What is a healthcare app
Healthcare platforms are also called medical apps or mhealth apps. They help users keep an eye on the mental, physical, social, and environmental factors of their overall health. For example, the software can track how many hours you sleep, how many steps you take daily, what your blood pressure is, how often you meditate, and many other things.
If you want to get into healthcare mobile app development, you need to know your competitors. The most well-known healthcare apps are Apple Health, MyFitnessPal, BetterHelp, Welltory, HealthTap, WaterLama, Zero, and Flo.
Types of healthcare apps
There are many different types of healthcare apps on the market. We carefully reviewed the top charts in the Health category and identified 7 of the most popular types. Let’s break them down!
📝 Symptom Checkers
Those are healthcare apps for patients mostly: they help users keep records of symptoms on their phones and easily answer a doctor’s question “When did it start?” For example, if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you can add days when you started sneezing a lot or got a runny nose. When you come to see a healthcare professional, you will have your health records ready.
This type of medical app hosts online calls between patients and doctors. It became especially popular during the pandemic when visiting a hospital was a risk. Many users switched to online appointments. This way they can safely talk to a specialist via audio or video call, explain their concerns, and get the treatment prescribed. Take a good look at telemedicine app development solutions, if you’re thinking about creating a medical app.
How many times have you forgotten to take your vitamins or drink enough water to stay hydrated? In busy times like ours, reminder apps are the saviors. They send you a push notification about things you need to do and overall make life easier and simpler.
🍏 Nutrition & Weight Loss
They help users track their food intake and count calories. How does it work? You set a goal and keep a food diary by searching a large database and adding items you ate throughout the day. The app will calculate the nutritional facts and can suggest certain foods to have a well-balanced diet, such as fiber-rich options like fruits and vegetables, or low-sodium snacks.
This type of app provides users with guided meditations to help them unwind, relax and get better mental health. Some of them offer more features, for example, mood trackers or a community of like-minded meditators. The most well-known examples are Headspace and Calm.
🤰🏻Women’s Health Trackers
They serve several purposes: users can keep track of their menstrual cycle, report symptoms they experience, plan a pregnancy, and predict periods. Market leaders, Flo and Clue, both also provide educational content, publish articles, and offer courses to learn more about overall well-being.
📊 Prescription Price Comparison
Usually, those are very simple apps that collect info about how much medications cost in different pharmacies and what coupons or discounts they are offering at the moment. Drug price checkers are very popular in the United States. One of the most successful examples of this type of health app development idea is a mobile application GoodRx.
Why healthcare app development is essential in 2023
App development within the healthcare sector has seen rapid growth in recent years. Compare these numbers: in 2013 only 66,713 medical apps existed on the market. Now there are more than 350,000 available platforms and more than a third of them appeared in the last 2 years. Researchers predict that the healthcare industry will keep expanding by approximately 10% each year and by 2030 will reach $105.9 billion in total revenue.
Health apps are popular in every region of the world, with North America being the leader of the market, followed by Europe and Asia.
An important thing to note is that healthcare application development targets many audiences at once:
- pharmaceutical companies
- public health officials
They all benefit from using digital health platforms. Let’s take a closer look at two of the largest types of audience: doctors and patients.
|Benefits for doctors||Benefits for patients|
|Faster diagnosis and workflow||Easier health monitoring|
|Less paperwork||Lower risk of misdiagnosis|
|Better appointment management||Encouraging a healthier lifestyle|
We’ll begin with medical professionals.
Benefits of healthcare application development for physicians
Many hospitals and other medical facilities are undergoing digitalization. More doctors all over the world are using apps in their workflow. There are several reasons why:
Faster diagnosis and work process. If a doctor doesn’t have a CRM or an app with medical records on hand, they have to manually search through folders of paperwork to find a patient’s info. This slows the entire appointment down. But certain healthcare apps can help find necessary prescription and allergies info at a moment’s notice.
Less paperwork. During an appointment, a doctor has to do several things: write a prescription, provide a doctor’s note, and compile their patient’s lab test results. This ends in a big pile of papers on their desk — writing all this down is inconvenient. With an app, you can store and manage these documents with your phone alone.
