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Navigating the Maze of Healthcare App Development

by | June 8, 2023

Today, it’s hard to imagine a field that hasn’t been influenced by technology, and arguably one of the biggest industries that has been propelled by it has been healthcare. A key player in this revolution? Healthcare app development. But what are healthcare apps, and what does it take to develop one? In this article, we’ll walk you through the entire process and more.

What are Healthcare Applications?

Healthcare apps, often referred to as mHealth apps, are mobile or digital applications designed to provide health-related services. These applications cater to various needs within the healthcare spectrum, ranging from managing patient records and tracking health metrics to facilitating virtual doctor consultations and providing health education or advice.

What is the Current and Future State of the Healthcare Application Market?

In this technologically fueled world, the telehealth technology market isn’t just tagging along for the ride – it’s driving the bus. Currently, the healthcare app market is thriving, driven by increasing health awareness, the prevalence of chronic diseases, and the need for convenient medical care.

What’s fueling this frenzy?

In essence, it’s a dance between necessity and innovation. The world needed solutions that were contactless, remote, and digitally advanced. Healthcare apps have bridged this gap wonderfully.

According to a report by Grand View Research, the global mHealth (mobile health) apps market size was valued at approximately $43.5 billion in 2022, and looking to the future, there’s nothing to suggest it’s slowing down.

With ongoing technological advancements in telemedicine software, a growing focus on personalized healthcare, and AI and machine learning already revolutionizing diagnostics, saying that we are expecting to see substantial growth almost seems like an understatement. In fact, according to the same report by Grand View Research, the market is expected to reach over $90 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 11.6% from 2023 to 2030.  

Types of Healthcare Apps 

Healthcare is a broad industry with many different layers and facets. And so too are the apps that support it. And while there are too many niche categories to count, most healthcare apps fall into one of the following seven categories.

Type of App What it is Estimated Market Value Target Audience Key Features Benefits Use Cases Examples
Telemedicine Apps These apps serve as virtual bridges between patients and healthcare professionals, facilitating online consultations and medical services. They are revolutionary platforms transforming healthcare by making it more accessible and convenient. $70 billion
  • Doctors
  • Patients
  • Video conferencing
  • appointment scheduling
  • EHR access
  • e-prescriptions
  • Provides remote healthcare services
  • Reduces travel time
  • Prevents unnecessary hospital visits
  • Remote consultations, follow-ups, therapy sessions, prescription renewals
  • Teladoc
  • Doctor On Demand
  • Amwell
EHR (Electronic Health Records) Apps EHR applications allow the safe storage, access, and sharing of patient medical data digitally, enhancing the efficiency and coordination of healthcare services. They provide doctors with comprehensive medical histories, assisting in accurate diagnoses and personalized treatment plans. $35 billion
  • Healthcare Providers
  • Patients
  • Secure storage of medical history, test results, medication, etc.
  • Interoperability
  • Patient portals
  • Streamlines record keeping
  • Facilitates seamless communication among healthcare professionals
  • Allows patient access to their records
  • Clinics and hospitals to manage patient data, patients to track their health history
  • Epic Systems
  • NextGen Healthcare
  • eClinicWorks
  • Oracle Corp (Cerner)
Diet and Fitness Apps These are your personal wellness companions, providing customized diet plans, workout routines, and tracking your health progress. They're designed to inspire healthier habits, promote fitness, and help users achieve their wellness goals. $1.5 billion
  • General Public
  • Fitness enthusiasts
  • Fitness and diet tracking
  • Personalized health tips
  • Daily motivation and reminders
  • Encourages physical activity
  • Promotes a healthy diet and lifestyle
  • Regular diet and fitness tracking, maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • MyFitnessPal
  • Fitbit
  • Fooducate
  • Noom
Remote Monitoring Apps These apps enable healthcare providers to monitor patients' health status and vital signs remotely in real-time. They are especially crucial in managing chronic conditions, reducing hospital visits, and providing timely interventions. $5.2 billion
  • Healthcare Providers
  • Patients with Chronic Diseases
  • Elderly individuals
  • Real-time patient monitoring
  • Alerts for abnormal parameters
  • Remote access to patient data
  • Reduces hospital readmission rates
  • Allows for continuous monitoring of chronic diseases
  • Monitoring patients with chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases
  • Senior citizens requiring continuous care
  • AliveCor
  • Dexcom G6
  • Clear Arch Health
  • Haelee
Appointment Scheduling Apps These apps streamline the appointment booking process for both patients and healthcare providers, reducing wait times and enhancing administrative $258.2 million
  • Patients
  • Clinic Staff
  • Doctors
  • Online appointment booking, reminders, rescheduling and cancellation options
  • Reduces waiting time
  • Improves patient experience
  • Streamlines appointment management
  • Patients to book appointments
  • Clinic staff looking to manage schedules
  • Zocdoc
  • Acuity scheduling
  • Curogram
  • 10to8
efficiency. They provide a hassle-free way for patients to book, change, or cancel appointments with just a few taps.
Medication Management Apps These applications assist in tracking medication schedules, dosage, and refill reminders, reducing the risk of missed or overdosed medications. They are especially beneficial for elderly patients or those managing multiple medications, ensuring adherence to prescribed treatment regimens. $2.5 billion
  • Patients
  • Doctors
  • Caregivers
  • Clinic Staff
  • Medication reminders
  • Drug interaction warnings
  • Medication log
  • Prevents missed or double doses
  • Helps manage complex medication schedules
  • Increases medication adherence
  • Patients on multiple medications
  • Caregivers
  • Medisafe
  • MyTherapy
  • Pill Reminder
  • EveryDose
Mental Health Apps Mental health apps provide resources like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques, mindfulness exercises, and community support for individuals seeking mental health assistance. They are private, accessible platforms offering immediate help and coping strategies, promoting mental well-being. $6.2 billion
  • General Public
  • Individuals with Mental Health Conditions
  • Self-help resources
  • Stress management techniques
  • Therapy sessions
  • Community support
  • Promotes mental wellbeing
  • Provides accessible mental health resources
  • Encourages self-care
  • Individuals dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
  • People seeking therapy or counselling
  • Talkspace
  • Calm
  • Mindscape
  • Headspace Inc

