Developing a Healthcare Mobile App: Cost, Tips, and Compliance

By Joshua Gross, 10 September, 2022

The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic instigated a massive surge in the market value of the mHealth industry, which has led many IT startups to throw their hat in the ring in the form of healthcare startups.

By some estimates, the mobile healthcare app market is predicted to exceed $300B by 2025. Considering this relatively young market was valued at more than $45B in 2020, you can see why many companies and entrepreneurs have been flirting with the idea of creating mobile healthcare apps.

Creating healthcare apps come along with some very particular considerations, though. Before you begin development, you will want to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations surrounding digital health data and ensure that any app you make will be compliant in the countries you offer it.

That said, let's jump in and look at what you should know about developing a healthcare mobile app.

The Benefits of Healthcare Apps

Medical apps can help to fulfill the needs of both medical professionals and patients. In most cases, apps will be designed for use by medical facilities and professionals or for patients.

For doctors and other healthcare workers, mHealth apps can:

  • Provide time-saving features.
  • Improve data gathering.
  • Reduce medical mistakes.
  • Lower spending for both medical facilities and patients alike.
  • Improve communication between doctors and their patients.
  • Boost customer engagement and loyalty.
  • Allow doctors to monitor patient's health remotely.
  • Help doctors schedule appointments and manage essential tasks.

Patients benefit from mHealth apps as well. They can receive remote assistance from medical professionals, easily pay online for their healthcare, and schedule appointments quickly and intuitively.

These apps can also improve the treatment process for patients by improving communication between physicians and patients. People can also save money through mHealth apps, as it often costs less to have a virtual appointment than an in-person visit.

Apps that are geared towards consumers rather than professionals can also help patients be more educated about medical issues, live a healthier lifestyle, and manage their prescriptions and appointments.

Different Types of Healthcare Mobile Apps

There are nearly 100,000 healthcare apps available on Google Play and the App Store. There are two general categories these apps can be split into: those built for professional use and those that are built to be used by patients.

Apps for Medical Facilities and Professional Use

Apps built for professional use are typically more complex than those created to be used by patients.

Some common types of professional healthcare apps include:

  • Medical networking: Allowing physicians and other healthcare professionals to communicate with their colleagues.
  • Telehealth: Allowing medical professionals to schedule appointments and provide consultation digitally.
  • Billing: The billing process can be streamlined through these apps, managing processes like accounting, claims management, patient registration, and payment processing.
  • Medical records apps: Allowing medical professionals to collect and update health records of their patients to help track treatment and patient health.
  • Medical prescription apps: Allowing the process of prescribing medication and outlining dosage instructions to be simplified between the patient and the doctor.

Are you wondering what the steps are to create an application? Take a look at our step-by-step guide to turning an app idea into reality.

Apps for Patient Use

Healthcare apps can also make the lives of patients easier. Because they are designed for a consumer market, they tend to be simpler even though they have the potential to be very useful.

Some common types of patient-use healthcare apps include:

  • Health monitoring: Allows patients to check their symptoms, manage current chronic conditions, and receive recommendations or even treatment advice.
  • Mental health apps: Allows patients to have access to therapy and information to manage mental health, such as breathing exercises and pre-recorded meditations.
  • Medication trackers: Allows patients to stay on top of the medications they take by incorporating scheduling and reminder features. Some of these apps will even let users know where they can get the best deal locally on the medications they take.
  • Medical education: These apps aim to provide up-to-date medical educational information for people that want to learn more about healthcare.
  • Healthy lifestyle apps: This broad umbrella category includes everything from brain training and self-improvement apps to fitness and wellness apps. There are countless apps aiming to make it easier to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Diet apps: These apps help users establish and maintain a diet that supports their overall health. This application might involve features like a food and health information database, a calorie counter, reminders, and meal planning tools.

How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Healthcare Mobile App?

The cost of developing a healthcare mobile app can range significantly depending on the specifics of the project. Depending on the features and functionalities of your app, the project could run you anywhere from $60,000 to $450,000.

According to the mHealth App Developer Economics study from 2017, the average total app development cost for mHealth apps is $425,000. Other estimates provide a significantly less expensive range, stating that simple mHealth apps might only cost you between $60k and $80k.

According to one source, the estimated cost of creating an MVP for a telehealth app is $77,070, while the final price comes in a little over $182k.

Understanding how much it will cost to develop a healthcare mobile app is intrinsically linked with grasping the team requirements for the job. You will generally need people to fulfill the following roles in order to create an mHealth app:

  • Front end developer.
  • Back end developer.
  • Business analyst.
  • UI/UX expert.
  • Compliance expert.
  • DevOps.
  • Project manager.
  • Quality assurance.

You can piece this team together in a number of different ways:

  • Hiring an in-house team.
  • Hiring freelancers.
  • Partnering with an app development company.