Better appointment management. Great doctors often have many patients who need their help. Keeping track of all meetings is often difficult for this reason — and rescheduling consultations at the same time is tough, too. Apps streamline this process with a built-in calendar.
For example, healthcare apps for patients can track their symptoms, report them to a doctor, and have an online appointment if needed. While doctors can monitor their patient’s health on a smartphone in real-time, without spending time on phone calls or quick check-ups.
Benefits of healthcare application development for patients
Patients benefit immensely from healthcare apps. Here are a few ways how:
Easier health monitoring. If the patient has a condition which requires constant supervision, they often have to schedule numerous check-ups and phone calls. This takes a lot of time — and it can be outright painful for some. Apps allow doctors to monitor health in real-time, so going to the hospital is usually not required.
Lower risk of misdiagnosis. Apps usually track illnesses in a very accurate fashion — it’s much different from our own perception of health. Doctors can take accurate measurements and data from the app — and detect chronic conditions earlier.
Encouraging a healthier lifestyle. Many healthcare apps are centered on motivation. They can help people with chronic illnesses lead better lifestyles: e.g. if a patient suffers from diabetes or depression. Apps like this excel at making users pursue healthy habits, like running, swimming, and dancing.
Does healthcare app development make money
The short answer is yes, it does. In 2021 total revenue of mHealth platforms reached $38.2 billion. Most of the apps are free but have additional paid features and tools. There are several monetization strategies for healthcare software development, let’s review them together.
- Subscription is a recurring payment user makes to get access to extra features and services. For example, MyFitnessPal offers premium subscriptions for $9.99 a month or $49.99 for the year. For this price, subscribers can take advantage of an ad-free app, export their data, scan meals with a smartphone camera and get detailed food analysis.
- Paid content is another way to make money in health app development. After paying a fee, users get access to expert content or courses on how to maintain a healthy body and overall well-being. Flo, a period tracking app, posts videos, articles, and audio curated by doctors, and it is available for $10 per month or $49.99 per year.
- In-app advertising can be annoying to users, but it really works. This revenue stream comes from ad buyers who want to show info about their product in your healthcare app. For example, companies that produce low-carb snacks can purchase a spot for the ad on a weight loss app, and be sure that they will reach the target audience. But you should be careful with this monetization strategy: too many ads can negatively impact the user’s experience — it’s all about the right balance.
Successful healthcare application development cases
To conquer healthcare mobile application development and get to the top charts of app stores, your app should stand out from the competitors. We decided to help you on this journey and studied 3 major health apps to learn about their user experience, key features, and UI/UX design peculiarities.
Apple entered healthcare mobile application development in 2014 when they launched their own app. It is free of charge, is included on all devices with iOS 8 and older by default, and stores the digital health records of a user. For example, it automatically counts the steps, walking and running distances, sleep time, and heart rate showing trends and recommendations.
Apple’s app is all about the user’s experience. In terms of design, it is very minimalistic, clean, and straightforward. From dashboard layout to buttons and fonts, all elements use simple and smooth lines. The color palette is limited to white background and several bright shades that correspond with different categories. For example, red for physical activity, green for nutrition, and pink for heart health measurements.
Probably, one of the most interesting features of Apple Health is sharing. Users can give access to their data to friends, family members, and doctors. This, according to the company, “can lead to richer, better-informed conversations with your healthcare team.”
The app was released in 2005 and was a pioneer in healthcare app development. It helps almost 140 million users track their diet and physical activity daily. The basic version is free, but some features are only available for premium subscribers, such as meal prep, recipes, guided workouts, and others.
The flow is simple: a user signs up, chooses a goal, and starts reporting their meals and exercises. MyFitnessPal has one of the biggest databases with over 14 million food items, so users can quickly find nutritional facts for each product. Premium subscribers can use their phone camera to scan packaging and find the items quicker.
Welltory helps to increase the productivity of your body by taking control of the most important health factors. It was launched in 2016, but quickly became a popular case in healthcare app development — it gained an audience of 4 million people in 136 different countries. The platform is free to use but has premium service available for $13 per month or $79 annually.
