As an industry that deals with complex and sensitive data, healthcare providers have been traditionally slower to adopt IT solutions as strict regulations and secure privacy policies often have to be applied for both app development and usage. Patients have also been hesitant to consistently use apps due to privacy concerns, lack of interest, and the cost of some of the apps on the market. However, as regulatory governmental bodies like the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have begun establishing and enforcing these regulations, it’s no wonder that the development of mobile apps for healthcare industry is rapidly increasing.

The potential medical apps have

The healthcare sector is an area in which constant supervision, thorough explanation, and careful monitoring of a patient’s condition are critical to providing effective care. These tasks are also some of the most time-consuming parts of communication between doctors and patients.

It’s expected that hospitals are going to be very different in the 2020s. Mainly because the IT industry is going to get deeper into the healthcare sphere. Doctors and nurses will be incorporating mobile technologies into patient health care. Moreover, patients alone will be using various mobile applications to track their health (physical and mental), count calories, lose weight, shift to healthy foods or drink enough water.

But even now you don’t need to go far: healthcare mobile apps have already rooted in our daily life:

  • they help users monitor sleep, calories, diet, wellbeing;
  • they connect patients with trainers, doctors, dietitians, or therapists via online chats saving time spent going to the hospital;
  • they remind when it’s time to take medications;
  • they share informative healthcare articles;
  • they allow users to place an order and then have the needed medication delivered.

Is it a temporary phenomenon? Or medical apps do have a future? The increased potential of this market is evident in the various lists and rankings available that compare medical mobile apps. The intersection of medicine and technology is inevitable and both patients and care providers will see a significant change with the adoption of mobile tech in the future constantly working toward improving the ecosystem digital solutions offer.

Medical mobile apps targeting care providers

Mobile applications can help automate some of the more time-consuming tasks of a practice by optimizing how doctors store, share, and interpret data related to a patient’s care. Using mobile apps specifically designed for the medical and healthcare industry, care providers can reduce the time they spend on monitoring patients and communicating with them. This results in a decrease of their administrative workload, giving them more time to focus on developing an effective treatment plan based on the latest, most accurate data.

Medical mobile apps provide an easy way for physicians and other care providers to access resources and work with databases that store vast amounts of relevant medical information. They also provide an innovative solution to facilitate remote monitoring of a patient’s condition, streamline communication between the provider(s) and patient, and increase accessibility to effective care in rural areas.

Doctors most often use mobile applications to optimize their practice for 8 main reasons:

  1. to keep up to date with the latest news in the world of medicine (i.e. NEJM This Week);
  2. to maintain a high level of professional knowledge and qualifications using online resources (i.e. Medscape);
  3. to get assistance with diagnostics and treatment plans (i.e. UpToDate and Isabel),
  4. to keep data organized and safely stored for easy access,
  5. to look up information regarding what prescription drugs are available to treat particular conditions and research their effects (i.e. Epocrates);
  6. to search for other providers for consults and referrals;
  7. to participate in relevant social, professional networks (i.e. Doximity and Figure 1),
  8. and to provide a virtual component to their medical practice, especially useful in rural areas.

Some of the apps currently available through the iOS or Android platforms require constant internet access to function properly, while others do not. Some apps are free to use, while others have costs that range from an annual subscription (anywhere from $150 - $500 per year) to paying for access to premium content (through a one-time charge or subscription-based model).

Those considering the development of healthcare apps for doctors will appreciate this classification of mobile healthcare apps for doctors:

  • medical reference applications. This type of medical apps offers features like pill identification, medicine information, in-depth illness information, medicine interaction, etc. The mobile medical apps market offers many high-quality products like Epocrates and Medscape. If you want to develop your own app, focus on addicting features like sharing options, smart search, bookmarks, etc.
  • professional networking applications. These are networks of colleagues that offer connections and educational opportunities. Being powerful communities, they offer users support at any time. The most known examples are Daily Rounds and Figure 1.
  • doctor appointment booking apps. Making doctor appointments online is easier than using an old-fashioned offline booking system. Moreover, an automated booking system is beneficial both for doctors and patients. It allows doctors to forget about whether they have time and resources to see patients. And patients, for their part, can easily book themselves in choosing the best time-slot.

To learn more about medical apps focused on doctors, read one of our recent articles on this topic.

Developing a medical mobile app for doctors requires an understanding of the challenges faced by dealing with sensitive patient information. Successful mHealth apps help care providers optimize their workflow, access different resources to assist in diagnosis and treatment, and/or facilitate patient monitoring and communication between patients and associated care providers.

Popular medical mobile apps that focus on consumers

Medical mobile apps that focus on the consumer side are often more focused on the user’s daily life, helping them maintain a particular course of treatment or healthy lifestyle. These types of apps often perform various calculations, provide checklists for proper care, or send out scheduled reminders to maintain a healthy way of living. Many consumer-focused medical mobile apps are affordable or free to use, contributing to their rapid spread among the general population.

Since most healthcare mobile apps are available for download through the iOS App Store or Android App Store, we can also consult these resources to see which types of apps are most frequently downloaded to personal devices. Many apps on the market currently focus on general fitness, mental health, a healthy diet, and women’s health in particular.

