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September 18, 2019

9 Considerations a Healthcare Mobile App Developer Must Keep in Mind

Moving forward into 2020, it’s easy to see that today’s healthcare app developers have really begun to hit their stride. Just ask a nurse friend, or your local surgeon: mHealth applications are only getting better at streamlining patient-care and medical response systems, so it’s important to make sure your own mobile healthcare app is up to par. 



To help, I’ve created a list of a few considerations that any successful healthcare app developer should keep in mind when creating a mobile app for healthcare stakeholders: 

mHealth Development Climate

As mHealth app developers like myself begin to look forward to 2020, it is hard to ignore the fact that mobile technologies are helping medical practitioners facilitate a shift toward value-based care right now

This shift is already producing tangible benefits for patient outcomes, as well as in the work-life balance of physicians and clinicians at every level. Last time I checked, smartphones and other mobile devices were even replacing desktop systems as a “preferred” tool for healthcare practitioners, with more physicians favoring iPhone healthcare apps over Android

That’s why I say it’s important to stay present when developing a mobile healthcare app - preferences and usage trends change fast, and if you don’t do a little research into the development context you’re entering, it could come back to bite you. 

Potential for Healthcare AI

On that subject, there are already mobile stacks out there ready to accommodate AI and machine learning functions into your healthcare application. And while many of the functionalities that can be accomplished with AI have other pathways to development (as I recently learned), I have found that incorporating machine learning and AI technologies can pack a lot of clout in terms of user perceptions and overall marketability, as well as delivering optimized features that cater to individual users.  

Who’s Your Competition?

It’s also important to remember that there are over 80,000 other mHealth app publishers out there who have hired established healthcare app developers to take their product over the finish line. 

The saving grace is, a lot of these publishers are further away from the healthcare industry than you might think, with about 23% of the digital healthcare market dominated by non-healthcare companies. 

If you dedicate yourself to exploring who is publishing the mHealth app(s) you consider as your direct competition and you care enough to see how users are rating their apps, then you will have a better chance at finding that “thing” that is going to help focalize your marketing story, ultimately setting apart the development and design of your mobile healthcare app. 

Interoperability

Having been a healthcare app developer for the last seven years, I know first-hand how deep the “medical device” rabbit hole can go. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you have to challenge yourself and, for instance, link up an existing framework with the latest EHR system, or dermatological sensor. 

As a developer, you therefore want to make sure that your healthcare app can connect, communicate, and coordinate with all of the necessary, pre-existing information and software systems commonly found in the healthcare environment where your future app will exist. 

Some mHealth developers have even suggested building a compatibility layer into your app to improve functioning within an existing set-up, and I agree. Doing so not only helps with future cost, but in the later phases of implementation and integration. 

Facilitating Mobile Health Transformations

For the most part, the environments that our healthcare apps target are long-past purely pen and paper records-keeping and communications. Most healthcare facilities today have already adopted a variety of digital efficiencies to help deliver improved care, and have been using these systems for decades. 

But just because a company has already undergone one digital transformation doesn’t mean the next will be any easier. Recent evidence even points to some healthcare practitioners being reluctant to adopt the use of newer (mobile) technologies, regardless of existing structures.

It is therefore favorable to consider facilitating mobile health transformations as a healthcare app developer. While that doesn’t mean going in and trying to inject a “culture of transformation” with your project; it does encourage the alignment of future mobile transformation objectives with both patient and practitioner journeys. 

Where To Invest Your Time

I always recommend that newcomer (and even established) healthcare app developers play the long game and invest their efforts in building scalable, flexible designs. 

To expand, because mobile technologies are ever-evolving, and because what works today might not work tomorrow, it’s critical to build your mHealth application with flexibility and scalability in mind, especially during implementation. 

That way, if you learn of a new feature or function that could lower your costs and improve usability, it won’t be as difficult to onboard, and you or your client will be free to grow as a healthcare enterprise (alongside your app!).  

Creating Rapid Response MVPs

As app developers, we are well aware of the reality of working with rapidly evolving technologies; but as healthcare app developers, not keeping up with them can mean putting users’ health on the line. 

Personally, I’ve found that the only way to not get burned is to fight fire with fire. Embrace the change, and rapidly evolve your own healthcare MVP just as quickly. Launch a simple prototype to both patient and physician end-users and make sure they test it against all available metrics. 

(This will also help you build those critical first-relationships with your end-user base!) 

Most who skip this step argue that it just takes too much time - to keep going back and forth and testing new functions over and over. To that I say, all we have as health app developers is time, especially when there are lives on the line. So take it, and make sure your healthcare app is at its best.

Digital Safety and Security

Yes, I know, patient information and security is a step on every list like this, but building these preventative measures into your app from the outset is by and large an everyday protocol for mobile healthcare app developers nowadays. You might as well get familiar with the compliance and safety standards that your mobile app must follow. 

Here are a few great resources to get you started: 

HIPAA Privacy Rules

HIPAA Security Rules

FDA Compliance for Mobile Medical Applications

The “Why”

While it comes last on my list, the final consideration a healthcare mobile app developer must keep in mind is the most important: it’s the “why”. 

Why are you developing in this niche in the first place? 

My Why: To help patients help doctors in cases of clinical health and wellness (and vice versa). 

Although no one’s answer will be the same, the potential impact that even a single freelance developer, or group of developers can have on the healthcare community at large seems infinite (at least from my point of view). 

So whatever your game, follow it: this is your opportunity to impact the development of new healthcare business models and systems of delivery, all with just a few hundred hours of work, and some seriously flawless code.



 

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