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If you are planning on building mHealth apps for iOS, you’re on the right page. We’ve taken pains to put together all the essential information you need to get you started with iOS healthcare app development. 

Apple leads the way in integrating healthcare service delivery solutions into their software and hardware. Unlike their rivals Android and Windows, they have seamless deep synchronization between the iPhone, Macbook, iPad, AppleTV, and iWatch; creating an unparalleled user experience. This means you can create apps that can include features that extend to each of those devices if you need or want to.

As of September 2019, 55% of all smartphones in the USA were iPhones.

medical app for iphone

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – OS Market Share

In contrast, iPhone users in Europe only make up 26% of the mobile phone market there.

iphone users in europeSource: StatCounter Global Stats – OS Market Share

When building an iOS mhealth app, be sure you are targeting the US market or else your target audience may be too small to justify the investment. 


Choosing the features for your medical app

Before you contact a mobile healthcare app developer or even pick your tech stack, you’re going to have to decide what features you need on your app. You have to figure out how you want it to work and how people will benefit from it. Your choices here will determine which developer you’ll hire, the tools you’ll need and costs for your entire project.

If your app will be handling Protected Health Information, you’ll need to be HIPAA compliant. HIPAA compliance dictates which APIs and tools you can use. 

Protected health information includes all individually identifiable health information, including demographic data, medical histories, test results, insurance information, and other information used to identify a patient or provide healthcare services or healthcare coverage. ‘Protected’ means the information is protected under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. – HIPAA Journal.

There are many features you can add to your app including:

Appointment scheduling:

Allow users to book an appointment without having to call you.

Medical Billing:

Send bills automatically when a procedure is complete without going through a medical coder.

E-Prescribing:

Prescribe, manage and monitor medication and compliance

Labs and Imaging:

Receive, send and manage labs and imaging data.

Secure Chat:

Provide a secure direct communication channel between the care provider and his patients.

Video call:

Secure video call between the care provider and the patient.

Healthcare Personnel Management:

Task management, communication, time logging, direct communication and more.

Reminders:

Notifications for procedures, appointments, billing, payments and more.

Payments:

Enable online payments for procedures and appointments.

Symptom Tracking:

Let users track symptoms to create automated recommendations or autonomously trigger alerts to the medical care provider when a patient is at risk.

Electronic Medical Record Management:

Manage all patient medical records.


Do I need a web portal?

If you are building an EHR, yes. There is just so much data in an Electronic Healthcare Record system that it will require a desktop version to be able to display all the data in a comprehensible format. EHR data is best illustrated with graphics that make understanding it easier. An example is shown below:

 

While mobile apps can easily display this data, the screen is too small to show everything. The best practice is to limit the data presentation assets on mobile to only the most essential information and making the rest of it accessible on the desktop version.


Related Post: Should I Build A Website, Mobile Apps, or Both?


Will I be working on Swift or React Native?

Both React and Swift can be used to create fantastic iPhone mobile health apps. The main reasons for deciding on either of the two boils down to a few considerations:

APIs: Some APIs are only available on either of the platforms, not both. Use the platform that supports the APIs you need.

Future Android development: Are you planning to build an Android app in the future? React will save you a lot of time and money when you decide to launch on Android later.

Processing power: If your app will require a lot of CPU power and graphics processing, you should use Swift. It’s designed to fully maximize the hardware performance an iOS device. React doesn’t yet have this advantage. We’ve written extensively about this in an article titled Swift vs React Native: Choosing the best platform for iOS App Development

Access to a mobile health app developer: It’s easier to find a React Native developer than a Swift dev. As a result, Swift devs tend to be busier and charge more than React developers. If your app has a short timeline and your budget is significantly limited, you’ll do better settling for React. Please understand that this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get an inferior app.


Apple’s Healthcare Frameworks: HealthKit, Researchkit & CareKit

HealthKit

HealthKit allows your app to collect data from your users’ devices such as mindfulness, nutrition, sleep, and steps. Users can consent to give this data to you from their devices. HealthKit also comes with the new and powerful Health Records API. Health Records API gives your users the option to share their health record data with your app, including allergies, health conditions, lab results, medications, vital signs, and more. This greatly expands the potential for your mobile health app.

Researchkit

 

If you’re looking to create a research-focused app, Researchkit will do the magic for you. It speeds up development, allowing you to rapidly deploy a stable app based on a reliable framework. ResearchKit transforms the iPhone and iWatch into important medical devices. 

