Five rules for developing healthcare applications: Purrweb’s experience

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healthcare mobile app development
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    At Purrweb, we’ve been developing applications for overseas markets for more than five years. Healthcare mobile app development is one of the services we provide —  and there’s a good reason why. The MHealth (Mobile + Health) industry is experiencing a real boom in America and Europe. 

    Everyday, more than 200 healthcare services are published in app stores.

    Despite such rapid growth, the market is still far from saturation. Plus, the industry structure is currently changing: for example, several years ago, the vast majority of applications were actually lifestyle apps for sleep, training, and nutrition, but now there is a rapidly growing number of services that allow you to communicate with doctors, monitor physical condition and analyze symptoms. Moreover, researchers note that the niche of mobile applications for people diagnosed with diabetes, obesity, and depression is still almost unoccupied.

    These circumstances make healthcare mobile app development very attractive for entrepreneurs who are fighting for the users’ attention. Since the competition is huge, every detail becomes crucial for the success of the application: sales, marketing, and, of course, the technology on the basis of which the project is implemented, reliability, convenience, and the visual appearance. Our company is responsible for the last four points.

    In this article, we are sharing core principles that we follow when providing healthcare mobile app development services to clients from the Western market. These rules allow us to deliver solid healthcare apps within just 3 months.

    1. Focus on the users, not on the clinic

    In Russia and beyond, healthcare mobile app development services are in great demand among clinics. And this is logical since the use of technology is an important indicator of professionalism and quality of the services provided by the organization: according to the survey, 79% of patients are more likely to choose a healthcare provider that will provide ‘technological support’ during the treatment period, and half of the participants are even ready to change the clinic and the doctor in order to meet this criterion.

    MHealth application is an effective way to attract clients and start interacting with them, that’s why the focus should always be on the end-users, their needs, problems, and doubts.

    Healthcare mobile app development is a working way to get more clients — fact. But there’s an important nuance here. Being user-centered is more than repeating this classic ‘We care about targets’ mantra. At MHealth, it is a systematic process of building trust. To achieve it, the user should understand how the service works, clearly see the results and be sure that the confidential information is completely secure.

    In America, healthcare mobile app development services and applications must comply with the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) standards — it’s a set of rules for maintaining confidentiality and ensuring safety of the patients’ data. Compliance with these requirements serves as a guarantee for users that their private information is 100% safe.

    In Russia, there is a similar regulation for healthcare mobile app development — the order of the Ministry of Health ‘On the approval of the procedure for anonymizing information about people who receive medical care, as well as about people who are undergoing medical examinations.’ Compliance with the requirements of this order is mandatory from a legal point of view, but you’ll need additional manipulations if you want to make people trust your service. For example, once we’ve implemented a feature that allowed users to decide which data their doctors can view and which data should be hidden. It seems nothing new, but for most people this is an important nuance.

    2. Medical services with ‘non-medical’ look and feel

    The main difference which makes foreign healthcare services stand out is that they don’t actually look like healthcare applications. Minimalism, purity, and a calm color scheme — these are the three key principles that determine their appearance.

    When trying to solve health problems, we are used to wading through complex terms, complicated processes, and messy descriptions. Moreover, there is a widespread myth that all this complexity is a good indicator of deep expertise and seriousness. Many developers pull this complexity into the interfaces with the words ‘We are not like that, the industry is like that.’

    Yes, healthcare is a really complex industry, including many legal nuances to keep in mind throughout the entire product building process. But this should not affect the interface, design, and user scenarios. The application is a bridge between doctors and people who don’t have medical education. And it is crucial to make this bridge convenient and reliable.

    Several noteworthy conclusions follow from this: a digital service should not replace doctors, and therefore it should not compete with them in terms of ‘expertness’. By using complex terms and confusing scenarios, you won’t gain the users’ trust, which is vital. The main objective of MHealth applications is to make sure that doctor-patient communication is the smoothest possible, which is not as hard as it seems at first glance.