How to Build an App for Healthcare? Step by Step Guide 

We don’t want to lie to you. Healthcare app development is not a walk in the park. There are many factors to consider, and many rules to abide by. But by following these steps below, you’ll be well on your way to creating a robust solution that makes a significant impact in the industry.

Step 1: Understanding the Healthcare Industry  

Before diving straight into the tech side of how to develop a healthcare app, it’s crucial to grasp the industry’s lay of the land. It’s an intricate ecosystem composed of hospitals, clinics, doctors, patients, insurers, and regulators, among others. Familiarizing yourself with the complexities, nuances, and needs of these stakeholders can empower you to create an app that truly resonates and delivers value. Remember, an app that fails to cater to the specificities of the healthcare sector could easily get lost in the crowded digital landscape.

Legal and regulatory considerations

It’s an undeniable fact that the healthcare sector operates under heavy regulation – and for good reason! The data handled by this industry is extremely sensitive, revolving around personal medical histories, treatment details, and a lot more. Laws like HIPAA in the U.S or the GDPR in Europe are significant markers that dictate how patient information should be handled. When it comes to your app, ensuring compliance with these regulations isn’t just a good-to-do, it’s an absolute must. By following these rules, you not only safeguard user data but also reinforce the integrity and trustworthiness of your app. 

Step 2: Researching the Target Audience (TA) 

Identifying target users and their needs

The best way to create a solution that clicks? Understand your users and their needs. The healthcare audience is vast, varying from busy professionals seeking online consultations to elderly patients needing medication reminders. Identifying your target audience and comprehending their unique pain points and requirements will guide your app’s direction. These needs could range from simplifying appointment scheduling to enabling access to medical records or facilitating remote health monitoring. Remember, the clearer your understanding, the more focused and effective your solution.

Step 3: Defining App Objectives and Features 

Setting clear goals and objectives for the app

Having understood your users and their needs, it’s time to define your app’s purpose. Is it to streamline healthcare processes, improve patient outcomes, or enhance communication between healthcare providers and patients? Each goal will lead you down a different path. Make sure these objectives are measurable. For example, aiming to reduce appointment wait times by 20% or increase patient engagement by 30% gives you clear targets to hit and track.

Identifying core features and functionalities

Your app’s features should directly address user needs. Core functionalities could include appointment booking, symptom tracking, and medication reminders. But don’t stop there! Explore additional features like telemedicine capabilities, real-time chat support, or integration with wearable devices to create a comprehensive solution. The magic is in seamlessly weaving these features together for a fluid, user-centric experience.

Prioritizing features based on user needs and value

Now that you have a list of possible features, it’s essential to prioritize. Which ones will offer the most value to your users and your business? Engage with your potential users through surveys and user research to gauge preferences. Techniques like user story mapping or impact-effort analysis can help balance user needs with development feasibility, ensuring that your app delivers high value without blowing your budget or timeline. 

