How to Build a Medical App?

The rate at which healthcare apps are being launched in the market is doubling every year. According to Statista, the digital health market is expected to reach 206 billion U.S. dollars by 2020. This tremendous boom in app numbers, along with the evolving medical research and technology is creating new opportunities and even stronger competition.

The importance of apps cannot be ruled out in healthcare, though the stakes are higher in this industry as a patient’s health and data is involved in the process.Consequently, if you are dealing with patient sensitive data, it takes a deeper technical understanding to build a medical app. A lot of work goes into it right from the planning to execution to maintenance.

The prime focus of every healthcare technology provider is to develop apps that aim to provide quality healthcare facilities without any compromises. The very first way to do it is by getting all set with its purpose.

Choosing Your Business Model and App’s Category

Once you have established the need for a healthcare app for your business, most of the planning zeroes down to the intent your app will serve. Intent here means a possible quality solution you want your app to provide.

healthcare-app-business-model

Healthcare apps further fall under the following categories:

1. Clinical Diagnosis Apps

Apps that assist in diagnosing a medical condition or disease with the help of signs, symptoms and laboratory test reports. They require ePHI access and storage to analyze patient symptoms to determine appropriate treatment and predict patient outcome.

2. Scheduling Apps

Apps that allow users to easily book appointments and reservations to consult their physician online. This reduces the resource overhead to maintain all the appointment schedules for a practitioner.

3. Telehealth Apps

According to Center for Connected Health Policy, Telehealth apps broadly include the following:

– Video Conferencing

Those apps that provide real time audio-visual communication between the patient and the providers come under this umbrella of apps. These apps are used for live consultation and other clinical uses.

– Store and Forward

Apps that help in transmission of recorded patient historical reports including photos and videos like x-rays and other secure information through communication channels like email.

– Remote Patient Monitoring

Personal health data transmitted through patient’s location to the provider in a different location for care assistance and track healthcare data remotely.

– Mobile Health

This refers to the healthcare practice that is communicated through mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets, wearable technology etc.

4. Medical Resources Apps

Apps that are beneficial to learning in healthcare be it a physician or a medical student. These apps also include clinical references, ICD guides, and other drug related information accessible on mobile devices.

5. Lifestyle Apps

Apps that help achieve a healthy lifestyle using your health and diet data. Apps for exercise monitoring, nutrition development, fitness tracking come under this category.

Once you decide on the app you want to build, the design phase should start.

Major Features to Include in Your Medical App

Here are some of the functionalities of medical apps you should be targeting according to the category of app you plan to build:
medical-app-features

1. Dashboards

– Intent

Healthcare dashboards are used by solo practitioners or healthcare facilities for better performance reporting and analyzing essential healthcare metrics of departments. A dashboard can either be a custom app or a built-in functionality in hospital applications:

  • Hospital Dashboard
  • Patient Satisfaction Dashboard
  • Performance Dashboard
  • Readmission Rates Dashboard and many more.

– Benefits

A dashboard is helpful to aggregate and benchmark medical data to give an overview of the key performance metrics thus help in improving administrative and clinical decision making.

2. Patient Portal

– Intent

A patient portal in a medical app is used for a variety of functions including appointment scheduling, downloading and uploading patient reports, viewing patient healthcare information. It also includes, electronic prescriptions and a billing system to manage medical payments.

– Benefits

According to Software Advice, patient portals are useful for:

  • Fostering better patient-physician relationships by providing better communication to each.
  • Improve clinical outcomes.
  • Optimize workflow by reducing manual admin tasks.

3. Advanced Analytics, Reporting and Charting

– Apps Usage

This functionality is used in apps like enhanced EHRs, EMRs, hospital dashboards, telehealth apps etc. It includes pictorial representations of data as graphs and charts and is also used to predict patient outcomes along with reporting essential clinical diagnostic data.

For instance, advanced EHR reporting can trigger reminders and warnings for a missed patient appointment.

– Benefit

Analytics is going to be the future of everything. With tones of patient related medical data, advanced reporting has paved the way for better diagnosis and treatment accuracy. This module is essentially does the smart data driven reporting that has the potential to save a major chunk of healthcare costs.

4. Real Time Chat and Video

– Intent

Real time communication features are supported by telemedicine apps for video consultations and remote patient monitoring of vital stats and conditions. Example, apps such as MDLive that supports virtual clinic services and online checkups.

– Benefits

Real time communication can help increase access to healthcare and address the looming availability concerns of physicians. Additionally, video consultations can reduce wait times and healthcare treatment costs incurred significantly.

5. Mobile Support and Wearables Integration

– Intent

This feature is generally supported in apps that connect to fitness trackers, pacemakers etc. Mobile devices exchange medical information that can be tracked and displayed in apps for storage and reporting purposes.
Some EHRs are also integrated with wearable technology that use sensory motions to monitor chronic conditions of patients.

