Digital technologies transform all aspects of our everyday lives and healthcare is no exception. For example, the often lengthy process of making appointments with doctors via calls gets gradually substituted by doctor search apps, such as Zocdoc, that provide a streamlined mobile experience of finding and booking health specialists according to patient’s issue, location, and preferences.
With an estimated current size of $326 billion, the global IT market in the sphere of public health can be considered a mature one, while the forecasted growth of over 20% by 2026 means there are still plenty of opportunities for a new company to gather a loyal audience and successfully launch new digital products.
As a development company that has been in the business for over a decade, Surf has rich cross-industrial expertise in developing mobile apps for pharmacy chains, banks, retailers, and restaurants. If you think about building a healthcare marketplace app, this article is for you — we’ll review some of the most popular apps in the category, explore main features and important aspects of developing a similar app, including cost estimation.
Popular healthcare marketplace apps
First, let’s take a look at some of the most prominent examples of healthcare apps connecting patients with doctors.
Zocdoc is a US-based mHealth company founded in 2007. Zocdoc’s app allows users to search for nearby doctors based on their insurance network, location, and symptoms. Every doctor’s profile has a review page, where users can leave feedback on their visits and read the opinions of others. In 2020, Zocdoc launched a telehealth service, providing video visits for patients — an essential feature at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Zocdoc monetization is based on selling a scheduling management system for doctors on a monthly or annual basis, medicine delivery, and commercial advertising for clinics and hospitals.
One of the widely used apps for booking doctor appointments in India, Lybrate provides scheduling services and online consultations in a user-friendly interface. Patients can book appointments via a web portal or an Android mobile app. In 2016, Lybrate launched Lybrate Lab+ service to collect patients’ samples right from their homes for further testing and sharing results via the app. Currently, Lybrate has over 100,000 certified caregivers available for users.
Cerebral is an app that offers online help for anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other physiological conditions. The app’s users can schedule a video or audio appointment with care counselors, assess and track their mental condition by filling out questionnaires, learn more about mental issues and ways to tackle them from a built-in database, as well as manage given medical prescriptions.
Doctor on Demand
DoD is a doctor-scheduling and telemedicine app available in the US. Created by Included Health, the app allows users to book physical visits and schedule video calls with therapists, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals available 24/7. While being highly reviewed by the majority of users for the quality of services, many of them note steeper prices, compared to other services.
Essential features of a healthcare marketplace app
The exact set of healthcare marketplace app features depends on the app’s functionality. A doctor appointment booking platform is likely to consist of two different ‘blocs’: the one where patients can book appointments and connect with healthcare providers and the other one where doctors can manage their schedules and patients. Both functionality sets can be realized within one app or as two separate apps.
Registration & login
To make the onboarding process as convenient as possible for new users, consider the integration of quick sign-on options via Facebook, Gmail, and other digital services along with email or phone number registration. Since the app’s users are going to use their insurance to cover expenses, it is important to integrate a quick way to input insurance policy details. For example, this can be done via the optical character recognition (OCR) feature integrated with the device’s camera: users just need to take a picture of their insurance document to fill and verify the necessary data in the profile. Surf used a similar solution when developing an app for a Pakistani neobank, integrating IDWise technology to verify users’ identity photos of them, and their documents without a visit to a bank office.
Hospital & doctor search
When the app’s user needs to find the right specialist for their problem, the search feature should provide both efficiency and flexibility. If a person is in a hurry, the most useful search options are a doctor’s availability and location, which can be implemented via integration with geolocation providers, such as Google Maps (using Google App Engine for a web app and Google Firebase for mobile). On the other hand, those who carefully plan their visits would benefit from an extensive filter tool to find matching specialists based on price, hospitals they work in, insurance coverage, other patients’ reviews, and so on.
After selecting the suitable doctor, the user should be able to see available visit slots, preferably updated in real-time. To make things easier for those who use digital calendars use tools such as EventKit and Calendar API to integrate the app with iCal, Google Calendar, and other widely-used calendar apps to automatically add doctor visits and reminders to them.
Ratings & reviews
To help other users choose the right specialist and maintain high standards among doctors, the app can prompt users to rate their visits. While this can be done by simply asking to give it 1–5 stars and optional written feedback, another way is to ask users to rate several aspects of a visit, for example, expertise, personal attitude, and time taken by the doctor. This would help others get a clear picture of what to expect prior to the visit.
Video calls and chats
If the healthcare marketplace app is going to provide telehealth services, it is necessary to supply built-in chat and video conferencing tools. Thankfully, there is no need to build these features from scratch. To implement messaging, such SDKs (software development kits) as Twilio’s Conversations API or TalkJS Chat API can be used, while some of the most popular video conferencing SDKs are CONTUS by MirrorFly and Quickblox. Whatever technology you choose to implement, make sure to protect sensitive patient data by using encrypted HTTPS connections in all channels.
The ability to pay for a visit via a healthcare marketplace website or an app comes as a nice addition but is a must-have feature if the platform provides telemedicine services. To make the payment process as smooth and secure as possible, use trusted payment gateway APIs, such as Braintree or Stripe, that support credit cards, Apple Pay, Android Pay, as well as more locally-based options (WeChat Pay, Klarna, Bancontact, and others).
