Looking back at the last few years, the healthcare industry faced some unprecedented challenges and had to adapt. Healthcare apps development was one of the answers, providing some innovative solutions that streamlined some healthcare business processes during challenging times.
Let’s take a look at the healthcare apps that are available today and what you need to have in mind if you plan on building medical apps yourself.
1. What is the purpose of digital health? 2. What is healthcare transformation? 3. Why is digitalization important in healthcare? 4. What are the benefits of health apps? 5. Do people use healthcare apps? 6. Which are the best healthcare apps in 2022? 7. Examples of healthcare apps 8. What does a health app need?
Long story short, digital healthcare is the application of digital transformation to the healthcare industry. This includes healthcare apps, electronic health records or EHRs, electronic medical records or EMRs, wearable gadgets, telehealth, and so much more.
Generally, digital health makes care delivery more focused on patients and prevention, with the help of artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and many more.
Additionally, digital healthcare facilitates advancements in patient care with technologies like ingestible sensors, robotic caregivers, and other gadgets or healthcare apps for patient monitoring. Digital health technologies are a major help in the efforts to reduce inefficiencies, reduce costs, increase service quality, and even empower the patients to make more informed decisions regarding their own health.
Even before the pandemic, the global healthcare system was beginning to change. Continuous pressure added from chronic diseases, limitations in resources, and other social circumstances, paired with technological advances and changes in the customers’ behavior are some of the factors that contribute to the transformation of the traditional models of care delivery.
Leaders in the healthcare industry should take steps to shift their focus on their patients. They should have a care model based on prevention, make continuous improvements to their services, and adopt digital and technology enablers.
For any business going through corporate transformation, there are four basic building blocks that apply to any enterprise, including the ones in the healthcare industry.
- Build around a strategic identity
Nowadays, consumers are used to solving their problems with a few clicks and in a matter of seconds. This also applies to patients. Therefore, keeping in mind customer expectations is always a good idea - the patients and their requirements should be the focus.
When you’re working on your new strategic identity, you’re going to need active support from all the stakeholders in the industry - from nurses to clinicians, executives, and patients. The whole purpose of transformation is to become consumer-centric, set your goals incrementally, and work your way towards them. However, never forget to keep consistent in the messages you’re sending to the public.
- Work on trust
The healthcare industry is one of the many entities that is losing public trust. Using technology could be the answer to offering more personalized care and targeted treatments. However, managing patient data in the time of data breaches can be a major setback for digitalization.
Another key step in building trust with your customers is being fully transparent. Sharing complete information about the services and treatments your offer, along with the prices, is a step forward.
Additionally, keeping patients engaged and improving communication with them is another crucial factor. Providing customers with patient portals or a place where one can access their medical records at all times, facilitate appointment scheduling, or even communicate directly with the healthcare professionals.
- Test your improvements before scaling them
Even though tech culture embraces fast failure, the healthcare culture puts patients' safety first. Therefore a balance between access and security must be achieved, along with satisfying the needs of both healthcare professionals and patients.
One way to minimize risks is using technology platforms and advanced data analysis. For instance, using a digital model of the human body to see the outcomes of your trials can accelerate the pace of your research without exposing you to the risks associated with it.
Additionally, digital tools can be used to increase the number of participants in clinical trials - some companies already use social media to find eligible participants and, once enrolled, a mobile app can be used to communicate with them at all times and improve information transfer and data collection.
- Build on your legacy
If you want your transformation to be successful, you need to reach a balance between your existing strengths and your new strategies. It’s always a good idea to build on and improve what you already do best so that you don’t stray far from your core identity.
When looking for external partners for your new strategies, always make sure that they share your vision and your set of values. Even more, make sure that the innovation you seek adds value to your services and business.
Having said all that, here are some crucial points that should be part of your checklist for a transformative digital architecture in healthcare:
APIs shouldn’t be treated as middleware, but as a software product that will empower developers and accelerate innovation - this is a different strategy as compared to integration-first operations where APIs were usually created and then forgotten about.
With a decoupled system, digital services can be modularly assembled from digital sources across various sources. This allows interoperability in healthcare apps to occur.
- Interoperability stack
This starts with APIs and FHIR compliance. Harmonizing structured and unstructured data into standard formats is a great step beyond creating APIs. Also, having APIs allows you to connect data to analytics or artificial intelligence tools while having robust interoperability makes these connections reliable and scalable.
