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Tetiana MatviiokTania MatviiokContent Manager

First Steps to Building Your Own mHealth App

A comprehensive guide on how to launch the development of a gainful mobile healthcare app

Building Your Own mHealth App

If you opened this article, you should already know about the benefits of mobile health technology. So, let's skip the "Why" section and go straight to the "How" section.

The first 7 steps to take while building a mobile health app of your own are:

  1. Understand what kind of app you want.
  2. Research your idea.
  3. Choose the set of features you plan to implement. 
  4. Discuss the difficulties you may encounter. 
  5. Estimate the costs of your future app.

  6. Find a way to monetize it.
  7. Find a perfect partner.

Here goes a comprehensive guide on how to launch the development of a gainful mobile healthcare app, compiled together with our Business Analyst, Engagement Partner, Project Managers, and UX Designers.


1. Come Up with an App Idea 

While the mhealth field seems to be narrow, there are a lot of types of healthcare mobile applications. You need to understand where your app belongs.

mhealth app typology

Among apps for hospital staff, there are hospital administration, CRM, and HR management platforms. There are apps for patient communication and management. You can also think of developing an app for reference and training. Medical apps for storing electronic medical records EMR are also important. A full-fledged digital hospital belongs here as well.

Self-care apps include but are not limited to various nutrition and fitness apps. There are apps for meditation and mental health care, chronic care, and integrative oncology. You can also develop a medication management app, a women’s health app, or a dental care app. A mobile app for storing personal health records is also a good idea.


2. Research Your Idea 

It is better to understand all the potential traps and challenges before you embark on development, not during or after. Your job is to create a unique app, which will solve an actual medical or self-care problem.

  • Study your competitors 

Once you have understood what kind of app you want, look for similar medical apps online and see what they offer their users. If this niche is overcrowded, do you stand a chance to enter it? If it is almost empty, why? Are there any pitfalls you cannot see?

For example, healthy eating and nutrition tracking apps are the number one mobile healthcare app preference in the American market. At the same time, urgent care medical apps are used by only 4 percent of American patients. (The data retrieved from Statista).

  • Analyze mhealth technology trends

The modern-day healthcare is influenced by a holistic approach, growing consumerism, regulatory scrutiny, and digitalization. The most impactful technologies are cloud, Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence. Your job is to understand which technology you want to make use of and how.

  • Study your target audience

Depending on the purpose of your mhealth app, your users may have different opportunities and needs. For instance, if you develop an app for the elderly, you have to take into account their potential visual and hearing impairments.


3. Consider the Features

Here is the extensive list of most common mHealth app features that you can choose from.

  • Logging in and signing up

There should be a way for your users to log in and sign up. It is your choice: to make it via e-mail and password or via social media, to use two-factor authentification or to leave it simple.

  • Managing a user profile

For your app to be customized and user-friendly, you should let your users set up their profiles. They would love to add some personal data and a profile picture.

  • Enabling search

For better app navigation, you can develop a custom search field with filters, text suggestions, or autocompletion.

  • Sending push notifications

Push notifications are a great way to keep your user tuned with your app. They will be particularly useful if your app features reminders.

  • Setting reminders

Your users may want to use your app for setting reminders about the upcoming doctor appointment or a pill to take.

  • Featuring activity feed

You can develop a feed page where your users will see their activity. Also, there might be a feed page to see the activity of the people one follows if you allow the whole “follow-me” thing.

  • Storing Electronic Health Records

Your app may feature a centralized system for storing and managing patient information.

  • Health tracking

You can develop the health tracking app for women to monitor their cycle, for the elderly to track their heart rates and health status, for parents to track their kid’s development measures and so on.

  • Calculating medical measures

Depending on the purpose of your app, it may feature a calculator of body mass index, oxygen index, calories, pregnancy dates, body water, and other medical measures

  • Facilitating doctor-patient communication

You may develop a messenger for doctors or hospital staff to communicate with patients. It may also feature a file exchange system or video conferencing if needed.

  • Managing e-shopping

You can develop a shopping cart for your users to buy medications, medical devices, or self-care products via the app.

  • Processing payments

By implementing a payment system, you will enable your users to pay for a product or service directly via the app.

  • Finding location

You may need to embed a map, if, for example, you develop a doctor appointment booking app or an emergency care application.

  • Scheduling

If you develop a digital hospital, a fitness and nutrition app, or a patient care app, you may need to add the scheduling feature.