Usually, the result of a visit to a doctor comes in the form of a diagnosis, prescription, lab tests, and a bill. All of these documents can be stored in a designated section of the doctor appointment app. To make document management easier, consider adding options to filter and search the available documents by type, date, doctor’s specialty, and so on. Below you can see an example of how the document section was realized by Surf in an app for Société Généralele banking group — another area where extensive digital paperwork is a daily routine.
Since doctors can share prescriptions with users within the app, it can be a prospective idea to partner with a pharmacy retailer and integrate shopping for prescribed drugs right in the doctor search app. Integrating medicine delivery can open new ways of monetization for the app, for example, by setting a unified loyalty program for visiting doctors and ordering medicine.
However, it is important to take into consideration the local laws governing medicine distribution. For example, when Surf worked on an Online Healthcare Marketplace app to cover all possible checkout scenarios, we implemented “multi cart” logic that allowed users conveniently order items for both in-store pick-up and delivery.
App features for doctors
As mentioned earlier, a doctor appointment booking app would require a web interface or a different set of features for the doctor’s section, including:
- Profile & subscription. Here, doctors can add their details and experience, link their profile to a clinic, and manage their paid plan, if the app operates on a subscription model.
- Appointment Management. In their section, a doctor can manage their calendar, set available time slots, view and confirm incoming bookings.
- Chat & calls. If the app provides telemedicine services doctors should have similar convenient access to chat and conferencing features as their patients.
- Documents. This section allows doctors to upload or create diagnoses and subscriptions and then share them with the patients.
- Income. If the healthcare app accepts payments, a dedicated screen showing money earned by remote consultations should be added to help doctors track their income and taxes.
App for healthcare marketplace app cost & tips
The cost of developing a healthcare app depends on many factors, with the app’s complexity having a major impact on its price. Other factors include the choice of development frameworks, usage of side integrations and APIs, and developers’ geographical location. In general, the price of a doctor appointment app lies in the range of $150,000 — 300,000. Let’s take a look at some of the ways how not to go over budget in medical app development without compromising its quality.
Choose cross-platform technology
Mobile apps can be developed separately using native programming languages, such as Swift and Kotlin for iOS and Android respectively. This approach guarantees the app’s ultimate compatibility with the platform and top performance. However, native development means hiring a separate team of developers for each platform, which multiplies not just expenses but also the chances of development slowdowns and other issues. Cross-platform frameworks have no such disadvantage. For example, the Flutter framework allows a single team of developers to create apps for iOS, Android, web, Windows, and Mac.
Although hourly wages of cross-platform developers tend to be slightly higher, in the end, cross-platform development proves to be cheaper than creating several native apps. For example, when Surf took on the development of an Online Healthcare Marketplace app, our suggestion of using Flutter saved the client about 40% of the budget allocated for native development — all six apps (iOS and Android apps for each three brands) were built with a single Flutter codebase.
Start with MVP
With the high competition and continued evolution of technologies, creating a healthcare app bears significant risks of incorrect positioning, inaccurate estimates at the presale prod, and other miscalculations. Discovering these mistakes after the major part of the development is done can be very painful for the business. To downplay such risks it is advisable to start your healthcare app from MVP (Minimal Viable Product). A low-cost prototype that includes key functionalities and UI solutions can be used to thoroughly test every use case scenario, gather feedback, and secure additional investments. Only when all of the features and screen flows are refined with the help of MVP, it is time to commence a full-scale medical app development.
For non-standard projects without clearly defined architecture, requirements and specifications we at Surf provide Sprint Zero pre-project preparations. These activities, done by our senior-level experts, are aimed at analyzing business requirements, competitors, and target audiences. With Sprint Zero, the client receives a comprehensive project assessment, business risks review, the app’s design concept, MVP composition, and development map.
The geographical location of developers defines their salaries and the current remote working trend makes it completely viable to partner with a development team from another part of the world. By outsourcing medical app development services a US-based startup can effectively cut down development costs by almost half. For example, while Android developers in the US have an average hourly rate of $90, specialists from Western Europe with similar qualifications charge $40-50 per hour. For more insights on hiring a healthcare app development team see our dedicated article.
Invest in security and compliance
Medical software development involves processing plenty of private data about their users’ health, while, in many countries, the sphere of healthcare itself has strict compliance standards. For example, a healthcare app launching in the US is required to adhere to such legal norms as:
- GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation regulates the security of health and biometric data of EU citizens even if they are not located in the Union.
- HIPAA and HITECH. The Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act and The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health are aimed at protecting patients’ records from unauthorized access security of patient data and electronic health records.
Even an unintentional violation of these regulations can result in huge fines. All of this means that investing in legal compliance and robust IT infrastructure should be a top priority, while thorough implementation of encryption and other security measures along with sufficient testing is an important step of the healthcare app development roadmap.
As more people appreciate the convenience of such solutions as appointment booking and video calls with healthcare professionals, new opportunities for mHealth companies arise across the world. Careful analysis of the competition and the local market can help select a winning business model for your doctor appointment booking app, while the right choice of tech stack and development partner will ensure your app is stable, secure, and scalable.
Surf has over 12 years of experience creating mobile apps for different industries, including banking, pharmacy, e-commerce, and digital media. Our cross-industrial expertise and homegrown solutions make the development process efficient, while comprehensive documentation allows the project’s smooth in-house transfer at any prod.