Imagine a world where medical treatment is possible with the push of a button.
And no, this is not Star Trek or some science fiction novel. In a way, this push-button healthcare is today’s reality.
Phones formerly used for calling and texting can now be used for remote medical services and fitness tracking, thanks to healthcare apps.
The demand for these mobile apps is so big the healthcare app industry is worth around $40 billion globally.
If an app business is in your mind, or you’re passionate about helping people stay healthy and fit, mobile healthcare app development is something you could seriously consider.
Without further ado, let’s learn the six steps in developing a healthcare app!
Healthcare app development is the process of building programs to help users successfully address medical or fitness issues.
These programs could run on mobile phones, laptops, desktops, or tablets. But for this article, we’ll focus on developing mobile healthcare apps since they tend to be more profitable than other app categories.
Numerous app development companies have helped people and businesses come up with tools to make access to healthcare more convenient and efficient. Discover some of the world’s best healthcare app development companies here.
Applications for healthcare fall under two main categories based on their type of users: healthcare professionals and patients. Learn how these users leverage the power of healthcare apps so you can better design and develop health applications.
Also known as medical apps, these software are often used by doctors, hospital staff, and other healthcare providers. These apps help health professionals administer treatment or provide consultation through:
- Remote patient monitoring
- Electronic health records
- Appointments management
- Other systems and activities related to patient care
One excellent example of a medical app is the BarbCare app, a remote patient monitoring app and one of our clients. Read our case study to learn how the app has enabled aged care facilities to connect patients with their loved ones through our innovative medical app development.
Health apps, on the other hand, help users access medical treatment (either remotely or on-site) or develop healthy habits. Applications that help patients with the following fall under the healthcare apps category:
- Exercises and workout regimens
- Physical activity tracking
- Searching for hospitals and clinics
Some examples of healthcare apps in this category include MyFitnessPal for calorie tracking and EvrSo – another app we developed that leverages social media best practices to keep users fit and healthy.
Before we dive into the details, it’s important to preface that healthcare apps are a high-risk, high-reward type of deal. At the end of the day, we’re dealing with a highly sensitive and important aspect of human lives – and while they can lead to massive incomes, they can also expose app developers and publishers to potential legal issues.
Our app industry experts have learned that poorly designed healthcare apps can lead to the following outcomes:
- Exposure of patient data to unscrupulous people like hackers, etc.
- Physical harm to patients due to substandard app quality
Additionally, healthcare application development can be costly despite the availability of various sources of app funding.
To ensure your healthcare app development journey is as financially and legally painless as possible, our product managers and app developers recommend the following steps when building your app:
- Conduct market and legal research
- Choose the type of app you want to develop
- Flesh out your healthcare app’s features
- Proceed with app design
- Develop your app
- Launch and market your app
Legal issues and a lack of market demand for your healthcare app are the two major problems your healthcare app could encounter. Therefore, it is best to use them as reference points in designing and developing your app. Otherwise, any related hiccups late in the game may lead to higher app development costs.
Let me break down these two major issues so you’ll learn how to best address each.
Legal research involves finding all possible lawsuits or regulatory bottlenecks your app may incur.
Studying the legal system of your app’s target market is crucial to prevent massive financial losses from lawsuits. For example, a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that if a poorly-made app fails to protect medical records from hackers and other malignant players, around $400 per record exposed will be lost in lawsuits and other expenses.
Check out all the laws and regulations in the countries where your app users will be based.
- Do their legal systems make app developers liable for any harm intentionally or unintentionally done to users due to the app’s usage?
- What remedies are available in case you get exposed to lawsuits?
Answering questions like these ensures your app design minimizes your legal exposure.
Market research, on the other hand, is all about determining what issues patients or healthcare organizations have that your app can address. This ensures that the app you will develop fulfills an actual market need, increasing your chance of success. A study shows that around 40% of startups fail because of the lack of market need for their products or services.
In conducting interviews for market research, be especially careful when asking patients about sensitive medical conditions. For example, if your app aims to reduce obesity by promoting better eating habits, you can ask potential users questions like: “What factors increase your food intake?” This question is the more courteous alternative to “Why do you eat too much?”
Questions that rub people the wrong way could make them defensive, reducing your access to genuine answers. Responses that don’t reflect people’s actual thoughts could create a mismatch between your app’s features and the need of your target market, reducing your chance of success.
After conducting your interviews, remember to get your respondents’ contact details. So they would be more inclined to provide their personal information, give them incentives to leave their phone number, email, or social media profile. These incentives could include early access to your app after launch and freebies to access advanced app features.
After all, you will need all your respondents’ contact information in the latter stages of the healthcare mobile app development process.
Another aspect of the market you should analyze is your competitors. What healthcare apps are available out there? How can you improve upon them, even slightly?
One of the safest bets is to develop a healthcare app similar to other apps in many respects except in certain features. For instance, your app may resemble many competitor apps but has slightly improved features like more user-friendly interfaces, attractive app icon designs, etc.
Having rivals in the space means that there is solid demand for that sort of health app. Adding little innovations can help you edge ahead of the competition without spending too much on development.
Based on your assessment of the target market, your competitors, and the legal landscape, you are in a better position to choose whether your app will cater to healthcare professionals or patients.