Fitness-focused apps

Modern mobile applications often use sensors to track heart rhythm, energy expenditure, hydration, etc. and are able to synchronize the data and display it in an easy-to-understand, actionable manner. This constant tracking provides incredibly high accuracy when it comes to reporting a patient’s current state to care providers and is a great way to motivate patients to help them achieve training or treatment goals.A great number of medical mobile apps help

A great number of medical mobile apps help user maintain a “healthy everyday life”. Some of the 100 Best Android Apps of 2017 were fitness trackers for smartphones (such as MyFitnessPal, Runtastic Six Pack Ab Workout, or My Asics Run Coaching). These types of apps have gained extraordinary popularity in recent years, as have applications focused on maintaining a healthy diet.

Global sportswear brands are also involved in the creation of mobile applications that focus on maintaining healthy lifestyles (like Nike+ Run Club), using them to increase exposure to, and demand for, their products while contributing to the healthcare-focused mobile app market.

Three screens of Nike+ Run Club, one of the top mobile health apps: splash screen with the app’s name and logo, the screen that show your progress in real time, and the leaderboard screen
source: nike.com

Mental health apps

There are many barriers to mental health treatment. However, affordability, time constraints, and availability are emphasized as the major players affecting non-treatment-seeking behavior.

Those who cannot afford therapy, yet still want to handle their mental illnesses, download one of the specifically designed medical mobile applications. The major part of mental health apps are free or reasonably priced and offer different resources making therapeutic techniques cost-effective and portable.

Health mobile applications are tailored to treat different mental illnesses. These apps can be categorized as:

  • mental disorder apps for managing depression and schizophrenia;
  • self-improvement apps for people recovering from addictions or struggling with stress;
  • apps that combine features and tools from the two previous categories.

Regardless of the category, all healthcare mobile applications should have a certain feature stack. Among them are tools for self-monitoring and sharing, matching with licensed therapists via video or chats, and receiving notifications or reminders.

Twenty-Four Hours a Day with a rating of 4.9 in Google Play. The application provides daily meditations for people trying to get rid of addictions. Another example is What’s up! It’s a trendy mental health app with a rating of 4.7 in the App Store. Being one of the top mobile health apps, it offers its users the best methods for dealing with anger, depression, stress, and anxiety.

Top mobile healthcare applications
source: whats up

Healthy diet apps

It’s a common myth that all a healthy diet app is capable only of tracking calories. Very first mobile applications for healthcare that concentrate on diet and nutrition probably were only trackers. But modern apps help users plan healthy meals, hunt down restaurants, create diet plans, etc. Some apps also share healthy food recipes and offer barcode scanners. The calorie counter is a permanent feature in all healthy diet apps, of course.

Let’s be precise about what trackers do. They list out how many fats, proteins, and carbs users have during the day, how much water they drink and how many calories they burn. Eventually, in addition to shifting to healthy eating habits, a user can reach their ideal weight.

Lose It! provides its users with a large food database and barcode scanner for packaged products. This is one of those few health care applications that show totals (daily and weekly) as well as weight change as a diagram. Lose It! users need to set custom goals for water, nutrients, and body measurements — and the app will suggest the diet plan accordingly. The above-mentioned tools of Lose It! are free. Extra tools are accessible with a premium membership.

Noom is a highly-rated meal-planning application praised for its expert coaching and personalization. With it, users can track foods, scan barcodes, generate personalized calorie breakdown, log weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and exercising routine. The app helps users shift to high-energy meals and snacks.

How does it work? Every day a user receives detailed nutrition, exercising and psychology listі. In the case of diet-related questions, users can contact a certified coach from Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Apps targeting women’s health

Women’s health is another important demographic that medical mobile app developers can focus on. Successful apps (like Clue and Eve by Glow) tailor their usability and design to their particular target audience. While Clue wins in simplicity, Eve By Glow offers more advanced tracking features, including focusing on physical and emotional states. Some apps also connect to informational resources about women's sexual health, often providing access for free or through various payment or subscription models.

Screens of two most popular period tracking apps ― Eve and Clue
source: helloclue.com and Evehome.com

The benefit of versatile healthcare app development

Mobile app developers often choose to focus their resources on one particular platform to engage their target audience, but some choose to adapt their apps to both platforms for increased engagement and exposure.

Entering the medical mobile app market

SteelKiwi has years of experience developing software for healthcare purposes on both mobile and desktop. We have recently launched a telemedicine app that helps patients get in touch with certified doctors for consultations regarding their health issues through either video, voice, or chat. Another project that we built features a digital ecosystem for a healthcare center Nova Vita, where we implemented an electronic document flow and created mobile apps, allowing patients to book appointments with their doctors in charge. We also developed Moodistory that helps users monitor their moods and evaluate thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviors.

We are always interested in keeping up to date with developing trends, new, and possible opportunities. If you’re looking to enter this ever-evolving market, please don’t hesitate to contact us with your app idea for the healthcare sector, and we’ll help you build an effective mHealth application.