We sincerely hope that you’ve set out to build a healthcare application because you’ve identified a genuine pain point that a medical app can solve. Not because another smarty-pants is conjuring up an image of the billion-dollar mhealth industry.
Our experience (we’ve helped 6 startups raise and earn $24M with apps) proves that a healthcare app is successful when its founders are truly passionate about improving people’s lives.
Let’s say you’ve figured the passion out. Do you also know all the steps you need to take to develop a healthcare app that will change people’s lives for the better?
Well, if anything, skim through our guide and make sure you’re covering all the bases.
Table of Contents:
Step #1: Define your target audience.
Step #2: To build or not to build a healthcare app?
Step #3: How do Security, APIs, and Agile blend in a medical app?
Step #4: Why sneaking up on users is a good thing.
Step #5: Is your healthcare app built to last?
Step #1: You are building a healthcare app for …
If you are reading this, chances are you already know your target audience pretty well. We’ve found that successful medical apps are always built by someone working in the field: either with a medical or nursing degree or working closely with healthcare providers.
Define your medical app’s audience
Get to know the potential users of your app. Their needs and pet peeves will drive every significant decision you’re about to make when building the healthcare app. Remember, it’s all about their context for using your app:
- Will users be standing or sitting?
- Will they have both hands free?
- Will they have time to interact, or will a glance suffice?
- Will they face patients when using the app?
Choose a fitting platform
These and myriad of other questions will influence the features you’ll build into the health app plus the choice of mobile devices and platforms:
- iOS or Android
- smartphones / tablets / smartwatches / smart speakers /
- AI integration by Google / IBM / Microsoft
- AR, VR, or IoT integration
Let’s look at some of the most popular types of healthcare apps out there. The diagram is far from covering the whole spectrum of apps that you can build of course. Instead, it’ll help you to jump-start on your app idea quest and, eventually, will allow you to hone in on your target audience:
And by the way, thinking outside the box is always welcome. Is there a place for a healthcare app game? You bet, there’s plenty in Google Play already! Can there be an app that connects to a smart pillbox and tracks medicine intakes? Yes, we delivered a similar medical product.
Step #2: Here’s how you build a healthcare app without building it
Yes, that’s right, you don’t have to throw yourself into healthcare app development right after putting together a nice list of features and requirements. Every line of code is money out of your pocket. Why don’t you spend it on finalizing the concept of your healthcare app first?
The way you do this is by prototyping: fleshing out your medical app’s features into clickable screens that look almost identical to a real-life app. The beauty of a clickable prototype is you can:
- experience it on your phone as if working with an actual app
- quickly get a prototype in the hands of users for A/B testing
- verify with a developer if all features are quite feasible on a selected platform
And all of that without draining your development budget too much. UX & UI work, despite being ultra-important when building a healthcare app, often accounts for a fraction of the total health app cost, unlike coding.
“It‘s 10x cheaper to fix a design flaw while
prototyping than during development.”
Joe Tuan, founder, Topflight Apps
Today, there’s no shortage of interactive tools for rapid prototyping. Some, like Balsamiq or Proto.io, are so easy-to-use, it will be hard to resist the urge of trying your hand at putting together a couple of mocks. Others, like Adobe XD or InVision, invite design resources with more hands-on expertise in app development.
The bottom line is when prototyping, you’re kind of building your healthcare app and, at the same time, you’re not. Only because at this stage, your users can’t download the app or perform any non-hardwired action in the prototype.
Step #3: Key things to consider when developing a healthcare app that will stand out
At this point, you already have all the features that your medical app will ship with. And the click-through prototype. You’re fully equipped, and nothing can stop you from plunging headfirst into the development of your healthcare app, right?
Right — for many cases, but not so fast — when you’re looking to build an exceptional healthcare app. We suggest you consider these three points, if anything, to ensure you’re building a health app that will make a real impact.
Security & Compliance
No, it’s not about the proverbial HIPAA compliance that should be in place whenever patients’ protected health information (PHI) is at play. Depending on the type and functionality of your medical app, you will need to wrap your head around such concepts as:
- Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for CareKit and HealthKit
- Android.os.health documentation
- IEC 62304, ISO27001, SOC2 Type 2, and a few other standards
- MFi Program by Apple
- HITECH Act, GDPR, and other regulations
The patient data should always be traveling to and from the app in an encrypted format over a secure connection.
APIs & Integrations
To lure in modern power users and newbies, your app will likely integrate with other services. That’s how you leverage the location and proximity data, make use of vitals offered via HealthKit, work with EHR systems, and do a lot of other wonders with your healthcare app.
Just make sure if the corresponding APIs are available for commercial use and whether you are required to open source your code after using them.
Agile & Continuous Delivery
Agile has probably already become your favorite mantra. Well, it’s the perfect time to start practicing. When you build a healthcare app, it’s important to realize that proceeding by brief, one-week sprints, you’re likely to arrive at the desired destination faster and with fewer iterations. There will be time to test the completed scope and adjust future sprints if necessary.
Another aspect you should be paying attention to is continuous delivery. The team developing your healthcare app must set up an environment that allows QA engineers and you to test completed features without interfering with the development of the next round of features.
Step #4: What’s next after you’ve built a healthcare app?
What do you do with an app that’s been built? That’s right — release it to the App Store, Google Play, or distribute it to users on an ad hoc basis if it’s a corporate medical app. That’s also when the real fun starts.
Sneak up on users, legit
If you’re teaming up with pros to build your healthcare app, then your app already integrates with some sort of analytics that gathers app usage metrics. All you need to do is read and interpret this data to find the potential for enhancements:
- you might want users to stay in the app longer
- you want to enable users to achieve their goals in the app as fast as possible
- you might want to increase their spend in the app
Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve with the app — the app usage data coming, e.g., from Firebase or Appsee is a reliable source of insight for future app upgrades.
Ask for user feedback openly
You can always integrate a customer feedback system if you want to allow users to vent their frustration with the app without leaving a negative review on an app store. To enable this functionality, take a closer look at the solutions like UserVoice or UserTesting. And it certainly never hurts to monitor and interact with user reviews you get in app stores.
Watch major OS updates
New features may also come as you update your healthcare app to support the latest OS version. It’s worth noting that even though most OS updates leave existing apps intact, updating the app is always a better idea. This way, you don’t accumulate any technical debt and make use of the latest OS features.
Believe me, you don’t want to know what technical debt is (reach out directly if you do!). You just don’t want to accumulate this debt and then spend a hefty budget on dealing with it later on.
Step #5: Build an ecosystem around your healthcare app
Now that your app is on track with receiving timely updates and new features (dull people call this a maintenance mode), it’s time to step back and take a look at the big picture. Do you see the potential for driving more value for your medical app users by extending to more platforms, such as desktops, tablets, etc.? Or is there a platform that just calls for integration?
What if users could see more detailed reports in the cloud-based version of the app — the one they could access via a desktop browser? Does it make sense to come up with a smartwatch version?
At some point, you’re bound to start noticing these opportunities. So go ahead and turn them into growth points by building your healthcare app into an entire ecosystem.
Even though we’ve touched upon many things concerning medical apps development, there’s always something extra that we share only with our clients and partners.
So join the party by subscribing to our newsletter (the pop-up should be somewhere really close) or schedule a call to ask more questions about building a healthcare app. It’s free and enlightening!
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