Step 4: Designing User Interface and User Experience 

Importance of intuitive and user-friendly design

Simplicity and intuitiveness are the essence of good design. Especially when research suggests that it could push up conversion rates by up to 400%. An attractive and straightforward layout isn’t just a nice bonus; it’s a powerful tool that can greatly boost how much your users engage with your app. Also, remember that many of your users might not be tech-savvy. Some might even struggle with the latest tech trends. That’s why it’s crucial to create an app that’s straightforward and easy for everyone to get their heads around. Remember, complexity can be intriguing, but simplicity is always inviting. 

Creating wireframes and prototypes

The journey from idea to digital reality starts with wireframes – simple sketches of your app’s layout and navigation flow. Tools like Sketch or Adobe XD can help translate your ideas into basic screen designs. Next, you can develop interactive prototypes using tools like InVision or Marvel. This stage allows you to visualize your app and gather early user feedback.

Conducting user testing and feedback iterations

Involve your users in the testing phase. They’ll help identify usability issues, navigation bottlenecks, and areas for improvement. Take their feedback seriously, iterate your design accordingly, and test again. Repeat until you achieve a design that your users love and find easy to use.

Step 5: Choosing the Right Technology Stack 

Overview of app development platforms

App development platforms offer a wide range of tools and services that enable developers to design, build, test, and manage mobile applications. Let’s take a brief look at some of the most popular platforms:

Android Studio: Android Studio is the official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Android app development, created by Google. It provides developers with features like code editing, debugging, performance tooling, a flexible build system, and an instant build/deploy system. 

Xcode: Xcode is Apple’s official IDE for iOS app development. It offers a comprehensive suite of software development tools for developing software for macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS. 

React Native: React Native, developed by Facebook, is a JavaScript framework for building mobile applications that run natively on both iOS and Android devices. It allows developers to use a common language to develop for both platforms. 

Flutter: Flutter is an open-source UI toolkit by Google for building natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. It enables beautiful, natively compiled applications that are highly expressive and flexible. 

Ionic: Ionic is an open-source platform that uses web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build cross-platform mobile applications. It’s known for its ability to create high-performance apps with a single codebase. 

Xamarin: Xamarin, owned by Microsoft, is a cross-platform app development platform that allows developers to use .NET and C# to create apps for Android, iOS, and Windows. 

Selecting the appropriate technology stack (native, hybrid, web)

This decision is a delicate balancing act between your app’s requirements, your budget, and your desired time-to-market.  

Native Apps: Native apps are built specifically for a single platform, either iOS or Android, using languages and development tools that are native to that platform (e.g., Swift and Xcode for iOS, Java or Kotlin and Android Studio for Android). Native apps generally have the advantage of being faster, more reliable, and more in tune with the specific standards and guidelines of the platform they are designed for. 

Hybrid Apps: Hybrid apps are essentially web applications packaged in a native wrapper. They are developed using web technologies (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) and then wrapped in a native application using platforms like Cordova or Ionic. Hybrid apps are known for their ability to use a single codebase to create apps for multiple platforms, thereby reducing development time and costs. 

Web Apps: Web apps are not actual applications; they are really websites that look and feel like native applications but are not implemented as such. They are run by a browser and typically written in HTML5. Web apps are responsive versions of websites that can work on any device. They are less expensive to develop and maintain since they involve a common codebase across multiple mobile platforms. 

Step 6: Ensuring Data Security and Privacy 

Understanding healthcare data privacy regulations

The ability to successfully navigate the complex world of healthcare compliance is a hallmark of a reliable healthcare technology company. Each regulation, be it HIPAA, GDPR, or state-specific legislation, has unique requirements that must be adhered to, especially in the context of digital healthcare. This includes safeguarding patient data, maintaining transparency in data handling practices, and regularly updating systems to counter potential threats. Therefore, a thorough understanding of these rules is a prerequisite for any successful healthcare app development project.

Notably, compliance with healthcare regulations isn’t merely about avoiding legal consequences. It’s also about providing a safe and secure environment for patients, maintaining the reputation of your organization, and ultimately enhancing the overall user experience. A comprehensive understanding of healthcare compliance regulations helps organizations deliver high-quality, secure, and reliable digital healthcare solutions that truly cater to the needs of the patients.

Implementing strong security measures

To protect your users, implement strong security measures like two-factor or even biometric authentication. Use encryption techniques for data transmission and storage, ensuring that even if data is intercepted, it remains unreadable. This involves conducting regular security audits and vulnerability assessments. This proactive approach helps identify potential security risks before they become full-blown problems.