- Patient data security
With interoperability comes the need to protect medical data while sharing it with healthcare professionals and institutions. Healthcare app developers should be to analyze data, while observing the Zero Trust principles and being HIPAA compliant.
- Minimize latency
When dealing with urgent care, access to real-time data is crucial. The moment information is recorded into the system, it should be converted into a consumable format so that it can be combined with other sources, analyzed with machine learning tools, or whatever else is needed. Updates should reach patients in minutes or hours, in the worst case.
- Scalable development
The scale and scope of medical data can rapidly increase. Therefore any system developed should be easily scalable to accommodate any new requirements.
Short answer: it empowers the patients.
Long answer: let’s examine some specific benefits.
- Improving patient doctor coordination
Digitization provides a better way for a care professional to access a patient’s medical information at all times, without the need for physical copies of their files. This will also allow patients to share their medical information with other healthcare professionals or use it in case of emergency.
- Automate repetitive tasks
In the United States, expenses for administrative tasks account for more than 25% of the total expenses in a hospital. Additionally, a healthcare professional spends less than 30% of their time actually providing care to their patients. The current system is obviously not exactly efficient, since both hospital funds and the time of physicians are very valuable.
Task automation, respectively, digitization, can reduce the burden on healthcare professionals, allowing them to focus on delivering care to patients instead. Advanced artificial intelligence systems can be used to provide prescription advice, appointment reminders, or a medication reminder.
- Make communication better between health professionals
There are some cases of disease management that require multiple specialists to communicate permanently to create the best medical plan for a patient. Having a digital system in place can prevent situations in which conflicting medications are prescribed. Additionally, when information is constantly shared, physicians are always aware of the progress made.
- Increased data security
When relying on physical files for your medical records, you’re always at risk of permanently losing them due to unexpected situations like natural disasters or simply human negligence. While it’s true that digital data storage systems can also be vulnerable, there can be precautions taken in order to minimize the potential risks.
- Real-time medical data
Nowadays many gadgets and wearables are capable of monitoring heart rate, counting steps, or even taking an EGG. This is very useful for both app users and doctors. These wearable healthcare apps could transmit medical data online and physicians could, for example, set alarms for when certain conditions are met - so that medical care can be delivered fast. This could be a great way to remotely monitor the overall health and a great step towards preventive care.
More and more healthcare organizations are turning to software development to extend the boundaries of their services. Healthcare apps are becoming the preferred way for patients to access their healthcare providers, track their steps, and heart rate, and even launch video consultations.
- Patients have easier access to providers and medical care
Healthcare apps for patients enable them to reach their physicians easier, even through text messages or even a scheduled virtual doctor consultation. There are a lot of conveniences provided by these digital services, including m-healthcare apps, that some health systems provide online doctors after hours or on weekends.
- Boost medication adherence
Healthcare apps are a great way of monitoring the way patients take their medication after they have been discharged. Poor medical adherence is an important cause of poor chronic disease management and can lead to hospital readmissions and even unfortunate outcomes.
Online medication apps are a great way of managing prescriptions and even sending medication reminders to app users.
- Improve patient management
A health app makes remote patient management possible by collecting medical information and transferring it directly to healthcare professionals. Being able to easily access data about a persons health in between a doctors visit and another is a big step forward in improving care delivery. This is mostly made possible by mobile devices and apps, especially wearable devices.
- Reduce the hassle of payments
Healthcare apps can streamline dealing with medical bills - by integrating a highly secured payment gateway you can save a lot of time since payments can be made instantly. Additionally, there are some apps that provide users with the possibility to connect with their health insurance providers.
Even though mobile medical apps don’t sound like news anymore, the number of people that use health and wellness apps is still growing. How many healthcare apps are there? Since 2015 the number of healthcare apps available on the apps market doubled, with more than 350 000 m-healthcare apps available in 2021.
90% of healthcare professionals already use health apps at work for accessing electronic health records, communicating with their colleagues, medical references, or simply managing their schedule.
Now that we’ve been through all the benefits of digital transformation and digitization in the healthcare industry, let’s see which are the best healthcare apps ideas in 2022.
- Reminder apps
A medical reminder app is very useful for people with fast-paced lifestyles. Their key features should be appointment reminders, medication reminders, or anything that they need to do in between doctor visits.
This app idea has a lot of usage for chronic diseases management and even recovery.