What exactly does the app do? The main feature of Welltory is the feature that allows users to monitor their heart rate and blood pressure with just the phone camera. No need for a smartwatch! For a full assessment, it takes into account 15+ different science-based metrics, genetic factors, and past measurements. You can also link it to other apps, like Apple Health, Nike+ Run, and Strava, to add your sleep, exercise, and productivity data and get more comprehensive results about your cardiovascular health. Welltory also provides users recommendations on how to manage stress levels or increase productivity at home.
The app has a very sophisticated graphic interface with a dark color scheme and lots of animation. The navigation is clear and straightforward, and as a user, you always know your next step.
5 essential features of a healthcare application
To make your app stand out among competitors and meet your audience’s needs, you need to think about key features before starting the development for healthcare. Depending on your idea and target users, you might need different features for your MVP.
Here are 5 features you should consider during healthcare mobile app development regardless of type or audience.
1. Registration and login
You need to decide with your healthcare app development at what step you want your users to log in: before they start using the app or after a short walk-through. For a more personalized experience we recommend asking users to log in on the first screen — this will also help you authenticate who is using your app.
Try to keep the registration form short and ask for basic information only — name, email address, height, weight, date of birth. The rest, such as payment information, push notifications settings, goals, and wearables integration — all can be added later.
Dashboard presents grouped updated data in the forms of graphs, tables, and charts. It’s a great feature to have if you’re considering healthcare mobile app development. A clear and easy-to-navigate dashboard is a must for robust app development for healthcare. The core of such platforms is the user’s data, and if numbers are messy and confusing, no one will use the solution.
For effective dashboard design, everything should be well-thought and thoroughly planned: colors, fonts, and UI elements. First, we recommend studying your target audience. Then, selecting the right dashboard type, and making sure you meet your customers needs with the way you present your data.
3. Reminders and notifications
Push notifications are short messages that pop up on users’ screens. For an entrepreneur, it is your way to speak directly to the user, so make sure to include it in healthcare mobile app development. Notifications can serve as reminders or alerts about important updates and changes.
For example, you can remind a user to drink water, notify them about upcoming server maintenance, or send exclusive access to a free trial of the premium version to promote the paid features of your app.
4. Payment options
If you want to monetize your healthcare app, you will need to use payment processing APIs, so your users can purchase additional tools and services. Make sure you add ApplePay or GooglePay integration to your mobile version for faster checkout, but also PayPal and other services for accessibility. This is essential for healthcare mobile app development.
Also, when you deal with payment information and credit card data, consider extra protection, and talk to your developer about the most secure payment gateway options for your solution.
5. Wearables Integration
Another must for successful medical app development in 2023 is integration with Apple Watch, FitBit, Oura ring, and other fitness devices. There are several benefits of this feature. First, it will help you to source more data and prepare a more comprehensive analysis for the user. For example, if your app doesn’t monitor physical activity, a simple syncing with Apple Watch can close this gap. Secondly, you won’t have to compete for the user’s attention: your audience can use several devices and apps to get insights into their health, each of them will supplement another.
To add functions for wearable devices into your own healthcare applications, or retrieve data from a user’s device, you will need APIs for those wearables.
Health and medical apps: what is the difference
We use these terms interchangeably throughout this article. But there is a small difference between the target audience of both of these apps.
Health apps are used by the general public — regular people looking to improve their mental and physical health. That makes them cheaper to implement and develop — the user’s expectations can be lower than that of an organization.
Medical apps are different. They’re used by doctors to better figure out the course of treatment and check their data. Apps like this can be more costly to make. That’s because you need to find a hospital that can integrate your app into their workflow, test it, and approve it.
When it comes to healthcare app development, take a look at a table with key differences between health apps and medical apps:
|Characteristics||Health apps||Medical apps|
|Type of user||General public||Doctors, nurses, hospital staff|
|Purpose||Targets a single condition, makes it easier to deal with||Typically has different uses for multiple conditions, relies on patient data and analytics|
|Development cost||Cheaper than fully-fledged medical apps||Expensive because of regulations|
|Implementation||Can be launched for use by the public with almost no issues||Needs to be tested by hospital staff and approved by the administration of the facility|
3 best practices for medical mobile app development
Healthcare mobile app development has its own pitfalls and complexities. We’d like to share some info that can make your app stand out.
Take a look at 3 best practices to build a health app we singled out thanks to years of experience.
