Over the last few years, information technology has penetrated and become an inseparable part of the medical sphere. In the era of wireless medicine, creating focused apps to cater to healthcare providers and patients is becoming a necessity.
In 2017, more than 3.4 billion people will have smartphones or tablets with access to mobile health apps, according to studies done by Research2guidance.com. 50 percent of those people will have downloaded at least one medical mobile app.
The rapidly growing mobile health, or mHealth, market is allowing mobile application developers to capitalize on the high demand in this relatively young field. The sector is estimated to reach $26 billion globally by 2017. Sourсe: researchandmarkets.com
Future mHealth business owners should consider multi-platform app development right from the beginning if they want their solution to succeed. Currently, more than 70% of mHealth app publishers choose both the iOS and Android platforms to deliver their application to care providers and patients.
The medical mobile app development sector provides an exceptional amount of potential to both startups and entrepreneurs. Investors are willing to support the growth of healthcare and hospitals and are excited about investing in this growing sphere. As well, many private care providers plan to adopt apps on a massive scale to enhance their practice’s workflow.
When asked about their plans to implement a population health system in 2017, 62% of respondents said they were looking to create new systems or add new tools to their existing system. This is a clear indicator that now is the perfect time to enter the medical mobile app market. But where should you begin?
ENTERING THE MEDICAL MOBILE APP DEVELOPMENT MARKET
mHealth will continue to develop at a rapid pace and, as more people download and use mHealth apps, the IT industry powering these apps learns more about user behaviours, popular and not-so-popular app features, and beyond. This knowledge is already being used today to focus medical mobile app development accordingly. Let’s take a closer look at the current state of the market, based on feedback from healthcare professionals and organizations.
The diagram above clearly shows which areas have been identified as most important when it comes to developing mHealth apps. From the perspective of healthcare providers and organizations, improving interoperability, workflow, and usability of current mHealth tools is most critical (60%, 55%, and 47% respectively).
37% of respondents stated that adding population health tools to their Electronic Health Record (EHR) system would be a nice feature. However, 24% expressed a need to conduct a major EHR system upgrade and another 21% identified replacing their EHR system at one or more sites as being important. Lastly, 28% of respondents thought that migrating their data to the cloud would be useful to their practice.
Given this information, it’s easy to establish the best strategies when it comes to developing a new mHealth app or improving an existing one. Taking the feedback from current care providers into account will not only help your app’s users have the best experience possible, it will also make managing the development of your business easier and more efficient.
IMPROVING EXISTING MEDICAL MOBILE APPS
If you’ve already got an mHealth app on the market, it’s important to be aware of what current users are saying about the sector in order to improve your app accordingly. The diagram below shows which areas of mHealth have been identified as needing improvement in the market.
Security, analytics, patient engagement, and population health are the most important fields to improve (52%, 51%, 44%, and 44% respectively). EHR follows in priority at 31%, with remote patient monitoring (24%) and revenue cycle management (22%) rounding off responses. From these results, we see that aligning development with user needs and expectations is essential to an mHealth app’s success. Increasing revenue potential and efficiency using apps are close behind in terms of developmental priorities.
Companies already active in the sector should focus on improving and optimizing their apps. In order to be successful, those interested in entering the market should focus on developing solutions that take these improvements and the existing gaps into account.
EXPECTED INNOVATIONS IN mHEALTH
As more companies enter this rapidly growing space, innovations are sure to occur. 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 features for mHealth apps we can expect to pop up in the near future. These include:
- remote monitoring of a patient’s health. Using an app, a doctor will be able to monitor vital signs and symptoms of patients;
- conducting ECG tests and sending the results to the doctor. The doctor can give feedback instantly or share the results with colleagues through secure channels;
- analyzing moles on a patient’s body to define whether they are malignant;
- measuring blood pressure, controlling levels of glucose and weight, as well as measuring pulse and reading oxygen saturation. This kind of monitoring will help prevent occurrence of diabetes, heart failures, or strokes;
- body sounds readings. Science Daily reports that physician researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan have come up with a computer program that attaches to an electronic stethoscope to organize lung sounds into five diagnostic categories with a high accuracy rate. The researchers plan on eventually developing this breakthrough technology into an app that will live on patients’ smartphones or tablets;
- detecting sexually transmitted infections through a little chip attached to a smartphone. The user pours a sample of their urine onto the chip and their smartphone will show them their test result;
- visual acuity reading through a smartphone’s camera;
- monitoring lung function;
- conducting heart electrophysiology;
- detecting mood shifts. A group of researchers at the University of Michigan are in the early testing stages of coming up with an app that’s capable of determining early signs of mood shifts in those with bipolar disorders by detecting the subtle characteristics of a person’s voice patterns in normal, everyday phone conversations.