– Benefits

The advantages of mobile technology in healthcare are numerous. And certainly, interoperability will scale your app to reach a wider audience with better patient engagement.

Wearable technology integration is estimated to improve chronic patient conditions and enhanced point-of-care operations through apps. According to Accenture, wearable technology is not only welcomed by patients but is also helpful for providers, nurses and hospital staff to become truly mobile and more productive.

Designing Your Healthcare App

Times have changed, and it is better that legacy healthcare systems are bade goodbye. The deepest concern that medical apps have helped to overcome is reduce the amount of physical paperwork that not only consumes time, but also delays quality care.

designing-your-medical-app

Just like any other app, a healthcare app demands an intuitive user interface with a seamless flow of control to provide utmost user satisfaction.

Considering the amount of data and the quality of service medical apps aim for, a well-researched and planned effort and best practices should go into designing a healthcare app.

Quick tips for design thinking in healthcare:

  • It should be customer centric and focused on consistency.
  • It should simplify usability and conform with safety specifications.
  • It should deliver important information with less number of interactions.
  • Ideate and iterate to simplify process workflows.
  • Understand the pain-points of your users to provide seamless experience.

Planning Your Healthcare App for Complete Security

Medical records containing patient healthcare data is worth millions of dollars in the dark world of cyber-crime. Healthcare data suffers a vulnerability risk to attacks in any part of the world. To curb this menace, national regulatory bodies have set up rules and regulations that safeguard healthcare applications from a potential breach.
planning-healthcare-app-security
To comply with these rules, your medical app should consider:

  • Considering the scope of healthcare data and whether your app transmits or stores any sensitive data.
  • Geographical security frameworks to comply with world-wide information security standards.
  • A phased implementation of the app’s architecture as per the risk assessment for the features to be implemented.

1. Privacy Rules in Different Regions

– United States

Any healthcare application that transmits, records or stores Protected healthcare information (PHI) of a patient must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) managed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and enforced by the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. It encapsulates the following set of rules:

  • Privacy Rule
  • Security Rule
  • Enforcement Rule
  • Breach Notification Rule

Unauthorized access, hacking/IT incidents and theft were the major reasons behind the HIPAA data breaches reported in 2016 and served hefty fines to the governing authority. So if you are planning a medical app for your business, keep in mind that a disclosure of any kind can lead to massive payoff. To avoid any HIPAA violation in the US, you should be aware of the ways to ensure your app is HIPAA compliant.

– The European Union

If your app is targeted for audience in the European Union, it must be compliant with the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC that regulates the processing and free movement of data. This Directive will soon be replaced by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by May 2018. It revises the existing data protection policies that handles how companies must handle personal data online.

– The United Kingdom

Medical apps in UK come under the regulation of the Data Protection Act of 1988. This Act governed by the NHS enforces fundamental principles of personal data processing, storage and transmission in the UK.

– Canada

The Canadian government tackles healthcare data privacy both at the federal and provincial level. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) regulates all personal data which includes healthcare specific patient privacy. If you plan to build a medical app to be used in Canada, you would also need to make sure it complies with provincial security standards.

Similarly, laws in Asia Pacific region, Australia, New Zealand and other countries vary and make sure your app adheres to country specific guidelines to avoid any penalty.

At Kays Harbor, we have our own HIPAA framework with reusable standard components that can help you accelerate your go to market time. This framework:

  • Plugs in with core applications.
  • Helps avoid reinvent the wheel.
  • Ensures 360-degree coverage of HIPAA technical safeguards.
  • Reduces technology implementation and time by 70%.

Factors Affecting the Cost and Duration to Build a Medical App

When analyzing the scope of healthcare app project, there are chances of unpredictability to a large extent. Since a lot of research goes into health implications of an app, estimation is complex and includes:

HIPAA-accelerator-framework

1. Category of Your App

The type of app you want to build is one of the primary ingredients of the project cost and duration.

If you are planning to develop an app for the hospital or an EMR/EHR, n-number of parameters come into the picture. These include automating almost everything, from a seamless UX to automation to ensuring security compliance and establishing Meaningful Use guidelines, these apps are critical to any healthcare institution. Additionally, they require robust features with maximum efficiency as the data is crucial to day-to-day activities of the facility.

On the other hand, if you are planning for a lifestyle app, it would naturally include comparatively simpler workflows and would take lesser time to develop.

2. Technology Platform

Is your app meant for desktop use? Or you require a similar mobile app for the same. Depending on your platform preference, the cost and duration varies. When it comes to going mobile for your medical app, the type of app (native, hybrid or a PWA) will influence your costs as well.

3. Development Partner

The right technical skills and experience is essential to healthcare app development. Prior knowledge about healthcare standards, policies and previous implementation of features determines the credibility of your development team or outsourcing partner.

Your medical app cost is a combination of all these factors. Before you plan to get started with your healthcare project, prepare a right set of questions for your team and your technology provider. On top of all, don’t forget that the key to a successful medical app is a patient centric approach.