    For instance, you can automate a certain part of the entire communication process. One of our clients, American startup Lytic, uses a chatbot to automatically collect anamnesis (symptoms and complaints). The chatbot asks leading questions, offers answer options, and if there is a suspicion of a disease, it offers to schedule an appointment with a particular doctor or to take a particular test. So, when the doctor sees the patient, the initial information is already gathered — that significantly reduces wait times and streamlines the admission process.

    healthcare mobile app developmentHealthcare system Lytic that we’ve created at Purrweb

    Chatbot looks like a standard messenger and helps users to describe their condition in a very easy and well-structured way.

    3. Gamification for motivation

    Being able to see the results often inspires people. Gamification sounds like the best way to manage motivation by demonstrating progress.

    But MHealth applications require balance, since caring for health is still not a game: users don’t like too funny, cartoony solutions. Gamification should be engaging, meaningful, but still serious enough.

    healthcare mobile app developmentWe have created special dashboards and integrated gamification elements into the application which allows doctors to prescribe medications to their patients

    By integrating gamification elements in the UI we could motivate users to take medications on time and not quit their treatment.

    4. The more personalization, the better

    The huge problem with MHealth applications is that most users download them, open them once or twice, and then never come back again. One of the reasons is the irrelevance of recommendations and content to their daily routine.

    Users don’t want to strain too much and change their lifestyle in order to integrate healthcare into their lives — they expect both the application and healthcare to be integrated into their usual lifestyle with minimal effort. Yes, it’s a controversial desire, but there is an important insight.

    When it comes to healthcare, the target audience cannot be imagined as ‘active 30+ men with the above-average income’. Health state and physical conditions depend on each person, plus everyone has different tastes, abilities, habits, and besides, all these factors are constantly changing.

    There are two ways of coping with the heterogeneity of target audience. One option is to make the services as customized as possible, for example, for people of a certain social stratum who are struggling with depression.

    Otherwise, the service should have powerful personalization tools, like polls or chatbots. You may have a decent weight control solution, but if your app constantly offers oranges to a person who doesn’t like them, instead of finding a good alternative — the future of this app will be blurred.

    healthcare mobile app developmentFitForce, a mobile app for sport trainers that we’ve developed at Purrweb

     For this project, we’ve implemented a feature enabling trainers to create their own training system and update it in real-time.

    5. Clear user scripts

    According to the statistics, the user makes a maximum of three attempts to understand how the application works. If they fail to register, schedule an appointment with a doctor or receive a recommendation, the app is likely to go to the bin.

    To prevent this, you must take into account that the healthcare apps market includes not only millennials but also people aged 40+ and 50+. However, even if your service is aimed at older audiences, this is still not a reason to create a made-in-early-00s design.

    As the practice shows, you should still adhere to the principles of cleanliness and minimalism when developing interfaces. However, in parallel with this, it’s crucial to add tooltips explaining how the app works to the users.

    There are other ways to simplify interaction with the app, for example, saving history of actions, reusing previously entered information for the sake of reducing the number of steps in the future, and so on.

    healthcare mobile app developmentPharmacy app designed by Purrweb 

    For this app, we’ve created a separate profile page for storing information about payment methods, prescriptions, and popular products.

    Wrapping things up

    There are many nuances in launching mobile applications in the healthcare industry, but this doesn’t substitute one of the main startup rules: you should not delay the app release. If you are absolutely happy with the first version of the product, it’s likely that you’ve released it too late. In conclusion, we’d like to share a (super short) list of Purrweb rules which will help you launch healthcare & wellness-related MVP under tight deadlines — namely, in just 3 months.

    Firstly, most IT teams run themselves ragged before the release, although it’s more rational to save energy for quick bug fixing that will be required after people start using the app. At this stage, you shouldn’t be afraid of negative reviews: a quick reaction from the developers and technical support team can turn even the most fierce critic into a loyal user.

    Secondly, you must remember that even though bugs in the application are okay, any errors regarding the user data are absolutely unacceptable. At the same time, ensuring user privacy should not stretch the launch time: there are simple yet reliable techniques that guarantee compliance with the legal requirements.

    Thirdly, it is necessary to set priorities wisely. This means that there is no excuse for cutting corners on design, security and QA-testers. However, even if you have an unlimited budget for the project development, you can get rid of unnecessary features and not overspend on expensive technology. For example, it makes no sense for startups to develop a native application: now the level of cross-platform development has grown significantly, so users won’t even notice the difference.

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