process. Results from various labs and tests are listed there, as well as all other documentation (e.g VitalHub Chart).
- Doctor appointment & clinical assistance apps
Apps for appointments help to reduce the handwritten work of keeping journals. All parties are automatically notified about changes in the calendar (e.g. Zocdoc).
- Telehealth mobile apps (doctor-on-demand apps)
Telehealth apps are a great solution for online doctor visits and consultations (e.g. KRY).
Mobile Health Apps for Patients
Below is a list of the most common apps used by patients and individual consumers.
- Patient healthcare education apps (patient portals) - to monitor useful information
- Reminder apps - includes tracking apps, or some healthy habit reminders (e.g. water consumption)
- Diagnosis apps - for preventive purposes
- Healthy lifestyle apps - health tests, fitness and wellness apps, cardio apps
- Monitoring apps - for chronic condition management like diabetes, blood pressure, cancer, etc.
- Mental health apps - stress relief apps, meditation apps, apps for good sleep
- Dieting apps - trackers, exercise, weight loss apps
- Women's health apps - for pregnancy, feeding, or monthly calendar
Hopefully these lists gave you a clue of what variety of healthcare app development you may need.
Best Healthcare Apps
78,000 new healthcare apps were launched last year. However, the majority of apps were downloaded less than 5,000 times and only around 3% are meeting the high annual download number of over one million users.
Within the app stores, healthcare apps are presented in two categories: Medical and Health & Fitness.
Let's now check out which successful healthcare apps are in those groups and what is so distinctive about them.
Among the top 10 grossing healthcare apps in the Apple Store and Google Play are:
- Human Anatomy Atlas 2019: Complete 3D Human Body - used by healthcare professionals and students to get all of the ins-and-outs of the human body. Has in app-purchases.
- EMT: Pocket Prep - practice test app that improves learning capabilities through the application of iterative studying and customized study sessions with a subscription. Has 30 free questions and one-time payment for a premium upgrade.
- Davis' Drug Guide for Nurses - most comprehensive drug guide for competent and safe medication administration. Has a 30-day trial followed by a subscription of $38.99, billed annually.
- Tarascon Pharmacopoeia - one of the most referenced and trusted drug platforms. The subscription is $39.99 for one year of continuously updated content.
The top healthcare app is Sanford Guide: Antimicrobial Rx, available free on both iOS and Android. This app is targeted at clinicians and provides information about infectious diseases. The content is updated regularly, and is both concise and reliable. The app uses an in-app subscription monetization model ($29.9/year).
Other distinctive healthcare apps bringing in the highest revenues on iOS and Android include:
- Epocrates - top reference & database app on iOS. Includes information about drugs, insurance formularies, interaction checks, tablets, clinical guidelines, and dosing calculators.
- Lexicomp - an extensive drug reference app from 20 databases providing information about medicines, products, interactions, healthcare calculators, etc.
- Instant ECG: Mastery of EKG - used as an electrocardiogram guide for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
- Hear My Baby Heartbeat App - top app for prenatal listening and recording of a baby’s sounds.
- mySugr - third-highest grossing app on Android. This is a blood sugar tracker used to create a diabetes logbook and keep it under control.
- Vargo Anesthesia Mega App - app includes the book “Anesthesia Case Tips” and other apps are combined.
- Monash Uni Low FODMAP Diet - app assists with managing gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Diabetes: M - app helps monitor diabetes.
Among the top-grossing health applications, the majority are calorie and diet apps, as well as fitness and workout apps.The best grossing healthcare application in September 2020 on Google Play was FitnessPal, which is used for calorie counting. The application reached $1.4 million in 2020. The third position is taken by the Calm app, also used for meditation, sleep, and relaxation.
The world's leading provider of mobile application data, lists the following apps as being commercially successful within the Health & Fitness app category on iOS and those listed on the Google Play Store.
It can be concluded that users are seeking not only to work on the outside, but to feel healthy mentally as well. A study of mHealth app economics also states that depression is among the top three therapy fields requiring some digital solutions in the form of a healthcare app. Thus, why not implement one of these ideas as your next healthcare app?
Benefits of Healthcare App Development
At last, here is a long list of benefits that healthcare mobile app development may provide. Let’s investigate the benefits of these solutions aimed at different types of end-users.
Benefits for Patients
- Streamlined appointment scheduling, rescheduling, and canceling
- Up-to-date information on drugs and vaccines
- Online consultations with doctors
- Direct communication with doctors
- Access to medical records from mobile devices
- Reminders and notifications to take drugs, visit the doctor’s office, etc.
- Calorie count and well-being diary
- Doctor evaluation based on reviews, photos, records, etc.
- Information about hospitals, directions, and departments
- Prompt medical aid via emergency calls
- Access to a specific, thematic healthcare community
Benefits for Doctors
- Patient information monitoring
- Electronic access to healthcare records, lab results, scans
- Remote monitoring & data collection
- Easier communication with patients
- Staying up-to-date with hospital events
- Better time and appointments management
- Useful news and information about the healthcare industry
- Access to the medical knowledgebase
Benefits for Healthcare Institutions
- Better customer loyalty thanks to the offer of a great experience
- Schedules management of various healthcare professionals
- Keeping in touch with doctors and clinic personnel
- Creating a strong thematic healthcare community
- Streamlined operations with patient records
- Access to customer feedback and reviews
- New customer attraction
- Saving staff time needed for clinic management
Have a healthcare app idea in mind?
You are welcome to reach out to our team. We can work through your idea, offer our suggestions, and prepare the right healthcare solution.