Complying with HIPAA or other relevant standards

When it comes to making sure your app fits in with HIPAA and other relevant laws, you’ve got to keep a sharp eye on essentials like data encryption, access controls, audit trails, and Business Associate Agreements (BAAs). It’s a lot to juggle, but it’s absolutely crucial. We’d highly recommend involving legal and compliance experts during the app development stage, as it could save you heaps of hassle down the line and make sure you’re playing by the rules. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to healthcare legal matters.

Step 7: Building Backend Infrastructure 

Setting up servers, databases, and cloud storage

A scalable backend infrastructure is the backbone of your app. Whether you’re hosting on a cloud service provider like AWS or Microsoft Azure, or on your own servers, you must ensure that your infrastructure can handle increasing user load and data storage requirements without sacrificing performance.

Implementing data synchronization and real-time updates

Your app must provide a consistent user experience across multiple devices and platforms. This calls for seamless synchronization of data. Technologies like WebSockets or Firebase Realtime Database can facilitate real-time updates and notifications, making the app experience fluid and timely for users.

Developing a scalable and reliable backend architecture

To handle a potential surge in user requests and ensure high availability, your backend architecture needs to be scalable and reliable. Consider utilizing technologies like microservices, containerization, or serverless computing. These allow for scalability and fault tolerance, ensuring a robust app that won’t crash when your user base grows.

Step 8: Implementing App Functionality  

Healthcare App MVP

The first working version of your healthcare app is known as the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It serves as a litmus test, helping you gather early user feedback before adding more complex functionalities. This version typically includes essential functionalities that address the core needs of your users. Common features most healthcare apps should consider include appointment booking, medication reminders, symptom tracking, secure messaging, and access to medical records.

User registration and authentication

A secure user registration process with proper validation and verification mechanisms is critical. Offering various authentication methods, such as email/password, social media login, or integration with existing healthcare provider systems can enhance user convenience and security.

Managing medical records and personal health information

Ensure users can easily view and manage their medical records and health information within the app. This feature must be coupled with stringent security measures, such as access controls and data encryption, to protect sensitive health data.

Integrating appointment scheduling and reminders

A well-functioning healthcare app should allow users to schedule appointments based on the availability of healthcare providers and receive timely reminders. This can be achieved by integrating calendar APIs or custom scheduling algorithms.

Providing health education and information resources

Apart from the core functionalities, your app should be a source of reliable health education and information. This could be achieved through features like educational articles, health and wellness videos, or interactive health tools. Collaborate with healthcare professionals or trustworthy medical information sources to ensure your content’s accuracy and credibility. Not only will this boost user engagement, but it will also position your app as a trusted resource in the healthcare space.

Enabling wearable device integration, if applicable

If your app aims to monitor and analyze health data, consider integrating it with wearable devices like fitness trackers or smartwatches. You can develop features to interpret and visualize wearable device data within the app for both users and healthcare providers.

Step 9: Testing and Quality Assurance  

Creating a testing strategy and test cases

Develop a comprehensive testing strategy that encompasses functional testing, usability testing, performance testing, and security testing. By coming up with a broad range of test cases that mirror the many ways users might interact with the app, we’ll be able to make sure it’s smooth sailing no matter what situation it finds itself in.

  • Functional and usability testing

    Functional and usability testing involves ensuring that all features work as intended and assessing the user experience. This includes running user testing sessions and gathering feedback to uncover any usability issues.

  • Security and performance testing

    Security and performance testing helps to identify and rectify vulnerabilities. This could involve penetration testing or vulnerability scanning. Also, evaluate the app’s performance under different load conditions and optimize it for speed, responsiveness, and scalability.

Gathering user feedback for further improvements

After testing, gather user feedback to understand their satisfaction level and areas for improvement. Utilize this feedback to iterate and refine your app, enhancing the overall user experience.

Step 10: Launching and Deployment  

App store submission process and guidelines

Once your app is ready, it’s time for the world to see it. However, launching an app isn’t as simple as clicking a button. Each major app store, like Apple App Store or Google Play Store, has a set of guidelines and requirements for app submission. This includes preparing essential assets like app descriptions, screenshots, icons, and complying with the store’s policies. So, ensure you’re familiar with these guidelines to ensure a smooth app store submission process. 

Planning a marketing and promotional strategy

Without a solid web marketing strategy, even the most innovative apps can go unnoticed. Whether it’s through social media, content marketing, email campaigns, or partnerships with healthcare organizations, your marketing strategy should create awareness and drive users to your app. Remember, the aim is to reach your target audience effectively and convince them to give your app a try. 