Researchkit is an open-source platform owned by Apple. It allows your iOS app to be used as a powerful medical research tool. With customizable modules, you can create visual consent flows, real-time dynamic active tasks, and surveys. It works seamlessly with HealthKit so researchers can access more data such as daily step counts, calorie use, and heart rate to help in their data gathering.

CareKit

CareKit framework modules include a care card that displays care plans, a symptom and measurement tracker that monitors symptoms and tracks objective measurements, insights for surfacing health tips and visualizing trends, as well as a tool to engage care teams and family members to become partners in a patient’s health journey.

With just this one framework, you can create a solid healthcare app that helps medical care providers to manage patient care, outcomes as well as compliance with treatment. Using your imagination, you can customize your app to send alerts, triggers, and other advanced functions.


Are you integrating with any medical devices?

If you intend to integrate any existing or novel medical devices, your development team needs to have a strong collaboration workflow with the firmware team. It’s not realistic to completely fix a scope for the firmware team independent of the app development team – they have to work together and adjust commands as development on both sides moves forward. 

It’s also important to note that some medical devices and software require FDA approval before marketing. 


Regulatory obligations

Is HIPAA compliance required?

Even if you’re not a covered entity, there are unique scenarios where HIPAA compliance is a must for you. Whether you are or aren’t a covered entity doesn’t reduce your responsibility to protect PHI – because it is sensitive personal data from any perspective.

You must establish a legal framework to address this directly. If PHI is leaked or stolen, the US Department of Health & Human Services will come after you and they’ll need answers because any negligence on your part will make you liable. Read the FTC’s Health Breach Notification rule for more details.

Do you need FDA approval or device certifications?

If you’re dispensing treatment advice or diagnosing a condition, you may require FDA clearance before promoting your app. Do some research with your attorney to make sure you stay in the green zone. 

Some of our clients have come to us with projects that require FDA clearance. The process involves multiple stages of filings and reviews before a final green light is given by the authorities. In order to comply with all the requirements, you would need the help of niche consultants who understand the ins and outs of the eCFR rules. This is especially important if you build an API that interacts with both a medical device and an iOS app. That API will need to be cleared.


Tech Stack

We’ve written an extensive article on healthcare app APIs and plug and play solutions that are available to you. We highly recommend that you go through that. It covers specific discussions on technologies such as Firebase, secure chat engines, eRx APIs, scheduling APIs and much more.

Below are a few specific technical things you need to consider for your iOS mhealth app project:

Authentication:

Be sure that your app uses robust authentication processes. If data is entered into the app by anyone other than the patient, it could lead to serious treatment mismanagement. If it’s research data, there will be wrong conclusions reached when the study is complete. The iPhone has FaceID, TouchID, and even passcode tools. Figure out how you can make a foolproof access control measures that your users will find easy to comply with. This will also protect your users’ data from being accessed by criminals. 

Expectations:

The Apple App Store approval process is more cumbersome and lengthy than Google’s.  They are very strict and follow their guidelines to a ‘t’. Users know this. This is why the most trusted mobile health apps are iOS based. Don’t be discouraged that the process includes extensive vetting. Users feel safer downloading an app that has passed Apple’s rigorous checking on the App Store than one that gets uploaded with less oversight on other marketplaces.

QA Testing:

Test your app across all iOS devices in the iPhone family. The device dimensions from iPhone 5, 6, 7 & X are all remarkably different. This used to be a challenge unique to Android, but it has caught up with Apple as well. Many apps we’ve built in the past have broken on only one of those, so testing has to cover all devices.   

Beta Testing:

Use TestFlight to beta test your app with up to 10,000 reviewers. Follow their simple guidelines on their website to upload your beta build and start inviting external testers for your app. You can invite people to test your app via email or by sharing a public link. 


Conclusion

When building a medical app for iPhone, you have access to powerful tools and assets that are not available elsewhere. Statistics show that most working professionals in the US use iOS devices. This includes doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, as well as their patients; and because Apple Pay is now a mainstream payment method online and offline, their financial and personal lives are deeply connected to their iOS devices. They trust the platform. Launching your mobile health app on iOS will allow you to benefit from the trust that iPhone users have in Apple. 

Are you planning to build a mobile health app and need an experienced healthcare app developer? Topflight Apps specializes in building mobile apps that wow users and owners. Speak to us about your project here.

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