🌊 Logical and concise user flow
Most designers and UX researchers agree on the following usability principle: users take no more than three tries to figure the app out.
If the app is still incomprehensible, they leave. And if signing up is impossible and scheduling appointments is tedious, the user won’t be lenient with the app.
An easy litmus test for whether your app is logical or not revolves around the target audience.
Imagine you have a 55+ year old senior trying to use your app. If they get confused the moment they look at a first screen, the app is probably too difficult.
Designers shouldn’t get too carried away with this test. They risk creating an app that belongs on an ATARI console or a Windows XP — not on a smartphone.
Creating an app that sticks to minimalism and other usability principles is key. And if some are in doubt, they just need to add some onboarding screens and tooltips to make sure users understand how the app functions.
Think of some features that your audience can find handy. Search history, password and private data autofill can make your app more enjoyable.
This is how we went about creating a diagnostic app Lytic Health. Saving time for both doctors and patients was our primary goal. To do that, we integrated a chatbot and a form they can fill out. We also included a box with suggested search queries and tagging. This way, the user can choose a precise and appropriate diagnosis without typing it themselves.
🕹 Gamification and other user-retention techniques
Staying motivated is key to building great health. Seeing the fruits of your hard work makes it a more rewarding goal. Gamification can help show them and track progress more clearly.
When integrating gamification, companies should take care not to make it too cartoony. Healthcare applications shouldn’t be solemn — but they shouldn’t be too funny.
At Purrweb, we based a lot of the features in our apps on gamification. Certain notifications, dashboards, and whole screens had motivational elements. For healthcare app development, for example, gamification made it easier for patients to stick to their treatment plan and take medicine on time.
🏃 Understanding the needs and pain points of your target audience
Consider patients, doctors, insurance companies, and other types of audience concerned with healthcare applications. Focus on their needs and goals — some may overlap, but it’s important to keep distinct characteristics of each of them in mind. This will allow you to create a good product that sells well, attracts new customers, and earns money.
At Purrweb, we have a healthcare application development case where we did just that — a psychotherapist service in the UK. We divided it into several user roles: patients, managers, and psychotherapists themselves. Each of them have different features they want. For patients, it’s appointment management and notetaking.
HIPAA and other regulations to consider
The healthcare industry is one of the most regulated in terms of business. The app market for medical apps is no exception. Take a look at some regulations you have to abide by to release your app:
These are a set of administrative regulations aimed at safeguarding patients’ electronic protected health information (e-PHI). HIPAA requires that all healthcare providers (developers of healthcare apps included) implement a number of administrative, physical, and technical measures to combat fraud, data leakages, unauthorized access, and any other infringements that would compromise patients’ confidentiality. HIPAA compliance for startups is especially tricky, because it might be hard to definitevely tell if you are completely compliant, so be cautious.
Although compliance with HIPAA is crucial for anyone who wants to enter the healthcare market, there are other regulations to keep in mind when developing a healthcare app.
Although specific only to California, any business that seeks to attract customers from this state must comply with the CCPA requirements. This law instructs all for-profit entities to inform consumers (in this case — patients) on what private health data are being collected and tell them whether or not this information is being disclosed with other parties. According to CCPA, any patient who is a resident of California reserves the right to ask for total erasure of data associated with them.
The National Institute of Science & Technology has devised a voluntary cybersecurity framework for businesses that deal with sensitive information. The NIST guidelines help private organizations enhance their protection in the virtual space and create proper algorithms for safe communication and resolving problematic situations. Following these guidelines is not mandatory; however, it can make the product more attractive to both patients and governmental institutions.
Another act aimed at establishing a high level of patients’ health data security within medical networks. It has recently been merged with HIPAA, so complying with HIPAA automatically means complying with HITECH.
In this article, we are focusing primarily on the US legislation protecting patients’ medical data, but most other countries feature similar laws. It is crucial to always consult the relevant documents before launching a healthtec app in any market — be it domestic or foreign.
7 steps to build a healthcare app
Step 1. Finding an idea
Here are a couple of things you can lean into before fully fledged healthcare app development:
Think of your target audience. Healthcare apps are used by different groups of people: from major insurance companies to regular patients. Keep their interests in mind. You can also create a more detailed portrait to better understand their problems.
