Entering the mHealth sector is challenging; it requires a lot of effort and a wide range of expertise. What’s more, many medical startups fail to solve users’ pain points.

We’re here to make things clearer. We’ll talk about prospects for mHealth market growth, different types of medical apps, and the challenges of developing one.

mHealth market outlook: Benefits of digital health

When breaking into an industry, it’s important to see if it’s relevant and to find out whether there’s enough demand for your product. In the case of mHealth, you need to answer the following questions:

  • What are the benefits of mHealth apps for users?
  • How will your product help potential users?

According to a 2018 report by Deloitte, mHealth products:

  • Minimize the risks of duplicate medical recordsand errors by providing access to real-time shared data.
  • Contribute to the delivery of integrated care. Digital health solutions can monitor patients in real time by collecting and analyzing their health metrics through smart wearable devices. Connected medical solutions are of great value for preventive care, remote clinical monitoring, and chronic disease management.
  • Make healthcare more accessible. With mHealth, people living in rural areas, physically disabled people, and elderly people can easily gain access to medical care. As for healthcare practitioners, they can reach wider audiences (even at the international level).
  • Allow patients to take control of their health, communicate with their doctors when necessary, and monitor their own medical data.

Digital healthcare is becoming more and more popular among patients. According to the Accenture 2018 Digital Consumer Survey, 36% of respondents find technology very important when it comes to managing health, a 6 percentage point increase compared to 2016.

The Accenture report also gives a better understanding of consumer preferences for health management tools. Among the mHealth technologies users love most are websites, mobile apps, electronic health records (EHRs), social media, and wearables.

As the Accenture 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey shows, consumers are likely to choose healthcare practitioners who provide digital capabilities:

  • 77% of consumers would choose a healthcare provider that offer e-prescriptions
  • 70% would like to receive reminders when it’s time for follow-up or preventive care
  • 69% would like to communicate with the doctor via secure email (69%)
  • 68% would book appointments online
  • 53% would collecting and track their health indicators using telemedicine devices
  • 49% would like to have virtual doctor visits
Source: accenture.com

Now that you have a better understanding of the growth prospects for the digital health market, let’s talk about different types of medical apps.

What types of mHealth apps are there?

Let’s take a moment to review what types of mHealth apps are on the market.

By user type

  • Apps for doctors are mainly used for internal purposes, including for accessing databases with medical records and prescriptions, for networking, and for medical reference.
  • Apps for patients are typically used for personal health monitoring and keeping records such as calories burned and consumed, weight, blood tests, etc.

By purpose

  • Virtual doctor apps are one of the most popular mHealth apps, letting patients access a doctor right from their phone, tablet, or PC.
Medical Mobile App Development
Source: eyemergencymd.com
  • Remote monitoring apps allow doctors to keep track of their patients’ health indicators such as heart rate, blood glucose levels, oxygen levels, and blood pressure without an office visit. Electronic health record (EHR) apps, electronic medical record (EMR) apps, and personal health record (PHR) apps are all types of remote monitoring apps.
Medical Mobile App Development
Source: nytimes.com
  • Chronic disease management apps enable patients to keep track of and manage chronic conditions and long-term illnesses such as asthma, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.
Medical Mobile App Development
Source: buffalonews.com
  • Wellness management apps help users build healthy habits, set wellness goals, and monitor sleep, workouts, meals, and more. This category of apps includes diet and nutrition apps, stress relief apps, and workout and fitness apps.
Medical Mobile App Development
Source: myoptimity.com
  • Women’s health trackers include period tracking apps and pregnancy trackers.
Medical Mobile App Development
Source: babylist.com
  • Pill reminders and medication trackers allow patients to set reminders to take medications and refill prescriptions.
Medical Mobile App Development
Source: dribbble.com by Elena Sushkova
  • General hospital apps are solutions for hospitals that include general information about the facility, booking features, and access to patient profiles.
Medical Mobile App Development
Source: clevelandclinicabudhabi.ae

What are the challenges of developing an mHealth app?

Despite the benefits that a medical mobile app can offer every stakeholder, there are some concerns to think about before entering the market. Since healthcare is heavily regulated in most parts of the world and since the data being transmitted, gathered, and used is sensitive, protecting this data is a critical part of mHealth app development. It’s therefore essential to be aware of legal requirements for privacy and to adhere to them to effectively safeguard personal medical data.

There are different standards and laws you’ll need to follow based on the country/countries your app will be used in. Let’s take a moment to review the main standards and laws by country as well as those of universal concern.

United States

If your app is going to cover the US market, it might need to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a law that sets standards for the protection of sensitive medical data.

To understand if your app needs to meet HIPAA standards, examine what kind of data your app is going to store and transfer and see if it handles the data of a covered entity.