Whatever you choose, focus is key. We strongly recommend focusing on one group to help, at least initially. This simplifies the app design and development process, lowering costs in the long run.
Also, in deciding on this matter, determine which between health professionals and patients will:
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- Yield the maximum return on investment for your app
- Minimize your legal exposure to a tolerable level
- Enable you to deal with healthcare issues you’re passionate about
If you need help with this decision, you can reach out to our product strategy experts and book a free consultation.
Now that you know what kind of healthcare app you want to develop, it’s time to think of features your app will have.
In thinking of features or solutions your app will provide, consider the following:
- The answers you got from your market research interviews
- The potential market’s legal landscape
- Elements of popular competitor apps
- User interaction with your app
- The MVP way of building apps
It’s okay to borrow feature ideas from good rival apps. However, make sure you add that little extra. Otherwise, your app won’t get as much attention since it’s just “a face in the crowd” of similar health applications.
For example, is your app cheaper or easier to use? If yes, then you’re on the right track to effectively developing your health app’s features.
The user flow, meanwhile, doesn’t have to be too technical. It could be a simple list or diagram of steps from when users open your health app to when they close it after enjoying its features.
Regarding MVP, this is all about making your app a minimum viable product. What this means is you don’t bloat your app with excessive features just to impress users. In fact, MVPs start with the most basic features and gradually get additional ones after solid demand for the app is established.
The MVP way of developing apps ensures that your app gets to market quicker and at a relatively lower cost. Aside from that, you don’t run the risk of building an app that has so many features but has few interested users.
To learn how to develop champion apps the MVP way, you can read our article on how to start lean with MVP app development.
After coming up with your healthcare app’s basic features, it’s time to outline your app’s design. Doing so would help you save time and money by ensuring only the most feasible features will make it to the app development stage.
App designs are influenced by two things: proofs-of-concept (POCs) and prototypes. In essence, POCs are projects that check whether certain app features can technically be built cost-effectively. It’s easy to think of app features. But they amount to nothing if:
- None of the features can be developed using current programming tools OR
- The features need too much time or resources to build
If POCs focus on technical details, prototypes are more about user experience and visuals. They range from sketches to designs that closely resemble functioning apps. These designs are the visual embodiment of the features you created in Step 3. Ideally, prototypes showcase only the features that are deemed feasible during the creation of proofs-of-concept.
What makes prototypes powerful is their ability to attract funding. Two of our clients have proven this when they attracted big-ticket investors for their apps through our prototypes.
Roamni founders turned their love of local tourism stories into a $5 million valuation and a partnership with Formula 1.
Meanwhile, Vello reeled in a million-dollar investment thanks to a unique app design that connects fans and celebrities.
Once you’re done with the app design process, it’s time to turn it into a working app.
Two basic aspects are at play in developing your healthcare app: technical and legal.
The technical aspect involves assembling the nuts and bolts of programming code to make your app work. The legal aspect, on the other hand, is all about ensuring that your app’s technical build and features comply with relevant laws.
Getting BOTH aspects right is crucial for your healthcare app’s success.
For example, suppose you are developing an app that helps medical secretaries more efficiently manage patient appointments. In that case, you could cover the technical side by ensuring your app organizes and loads patient information well.
However, if hackers can easily expose private patient health data for blackmail, you could be sued. For example, in the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) safeguards the privacy of patient information. Violating this law could lead to prosecution, especially if your app has mostly American users.
As you can see, healthcare app development can be quite challenging. That is why, instead of developing a healthcare app alone, we highly recommend partnering with app development professionals with extensive experience in this space. We at Appetiser have these experts at hand.
Talk to us if you want to turn your vision into a technically-sound and legally-solid healthcare app.
After developing your app, it’s time to bring it out into the open.
You can launch your app on Google Play or the Apple App Store. But doing this alone won’t be enough, even with techniques like app store optimization. There are millions of published apps on these online stores, making competition tight.
This is where the patients or healthcare professionals you interviewed during market research come in handy. Aside from being the source of your inspiration, they can now become your first group of app users.
Reach out to these people through the contact details you acquired from them during interviews. If your app proves helpful and effective, they may refer it to colleagues. In this case, word-of-mouth is a powerful and free marketing tool that does your bidding.
You might also consider reaching out to medical device manufacturers in the future. Many devices they develop, like heart monitors, can be integrated into mobile apps. The possibility of your app’s cross-integration with other systems expands your potential user pool.
Building healthcare apps is a great way to generate revenue while helping out society in a massive way. However, the healthcare industry’s legal implications and sensitive nature make developing apps for this sector more challenging than usual.
That is why technical skills are not enough in choosing a healthcare app development company. Healthcare industry experts or product strategists with extensive experience in this space are also necessary.
At Appetiser, you get the best of both worlds. Our product strategists and app developers have the technical know-how and business savvy to launch healthcare apps successfully.
If you’re already involved with the healthcare sector or yearning to impact this industry, book a free consultation with us to discover ways to succeed through healthcare apps.
Jesus Carmelo Arguelles, aka Mel, is a Content Marketing Specialist by profession. Though he holds a bachelor's degree in business administration, he also took courses in fields like computer troubleshooting and data analytics. He also has a wealth of experience in content writing, marketing, education, and customer support. Outside office hours, he finds deep joy in reading, traveling, and photography.
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