Brainstorm some features. This is the part where you think of a unique selling point of your app. Why will doctors use your product in their practice?
Assess the competition. Keep their strengths and weaknesses in mind. You can use them to enhance your product, make your app’s UX richer, and attract more clients.
Step 2. Validating your idea
After you settle on your app idea, try to refine it and test it in the wild. Here are some things you can do:
Find a research group. Take a couple of doctors or friends and ask them about the feasibility of your idea. They may provide some insights you couldn’t have known about the product or the industry.
Ask on the internet. You can gather data by pooling answers from different people on forums. If you need it, it’s possible to incorporate their suggestions or wants into your own product.
After you figured out that your idea is sought after, think of some regulations you’ll have to face and abide by to release your healthcare app.
Step 3. Adhering to HIPAA
Secure the data. The flow of patients’ medical data should be protected from both external and internal threats.
Limit access. Ensure that the only parties with access to e-PHI are patients and their attending doctors.
Conduct audits. Any activity in information systems that contain patients’ sensitive data should be thoroughly recorded in case any further examination is needed.
Ensure interoperability. The app needs to be integrated into a wider network of already-existing solutions designed by the medical establishment via flexible APIs.
Supervise. HIPAA obligates healthcare providers to train all staff professionals to work with e-PHI in a safe and proper way, as well as introduce sanctions for non-compliance.
You can find the full list of requirements on the HHS site.
Step 4. Developing UI/UX design
Don’t forget to outline separate user flows for different roles. If patients and doctors share the same flow, the app can get messy and difficult to get into.
Now’s the time to create wireframes — simple black and white screens of your future app. The goal here isn’t to make a beautiful product, but a functional one.
Make sure to develop an accessible interface. If it’s intuitive to use and clear to navigate through, more users will stick around to enjoy your app. It’s especially important for healthcare apps — if the design is too distracting or difficult on the eyes, it can hinder the user experience.
It’s better at this stage to think through some design choices that can assist users to better utilize your app. Text-to-speech, minimalistic design, and neutral colors can all enhance the user experience.
Step 5. Adding third-party integrations
Some hospitals and insurance organizations can’t live without integrations. EHR-systems and cloud computing make the workflow a lot easier — and a lot of companies won’t consider an app that doesn’t support things like this.
If you’re planning healthcare app development for a residence or other medical company, try to understand their needs and requirements. They may share some of their favorite integrations. Using them in your app can make it a more favorable choice amongst competitors that don’t have them.
Step 6. Launching an MVP
The goal of this step is to test out your idea with real-world customers. MVP stands for a minimum viable product and can be described as the first version of your mobile app with a limited set of must-have features. Don’t confuse it with a prototype or a mock-up: MVP is a completed and fully-functioning solution.
MVP’s can save you a lot of money in the long run. If the idea doesn’t take off, you can modify your product or abandon it without significant losses. If it proves to be successful, you can easily scale it if you want to.
After development is done, launch the app and gather initial feedback — it’s crucial. You can use it to make your app even better and attract more users.
Step 7. Scaling the product
After you receive customer feedback, analyze the data, and perfect the product it is the time for a final launch and scaling up. That’s why launching an app doesn’t mean the end of development.
The team of software developers will help you with the app, by getting rid of pesky bugs. At the same time, experienced mobile developers can integrate app updates and provide post-release support: e.g. add new features and make sure existing ones work properly.
Costs & timeline
How much does healthcare mobile app development cost? Let’s break down the services and the numbers for a similar project.
🚨Disclaimer: This is our estimation for medical app development and we don’t guarantee other companies have the exact costs or timelines. The following quote is valid only if you decide to develop a product with us.
|Stage||What are we doing||Estimation in hours||Estimation in weeks||Approximate costs|
|Initial meeting||Discuss the idea of your app||1 day||–||No costs|
|UI/UX design||Map users’ journey, create and present you with interface mock-ups||125 hours||5 weeks||$6 300|
|Development||Work on your healthcare app||860 hours||10 weeks||$38 700|
|QA Testing||Find and fix bugs||300 hours||In parallel with development||$6 000|
|Project management||Manage the healthcare mobile app development project and solve administrative tasks||16 (in weeks)||During the whole project||$4 250|
Overall, the mobile healthcare app development services will cost you $55 250 and will take approximately 5 months.