- Doctor consultation apps
The purpose of these apps is to allow users to have easy access to healthcare assistance when physical doctor visits aren’t possible. For this type of situation, patients need to be able to schedule video consultations or at least communicate with their physicians via text messages.
These kinds of apps could also be rural healthcare apps, providing care to patients that live in areas where they don't have access to physicians or house calls.
- Medical records apps
These fall into the apps for patients category as well as apps for doctors. They’re a good way of increasing efficiency, as they bring together all the critical patient data in a single place. Having your healthcare data in an application instead of a pile of physical files allows patients to access their lab results, medical information, or any kind of data at any time and, more importantly, when going to multiple physicians.
- Women healthcare apps
This type of home health care apps are specifically designed for women’s health needs. Mostly used for health tracking and monitoring, they offer great insights and statistics about menstrual cycles, pregnancy, or other medical issues.
There are also mental health apps that offer therapy or counseling tailored for women.
- Medical training apps
These healthcare apps for doctors in training and nurses are a great way of sharpening and improving skills. They can become a platform for medical education, especially for new medical technologies. With the help of virtual reality, augmented reality, or mixed reality, these apps could be even used for remote interventions or even replace the need for doctors’ presence in physical therapy.
Another category of healthcare education apps is the one designed for breaking the language barrier between doctors and patients. This medical translation can come in handy for explaining diagnostics, symptoms, or treatments for non-native speakers and even break disability barriers too, allowing all people to better understand the information provided by physicians.
- Apps for managing chronic diseases
Chronic healthcare apps provide the much-needed assistance and management for this kind of patient. Some key features would be the ability to track blood pressure, glucose levels, weight, or other health issues on a daily basis. IoT can be integrated into these apps, making there more efficient and ready for remote monitoring and counseling.
- Pharmacy delivery apps
Especially in the case of infectious diseases, having the possibility of having medication delivered directly to the patient can be life-changing. Additionally, this could be paired with a price comparison app - there are a lot of similar treatments available for very different prices, so this could be a very good way of keeping informed about what options you have.
- Mental health apps
More and more people suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, or just lifestyles that lead to burnout in the long run. This affects both mental and physical health and, even after having a diagnosis, some patients find it hard to manage their conditions.
Mental health apps can bring some relief and be a great way to track symptoms and moods. Even though it isn’t designed to be a therapy app, it’s a great way of monitoring or even improving behavior health in between therapy sessions.
- Apps to improve safety and compliance
Studies show that more than 250 000 people in the United States alone die because of avoidable hospital errors. Providing online web-based training for your healthcare staff can improve patient safety outcomes.
You can incorporate the assessment tool for hospitals provided by OSHA for determining enterprise safety and health management system performances. Also, you can develop your own safety compliance plan, and create a rapid response system (or use the one developed by AHRQ).
- Apps for Data capture and analysis
We’re now entering the world of Big Data - this technology allows you to manage, analyze, and leverage data. By using healthcare analytics you can potentially reduce costs for treatment, predict outbreaks or epidemics, and even improve the quality of life in the long run.
While we discussed some healthcare app ideas, in order to innovate, you need to be aware of what is already available on the apps market and find ways to improve on existing solutions.
- Doctor on demands
This is a medically certified mobile app for patients to have their questions answered and even schedule video consultations with a doctor and have a medical prescription written for them. Even though this isn’t suitable for urgent care, this app is a great way to talk to a doctor via video calling and find relief for your flu or sports injury.
While it doesn’t provide you with actual medical care, this app is a great way of finding various specialists for specific and rare health conditions. The app lets you schedule appointments with a physician which will take place online. The purpose of HelloMD is to connect patients with doctors so that they can continue treatment off the platform.
- Microsoft Health Vault
Just like the name suggests, this app allows users to store their medical records safely and keep them updated. This information can only be shared with healthcare professionals or trusted people. This can also be a tracker app for things like sugar levels, blood pressure, or oxygen saturation. Data can be put in manually or it can be collected through any medical devices or any other apps you use.
This is a top healthcare app for pharmacists. It is a comprehensive archive of medical information, a drug interaction checker, and a pill identification tool. It also has a texting service that is HIPAA compliant where physicians and other healthcare professionals can communicate.