  • Analyzing and reporting

On the one hand, you may develop an analysis and reporting feature for your users to better understand their health data. On the other hand, you can design this data collection feature for you to better understand app behavior and issues.

  • Storing medical information

If your app will feature a reference section, you need to embed a medical knowledge database, possibly with images and videos.

  • Integrating other products and services

For your app to be more multifaceted and better-connected with the outside world, you should integrate it with social media services, Google Maps, YouTube video player etc. 

  • Connecting with IoT devices

Your users will appreciate it if you let them connect the app with a wearable device. You can also integrate it with the smart home system or any other IoT device depending on the purpose of your app.

  • Embedding chatbot

Developing a reference app, a patient management app, or a self-care app, you can embed a chatbot to automate some of its functions.

You can also integrate your app with a content management system or a customer relationship management system to embed some functions instead of developing them from scratch.


4. Beware of the challenges

Even with the most proficient healthcare mobile app development team, challenges and difficulties are inevitable. To minimize the risks, start with learning more about them before you jump on building a mobile app. 

The essential pitfalls are:

  • User privacy

  • Data security

  • Legal compliance

If you are interested to learn more about them, read our recent article on healthcare data security. The inability to address these issues may threaten the integrity of patient information, clinical health records, personal data, and other protected health information.

Also, your app can fail because of poor app usability. To prevent it, do not forget about user testing.


5. Estimate the Cost

To understand how much the mobile health app development is going to cost you, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Which features you plan to integrate?

The final cost of your app will depend on the number and complexity of features you will implement. Briefly speaking, the more features you integrate, the more expensive your mhealth app will get. 

If your budget is not unlimited, start with the minimum set of essential functions.

  • How long the development is going to take?

The longer the development, the more you pay. If your project requirements are constant and simple, and the app will be ready once they are fulfilled, the development will be inexpensive. If you plan to be testing different designs or features, changing the development requirements, and updating the app continuously, the app is going to cost you more.

If you are ready to compromise app quality or complexity, request Waterfall development and have it done quickly and inexpensively. If you prioritize quality and complexity, be ready to spend more.

  • What platform do you target?

Developing a platform that your users will access on their computers, you can choose web or desktop development. The former will be more cost-effective than the latter.

As for mobile apps, you can develop native mhealth applications for iOS and Android separately or you can go with a cross-platform app. In this case, the former option will be more expensive. 

If you plan to develop a medical app that works on both web and mobile, you can save a great share of your project budget by building a progressive web app.

  • What is the average hourly rate of mobile app development agencies you prefer?

The mobile app development market is diverse. Hourly rates may range from $20 to $200. The developers from Eastern Europe will cost you considerably less than the developers from the United States or Great Britain. The difference in average hourly rates of Ukrainians and Americans is conditioned by how different the cost of living in Ukraine and in the USA is.

Broadly speaking, a high development rate does not translate into better quality.


6. Find a Way to Monetize It

Developing a paid app is the easiest way to monetize it. However, according to Statista, 84 % of mobile healthcare applications are free to download. If you want your paid app to succeed, it has to offer a unique solution for an utterly important patient or doctor’s problem. Considering how crowded the modern mhealth market is – it is not likely to happen.

Advertising is another way for you to profit from your app. Yet, you need to be careful here – modern-day users are very impatient about ads.

Selling devices or medicines is a good way to monetize your app, but it is suitable for a very small number of medical apps. If you develop a digital hospital or an e-pharmacy – yes, it will work. If you develop a meditation app, what are you going to sell?

Offering in-app purchases or a subscription is, probably, the most effective and universal approach. It will work regardless of your app type, and users will be willing to pay if you prove the value that your app brings them.


7. Find a Partner

After you have understood your idea and researched the market, you finally know that it is viable. Having thought about features that you want to implement and understood all the pitfalls, you estimate the cost of the app development. Of course, you want this project to bring you profit eventually, so think about how to monetize it. 

After it, when you get a clear vision in your head – it is time to start looking for a software development partner. You can look for mhealth development companies at Clutch, The Manifest, or GoodFirms.

Clutch, The Manifest, GoodFirms

Or you could consult our Engagement Manager, who would explain why we are the perfect company for healthcare software development

Do you have an idea for a mobile health app?

Are you ready to put your idea into action? Let me prove our expertise in healthcare software development to you.