Hiring an in-house team will likely only make sense in specific circumstances, as it's definitely the most expensive way to create an app. When you are first starting out, having your own team on payroll probably isn't accessible. However, big corporations interested in developing their own apps might go this route.

This leads many people to choose the second option– hiring freelancers. This can work out great, but it is always a bit of a gamble. Even if you're happy with the work being produced by your freelancers, one person walking away before the job is done could leave you scrambling to switch developers mid-project.

Another option worth mentioning is outsourcing app development to freelancers in a country where the average freelance rates are cheaper than in the US. While this can be a way to save quite a bit of money on the development, you'll want to be wary of the risks of outsourcing your app development overseas. When developing a healthcare app, you will want to be particularly concerned about this because of all the country-specific compliance needs your app will have.

Finally, you can also partner with an app development company. There are a number of benefits to using an app development company to create a healthcare app, including:

  • Having access to expert technical knowledge.
  • Being cost-effective.
  • Offering a strong support system.
  • Reducing the likelihood of legal issues compared to hiring freelancers.

Understanding Compliance in Healthcare Mobile App Development

One very important consideration if you're thinking about developing a healthcare mobile app is compliance. As you might imagine, the healthcare industry is incredibly strict when it comes to privacy and legal regulations.

If you're considering launching your app in several different countries, you'll also want to research the regulations in each location. Each country has its own laws and regulations when it comes to healthcare.

Let's briefly overview some of the regulations you'll want to be aware of in the US, EU, and Canadian markets.

US Markets

If you create an app for the US market that records, stores, and processes PHI (Protected Healthcare Information), you must be very careful to ensure that you are adhering to HIPAA regulations. These regulations were first enacted when Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

HIPAA regulations exist to protect the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of health information involved in electronic health care transactions. In 2013, the clauses of the HiTECH regulations were incorporated into the HIPAA Final Omnibus Rule, making it so HiTECH-compliant apps are equal to HIPAA-compliant apps.

Another confidentiality regulation in the US is CCPA. This has to do with how clients are informed about the type of data that is collected, erasing any collected data if the client requests it, and a lot more.

The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) also has a framework that is designed to protect user data in US healthcare apps. While it requires significant investment to use this collection of tools, standards, and technologies, nearly three-quarters of organizations believe following this framework to be the best practice in terms of cybersecurity.

EU Markets

In 2018, the European Union introduced personal data protection rules under the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation.) Any and all healthcare apps that operate in the EU are required to comply with these regulations.

It's worth noting that the GDPR applies to both the company that collects the data as well as the company that processes the data.

Canadian Markets

If you plan to release a healthcare app in Canada that stores and processes personal data, it must comply with PIPEDA (The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act). The good news is that this law is very similar to the GDPR, so there's a good chance that an app you make for either the EU market or the Canadian market will be compliant under these respective regulations.

Tips For Developing a Healthcare Mobile App

If you have an idea for a healthcare mobile app, you're likely chomping at the bit to get started. Before you do, though, let's go over some important tips that will help make sure your app is as successful as possible.

Specifically Identify the Problem You're Solving

The key to any successful business is identifying a problem your target audience needs to be solved and solving it for them. Before you hop into the development phase, make sure you understand specifically what problem you're solving, including how and why you're solving it better than other apps that currently exist on the market.

Don't Put UI/UX Design on the Backburner

When you're creating a healthcare app, you're going to want it to be as user-friendly as possible. Generally, the target demographic for health mobile apps is very broad, so you'll want to make sure that the interface and design appeal to as many people within your ideal audience as possible.

Choose a Model For Monetization

While you likely have a larger purpose for your app, you're probably also hoping to profit from the endeavor. There are a number of different monetization models, but you'll need to choose how to approach monetization before you start developing the app. Some of the common models for mHealth apps are:

  • Freemium: Offering a free app with some paid features that can be unlocked.
  • In-app ads: Offering a free app but making money by showing ads to users.
  • Paid: Offering the app for a one-time payment.
  • Subscription: Offering the app on a weekly, monthly, or yearly subscription.

Build an MVP

Building a minimal viable product (MVP) is an essential step in app development. While you might try to skip building an MVP, it's important to help you get your app to market as fast as possible, helping you validate your idea and ensuring that the whole process is as cost-effective as possible.

Get Feedback

Once you've released your MVP, you can start collecting and analyzing the feedback you get from users. This information is literally priceless, as it can let you create the best possible finished product.

Are You Looking For the Right Team to Help You Develop Your App?

Healthcare mobile apps have the potential to revolutionize the way that doctors care for their patients and the way that patients care for themselves. However, there are also very specific considerations you'll need to give to your digital healthcare product because of the laws and regulations surrounding digital healthcare information.

Working with the right team ensures that your app emerges exactly as you envisioned. When you're partnered with experts that create digital products for a living and as a personal passion, you'll find that you can avoid many of the common negative outcomes when you're stringing together a team of freelancers.

Are you searching for the right people to partner with for your next app? If so, reach out and tell us about your project.