- Better health
Better health gives its users access to mental health professionals and online counselors. With the help of text messages and video calls, patients can benefit from online therapy sessions with over 300 trained and accredited counselors that cover a wide variety of areas, from depression to couples therapy. There are also group webinars and community features to offer more support for patients using this app.
- EyeCare Live
As the name suggests, this app connects you with a doctor and asks you to record your condition through various pictures and videos of affected eyes. This isn’t recommended for serious conditions, but for things like dry eyes, allergies, or contact lenses related questions, this app can be a great help.
In order to answer this question, first, we need to consider what patients want in healthcare apps. That is because even if the purpose of medical apps is to improve care delivery for patients, most of them fail to match users’ expectations.
According to some studies, most healthcare apps have less than 10 000 downloads - which is an extremely low number compared to the number of apps available. There is an endless growth opportunity in this domain, and the healthcare app development market is expected to reach $102.43 billion by the end of 2022. This only means that in order to succeed, you need to identify the pain points and try to provide solutions for healthcare apps users.
- Ease of use
As with any software, the harder it is to use, the faster it will lose users. Sure, it’s a good selling point to have unique functionalities in your app, but you still have to make sure that the basic ones work smoothly.
The main purpose of an app should be to save time on managing appointments or facilitating video consultations and to provide the ability to easily access medical records and useful information - either in case of an emergency or just to share with healthcare professionals.
- Clear information and actionable steps
A secondary purpose of a health app should also be medical education. Most people download this type of app to learn more about their conditions and take action according to the information available.
- Improve communication with healthcare professionals
Apps should facilitate the patient-doctor relationship. Studies show that almost 3 quarters of ER and urgent care visits could have been handled online. Therefore, a medical app should be able to provide the means for performing video consultations that would have near - or better- experiences than conventional doctor consultations.
- Sense of community
When people use health and wellness apps, social features can help them commit to their treatment plans or new habits more efficiently. An online community provides users with a space for interaction and experience sharing. Additionally, for people that have received an unfavorable medical diagnosis, engaging with other people can be a much-needed boost of morale.
- Take into account user experience
Data shows that almost 90% of healthcare apps are not used regularly after they have been downloaded. This mostly happens because of poor user experience and a bad first impression. With that being said, it’s important to have a user-friendly UI in order to retain and engage patients.
- Wearable devices integration
Nowadays, most people use some sort of health tracker or smartwatch. It’s estimated that the healthcare wearables market will reach $20 billion by 2023. This means that developing apps that can be easily integrated with wearables is a great opportunity at the moment.
So what key features should healthcare apps have? Well, it obviously depends on their purpose. Let’s divide them into categories:
Healthcare apps for patients
Registration and login – let users input their information with in-app registration so that you can reduce wait times for the appointments. You can allow users to create a profile and complete it with any information they need - but make sure their data is secure and that your app is HIPAA compliant.
Doctor profiles - patients should have the possibility to choose their doctor according to their preferences. They should be able to look up their credentials or reviews left by other patients, or even their location.
Appointment scheduling - this is one of the basic features that your users will expect. You can display what slots are available for appointments and allow users to book one that is convenient for them. Also, a confirmation message should be sent for a great user experience.
Reminders and notifications - this is a key feature that should be included in your app. However, be careful with push notifications because, if you go overboard with them, they can affect the user experience.
Video calling - if you plan of making video consultations available, you need to provide audio and video features for your users that are secure and encrypted.
In-app chats - you can include chatbots that rely on artificial intelligence to interact with your users. Those can be used to check symptoms and, using AI and ML algorithms, they can determine and suggest the next course of action and book an appointment.
Medical devices integration - medical devices can collect health information about the patient that can be leveraged to improve overall health. Also, physicians can make data-driven decisions regarding the patient’s treatment.
Medical records access - users can store their medical records and personal information on HIPAA compliant cloud servers.
Prescription tracking - your app can allow doctors to generate and send patients’ prescriptions. This can lead to better clarity regarding treatments and make it easier for the user to research their medication and refill their prescriptions.
Healthcare apps for doctors
EHR/EMR integration - this improves the viability of a telehealth app. This makes sure that patient data is processed immediately and gathered all in one place. This can also streamline billing services, encourage preventive care, or make reimbursements cost-effective.
Prescription - just like above, this is an advantage for doctors as well, since it saves a lot of time and prevents human error.
HIPAA compliance - these requirements and security protocols have to be followed by all healthcare apps that access personal health information.
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