These innovations will work to further mHealth, improving overall patient health and facilitating patient/doctor communications, as well as increasing efficiency in healthcare organizations and practices. Using advances in tech alongside user feedback, developers, startups, and entrepreneurs can enter this rapidly expanding market successfully, creating apps that are useful, user-friendly, and profitable.
PRIORITIZING SECURITY IN mHEALTH
Despite the benefits that medical mobile app development can offer every stakeholder involved in the sector, there are some concerns to think about before entering the market. Since healthcare is heavily regulated in most parts of the world and because the data being transmitted, gathered, and used is of a sensitive nature, protecting this information is a critical part of mHealth app development.
Transmitting data without encrypting it can be risky, depending on the type of mHealth app being developed and the type of data that’s gathered from users. Making sure that users (patients, healthcare providers, etc.) are aware of the confidential data that’s being transmitted and have given explicit consent to its transmission is another important aspect to take into account when developing a medical mobile app. Prioritizing security is a good strategy for those interested in this sector.
The bar graphs below show major privacy concerns that healthcare organizations have faced and are a good indicator of the security measures that must be considered in mHealth app development. Everything from network and app security, to encryption and transmission of data, to information exchange, to the human element need to be planned for.
CONSULT REGULATORY BODIES
Because mHealth apps will deal with sensitive information, it’s important to be aware of the safety regulations that are in place in the market your app is deployed in.
For instance, the United States has an agency dedicated to upholding and enforcing these regulations, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In September 2013, the FDA issued guidelines that regulate mobile apps based on their potential to harm patients. Under these guidelines, an app that only records the user’s diet and exercise information wouldn’t rise to the level of a regulated device. However, an app that tells the user to adjust their insulin dose based on a reading from a glucometer would likely be regulated.
Ensuring that your app meets the regulated guidelines in the countries you’re operating in is another significant factor in a medical mobile app’s success in both the national and international market.
mHEALTH DEVELOPMENT AS A LUCRATIVE MARKET
Medical mobile apps are not only useful as planners or reminders these days. They are being used as powerful tools to monitor patient health and inform users of relevant changes in their body. They are also a great way for healthcare providers to increase their practice’s efficiency and effectiveness. mHealth has proven to save time for both patients and doctors thus far.
What’s more, medical mobile apps could also reduce costs when going to a hospital (for both patients and healthcare organizations). By monitoring a patient’s health, users can prevent diseases or flare-ups in existing conditions, without having to wait for the first serious symptoms to occur. Anyone will be able to get professional medical consultation, directly from their device. This kind of access to basic levels of healthcare will become vastly important, especially for people living in suburbs, villages, areas affected by war, or the poorest cities in third world countries.
As mHealth continues to develop, doctor-patient relationships will become more cooperative, patients will be more satisfied with the care they receive, and overall health could improve drastically, thanks to this innovative space.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR mHEALTH?
The active penetration of IT in the medical field is a big step toward further improvement in healthcare. mHealth is already helping to prevent serious diagnoses, monitoring health conditions, and tracking ongoing rehabilitation. Despite the challenges that those in the sector face, such as constant updates to regulatory directives and the absence of established standards of security, it’s clear that mHealth will be an important part of the future.
With an estimated 1.7 billion people downloading or using a medical app by 2018, this sector of mobile development is ready for new players and innovators.
WANT TO DEVELOP A MEDICAL MOBILE APP?
Mobile health improves the quality of medicine, reduces costs, and constantly broadens the reach of healthcare. These benefits have a positive impact on all users and stakeholders, making the market an exciting and disruptive one.
Are you wanting to get involved in medical mobile app development, but you’re unsure where to start? Our team of seasoned developers, project managers, and QA experts can help. Contact us for more details regarding mHealth and how to develop a successful medical app!