Building a mobile app is no longer a big deal. There are hundreds of DIY tools as well as online tutorials that can help anyone with a computer and Internet connection build and launch their own mobile app on app stores.
But, building a healthcare mobile app is a different ball game. Healthcare mobile apps, which are popularly referred to as mHealth (Mobile + Health) apps have several nuances to it that make it a specialist activity than a generalist one.
So, if you are someone who has plans of venturing into healthcare mobile app development, here are some tips and tricks you must have up your sleeve.
1. Solve a Problem
mHealth apps can help two kinds of users – doctors and patients. So, before you commit to building a healthcare mobile app, your focus should be solving a problem for both of these stakeholders. Often, it is not possible to meet the demands of both sides. In such scenarios, it is better to create an app that can solve the problem for either of the target audience.
For instance, an app that patients can use to book appointments according to the doctor’s calendar. Such an app would help both the doctor and the patient meet at a mutually convenient time. Also, the app could be for individual doctors who are running clinics or for large teams of doctors who are working in a multi-specialty hospital.
On the other hand, an app that reminds the patient to take pills of a specific dosage on a timely basis. Such an app may not be of great use to the doctor, except to monitor the medicine consumption pattern.
In short, the first step in building a successful healthcare mobile app is solving a problem for the doctors and the patients or either of them.
2. Design for Wearables
This is the age of Fitbit, Apple iWatch, Garmin and the sorts of fitness trackers. Almost every millennial and health-conscious individual wants to ‘quantify their physical selves’ through accurate measurement of their physical movement and related health stats. These fitness trackers help users measure how many steps they have walked, how many calories they have burnt, whether the quality of last night’s sleep was good and so on.
For mHealth app developers, a wearable is an excellent platform to showcase innovative and mobile app ideas. The apps that are built must also be made compatible with wearable devices.
3. Incorporate Gamification
Gamification in healthcare brings fun to an otherwise mundane and often painful process. It makes users strive to follow a healthy lifestyle. For instance, Bayer’s Didget blood glucose meter which is connected to a Nintendo DS gaming platform rewards pre-teen kids for checking their blood sugar levels consistently. As points for regular checking accumulate, new levels and options are unlocked in the game.
Image Credit: New Atlas
Similarly, there are several other apps for adults and elderly individuals that help them stay track of rehabilitation after injuries, addictions, and so on. The bottom line is, in mHealth app development, gamification is not just a trend. It is the point of difference that makes users use the apps more often and often consistently. Incorporating gamification into your healthcare app can actually help scale and sustain it in the long-term.
4. Test it Rigorously
Unlike other mobile apps, like eCommerce, gaming or productivity, there is no room for error in healthcare apps. Lives are dependent on it. Literally. Even a minor measurement mistake can make the user take drastic measures or ignore the symptom of a possible disease/ailment.
As a result, there is a need to test the mHealth app rigorously before it can be launched for general availability. The app should be tested in actual scenarios on real users to see how it measures up against the ground reality of the user’s health condition.
It is worth noting that some of the fitness trackers are already alleged to be showing inaccurate step counts or calorie measures, as a result of which users follow incorrect diet and exercise patterns. Such situations can be avoided if the app is tested rigorously before it is released.
Play by the HIPAA Rules
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, a.k.a HIPAA is serious statutory compliance that makes healthcare mobile app development challenge.
Here are some tips to build HIPAA-compliant mobile apps:
- Understand that as the mobile app developer, you have the responsibility for any data being collected and stored.
- Minimize risk and exposure of the data. especially sensitive data like geolocation and other Personal Health Indicators (PHI).
- Encrypt all data that is stored or transmitted online.
- Secure the app with local session timeouts, push notifications, etc.
Apart from HIPPA, there is also the recent GDPR (General Data Protection & Regulation Policy) introduction which wants app developers to take user data privacy seriously.
Compared to the usual lines of mobile app development, healthcare mobile app development is a lot more sensitive and challenging. Due to the involvement of delicate user data like physical activity, blood sugar levels, heart rate monitoring, etc. mobile app developers have to run the extra mile to ensure data accuracy and data privacy. These tricks should help you not only build a better healthcare app but also ensure that it is built according to the guidelines that are laid out on a global level.