Let’s take a look at some of these stages to create a health app in depth
The project manager contacts you and schedules a call to better understand the task at hand. They ask about the business, an idea for the app, requirements, and limitations. The manager returns the next day with an approximate budget and timeline.
The purpose of a project manager is to organize development. They plan out the workflow and pick out designers and coders with relevant experience. This makes the whole work process go smoothly.
This is the part where designers begin working their magic. They create several deliverables:
Wireframes. They make it easier to map out user logic. You can see how future clients will navigate through the app. Every wireframe is compiled in Figma.
UI-concept. Designers take 2-3 wireframes and flesh them out to full fledged screens. It helps to see how the final result is going to look like. It’s a perfect opportunity to suggest changes about colors and fonts. If you don’t like something, designers won’t have to spend extra time remaking screens. They can showcase your suggestions on 2 screens only. After it’s approved, we finish the rest of the screens.
We flesh out the design of the product at this stage
UI-kit. This is a design file with every element of the interface: from buttons and icons to grading styles and logos. It makes the design of an app more uniform — users tend to trust products like this more. Also, designers won’t have to redraw new screens from scratch if they want to add features — they can simply take elements from the UI-kit for the same purpose.
This is the longest stage of app creation. Developers work in 2-week sprints, and they provide you with a prototype at the end of each of them. You can make sure the product is real — and test particular features of it yourself.
QA-specialists work concurrently with developers and scrutinize the project for errors. If they find any bugs, they fix them. This step ensures that your users will be satisfied with the app and that they won’t delete it in frustration.
Throughout development, a project manager will bridge the gap between you, designers, and developers. They’ll ensure the project stays within budget and is finished on time.
Curious about how much your idea will cost? Fill in the form to get a quote
Our experience in healthcare app development: Biogeek
One of the healthcare apps we worked on was Biogeek. This web app allows patients to track their test results, share personal data, and monitor health in one place. If some health indicators seem off mark, the app recommends treatment plans.
Even during MVP creation, we leaned into the potential scalability of the app. Our client was planning to expand his business to other countries after testing. We accommodated by taking different regulations into account.
One of the features we included during medical app development is data parsing. Users can upload health data and other information as a PDF-file. Biogeek can extract lab test results, health markers, and other things from this file — and display it in a neat table to a user. Based on the data it gathers, the app provides a course of treatment.
After development, the founders of Biogeek decided to scale the service and add features centered around nutrition. Users of the app got new features to play with. For example, make a diet plan, chat with a professional, and keep a diary to monitor their sleep levels and daily activity.
As of now, the founders of Biogeek are happy with a solution we made. They’re going to make their app international, so they’re planning to expand overseas. Our developers at Purrweb occasionally update the app, and they can help you too.
Releasing healthcare & wellness mobile apps is a complicated matter. Still, entrepreneurs shouldn’t delay it. If a company feels that the 1.0 version of their app is perfect, it might mean that they worked on it for too long. Gathering feedback from first users is more important than polishing an MVP that hasn’t reached the market yet.
We’d like to share 3 tips that can help speed up medical app development to 3-4 months — an average timeframe for an MVP:
Don’t polish the app. Seeking every possible bug in the unlikeliest of scenarios is unwise and a waste of time. First users of your app can find glitches themselves — you can correct it from then on. It’s ok if some of it leads to negative reviews. If you sort out these glitches in the next patch, your users will still use your app.
Ensure user privacy. Think of regulations and laws ahead of time. Integrate features that make data leaks and other manipulations impossible. This is an area you can shift your focus to before launch — still, there is no need to spend too much time on this.
Set priorities. Cut unnecessary features out. Also, use cross-platform frameworks instead of native app development. This allows you to release a good quality app on both iOS and Android in half the time. Still, make sure to provide good design, user security, and clear navigation.
We’d like to help you with healthcare app development. At Purrweb, we’ve been creating software for 9 years — we know all ins and outs of medical apps. We’ll take on your project, develop it from scratch, and lend you our experience in healthcare apps. Contact us using the form below, and we’ll return within a day to schedule a meeting.