Your app needs to be HIPAA-compliant if:Your app does not need to comply with HIPAA if:
Your app needs to be HIPAA-compliant if:
  • It processes the data of covered entities such as healthcare providers, health plans, and hospitals
  • It deals with protected health information (PHI): personal data, medical histories, insurance information, laboratory and test results, information on mental health conditions, billing information from doctors, MRI scans, prescription drug and medication information, emails, etc.
Your app does not need to comply with HIPAA if:
  • It’s designed for patients’ personal use
  • It only contains consumer health information (CHI): data received from activity and fitness trackers including heart rate, calories burned, and steps walked

It’s important to know how HIPAA defines PHI to understand whether your app needs to be HIPAA-compliant:

PHI is information that relates to the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of an individual, which identifies the individual and that is transmitted or maintained by electronic media; or in any other form or medium.

Patient information is regarded as PHI if it’s shared with covered entities. If patient information isn’t shared, it isn’t seen as PHI.

European Union

If your app collects and processes personal data of users from the European Union, it’s subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new privacy regulation in the EU that replaced the 1995 Data Protection Directive. GDPR has been active since May 2018 and applies to companies that deal with the personal information of EU citizens. Note that if your app users are from the European Union, you have to follow the GDPR requirement irrespective of where your business is based.

In articles 5-11, the GDPR outlines six principles for how to best manage and protect personal data:

  • Lawful, fair and transparent processing ― Personal data must be processed transparently, lawfully, and fairly.
  • Collected for specific purposes ― Personal data must be relevant and limited to the minimum necessary.
  • Purpose limitation ― Personal data must be collected and used for explicit, legitimate, and specified purposes and for nothing else.
  • Accuracy ― Personal data must be accurate and complete.
    Storage limitation ― Personal data must no longer be retained once you don’t need it for the purposes specified.
  • Security ― Personal data must be treated securely and protected from unlawful and unauthorized processing , damage, destruction, and accidental loss.
Healthcare standards
Source: legalo.co.uk

Canada

If your app’s going to operate in Canada, then you should pay attention to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canadian data protection legislation that was passed in 2000. Unlike HIPAA, PIPEDA applies to all personal data, including health-related and commercial. PIPEDA considers the following data as personally identifiable information (PII): name, age, income, ID numbers, blood type, ethnic origin, evaluations, medical records, opinions, etc.

Australia

Australia’s Privacy Principles (APP) is the privacy legislation you’ll need to comply with if you operate in Australia. This act contains 13 rules on how to handle personal information, covering the following:

  • The collection, processing, storage, use, and disclosure of personal data
  • An organization’s regulation and accountability
  • The correction and integrity of personal data
  • The rights of personal data access

Ensuring that your app meets the regulations and guidelines in the countries you’re operating in is another significant factor in a medical mobile app’s success in both national and international markets.

What are emerging technologies and trends in mHealth?

As more companies enter this rapidly growing space, innovation is inevitable. By assessing the current state of the market and looking at what is being researched and tested at the moment, we’re able to identify what to expect in the future.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
According to Accenture, healthcare is at the forefront of AI adoption. The healthcare AI market is projected to reach $6.6 billion by 2021:

Source: accenture.com

AI and ML algorithms provide better ways for identifying conditions and diseases, monitoring health epidemics, predicting the occurrence of future disease risks and developing treatment plans, interpreting test results, detecting irregularities in X-rays and MRI scans, discovering new therapeutics, and more.

According to the Artificial Intelligence: Healthcare’s New Nervous System report by Accenture, the top AI apps in healthcare are:

Source: accenture.com

Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) focuses on monitoring, testing, and diagnosing by means of connected smart devices and apps. With IoMT, users can monitor their health and doctors are able to keep track of their patients’ conditions from a distance. Such devices may monitor heart activity, sleep, blood pressure, and glucose levels, count distance, steps, and calories, track oxygen levels, and do a lot more. Take Apple Watch Series 5 as an example. It reads the heart’s electrical signals and alerts users about irregularities like atrial fibrillation and sinus rhythm. In addition to these features, Apple Watch can help users breathe mindfully, track their menstrual cycles, and record workouts.

Source: digitaltechnologynews.com

Blockchain

Lately, blockchain technology in the healthcare sector has become very popular. According to Aftrex Market Research, the blockchain in healthcare is predicted to reach $5,517.6 million by 2026. International Data Corporation (IDC) claims that one in five medical organizations will adopt the blockchain by 2020. The benefit of blockchain is that it improves the overall security of managing and sharing personal data.

These innovations will work to further mHealth, improving overall patient health and facilitating patient–doctor communications as well as increasing efficiency in healthcare organizations.

Want to develop a medical mobile app?

The active penetration of IT in the medical field is a big step toward improving healthcare. mHealth is already helping to prevent serious diseases, monitoring health conditions, and tracking ongoing rehabilitation. Despite the challenges that those in the medical sector face, such as constant updates to regulatory directives and the absence of established security standards, it’s clear that mHealth will be an important part of the future.

Mobile health improves the quality of medicine, reduces costs, and broadens the reach of healthcare. This benefits all users and stakeholders, disrupting the market and making it exciting.

If you want to get involved in medical mobile app development but you’re unsure where to start, our team can help. Contact us for more details regarding mHealth and how to develop a successful medical app!