Monitoring app performance and user feedback

Even post-launch, your work isn’t done. At this stage, it’s important to keep a close eye on your app’s performance and user feedback. Implementing analytics tools can help you track important metrics such as user engagement, retention, and usage patterns. Meanwhile, monitoring user feedback and reviews allows you to address any issues promptly, enhancing user satisfaction and gathering insights for future updates. 

Step 11: Maintenance and Updates  

Regular bug fixes and performance optimization

Regular maintenance is crucial for any app’s success. Establish a process for bug tracking and addressing reported issues promptly. Additionally, keep optimizing your app’s performance based on user feedback and analytics data. Regular updates not only fix bugs but also improve user experience, driving engagement and retention.  

Monitoring security vulnerabilities and updates

Security is an ongoing commitment in the healthcare app space. Stay up-to-date with the latest security threats and vulnerabilities. Regularly apply security patches and updates to protect user data and implement proactive measures to prevent security incidents. After all, a secure app is a trusted app.

Adding new features and enhancements based on user feedback

Never stop innovating. Continuously assess user feedback, market trends, and emerging technologies for opportunities to add new features and improvements. Regularly updating your app to meet evolving user needs not only keeps your app relevant but also shows your commitment to providing value to your users.

Final Thoughts and Wrapping Up

Creating a healthcare app isn’t a journey for the faint-hearted, but the rewards at the finish line are immense. Each step, from understanding the complex healthcare industry to launching your app and maintaining it, is an opportunity to bring real, meaningful change to the lives of your users. So, remember, the healthcare industry isn’t just about innovating; it’s about humanizing technology, simplifying processes, and delivering value to every user. Good luck on your healthcare app development journey. And of course, if you need some professional help along the way, feel free to contact us. We’d love to help.

Healthcare Application Development FAQs

How much does it cost to develop a healthcare app?

Just like any app, it’s a bit like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” The cost of building a healthcare app depends on a variety of things like, the complexity of your app, the technology stack you choose, and the features you want to include.

What are the key considerations when developing a healthcare app? 

  • Understand your users’ needs. After all, there’s no point in building an app that nobody wants or needs.  
  • User privacy and data security should also be a primary focus, ensuring your healthcare app adheres strictly to regulations like HIPAA.  
  • Carefully consider your chosen technology stack for building the app and pay extra attention to creating a user-friendly design, because healthcare is complex enough, your app shouldn’t be.  
  • Always remember that, in the end, your app should make healthcare more accessible and less perplexing, creating a burst of relief for the user. 

Do health apps make money? 

Absolutely! There are several ways health apps can generate revenue. You could offer in-app purchases or subscriptions. Alternatively, you could run ads or partner with healthcare providers. It’s about finding the right strategy that works for your app and your users.

What is the difference between a healthcare app and a medical app?

While both healthcare apps and medical apps are fruits of medical software development, there is a slight difference. Generally, healthcare apps focus on overall health management, such as helping you track fitness, nutrition, and mental health. On the other hand, medical apps are more about disease diagnosis and treatment. 

How can I address concerns related to data ownership and user consent within the healthcare app? 

Trust is key when dealing with user data. Be transparent with your users – tell them how and why their data will be used. Provide a clear consent form and always give users the option to opt-out.

What are the potential pitfalls and legal implications of providing medical advice or diagnosis through a healthcare app? 

When you’re offering medical advice or diagnoses in your app, you might unintentionally cause a misdiagnosis or misuse of the information, which could get you in some hot water legally. Always stress the importance of consulting with a real-life healthcare professional, and make sure you have a solid and clear disclaimer.

How can I leverage artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) technologies to enhance the functionality and capabilities of my healthcare app?

Leveraging AI in healthcare apps can greatly boost their potential. By implementing ML technologies, your app can predict health trends, provide personalized health tips, or even detect early signs of disease. This not only enhances user engagement but also adds an extra layer of invaluable assistance.

About Creating Healthcare Application Development Guide

This guide was authored by Courtney Schwikkard, and reviewed by Vyacheslav Korchagin, Principal Engineer with experience in leading and delivering complex medical software projects.

Scopic provides quality and informative content, powered by our deep-rooted expertise in software development. Our team of content writers and experts have great knowledge in the latest software technologies, allowing them to break down even the most complex topics in the field. They also know how to tackle topics from a wide range of industries, capture their essence, and deliver valuable content across all digital platforms.

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