The medical services market has been witnessing rapid digitization lately, boosted by global digitization processes in general and the COVID-19 pandemic in particular. In 2021, the digital health market is reported to have reached US$289 Billion globally and is expected to hit US$881 Billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 20.14% in the period 2022-2027.
New healthcare software systems and apps appear that help hospitals and other medical service providers easily connect with patients and track their activity, efficiently reduce paperwork both in patient-doctor communication and inside of the healthcare organizations, productively streamline medical practice routine, and more.
Medical software solutions can be divided into different types depending on the tasks to be solved:
- Medical Practice Management (MPM) software is designed to set up daily tasks and improve productivity of hospital staff and quality of healthcare service provided to patients and covers such functions as entering and tracking patients in the system, managing appointments, generating reports, paying bills, managing insurance claims, and other.
- Electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR) systems present digital records of patient health information, where EMR is a digital form of a patient’s chart kept in the doctor’s office, and EHR Is a collection of the records from multiple doctors with a long-term history of patient’s health.
- Medical CRMs are used by hospitals, laboratories, medical centers, or clinics to manage their customer-related processes and keep and analyze data.
- Websites and patient portals provide patients with access to their personal health information anytime, anywhere, and in a secure way, and other types.
Having been in the market since 2011, we, at Surf, are sensitive to market demands and trends and always in search of new approaches and tools for solving regular industry-specific tasks. In this article we are going to share five solutions for medical software development that can help you improve efficiency and boost your business results
Medical app development: how to gain efficiency and not to overpay
Is it so rewarding to develop a custom medical app?
To be objective, today, the market abounds with various off-the-shelf solutions for healthcare, and the question arises, why bother yourself with creating a custom solution. The disadvantages of a custom approach are obvious:
- higher cost and
- longer development time.
From this point of view, an out-of-the-box solution is a sufficient choice, if
- you have a small average check and low patient flow;
- your medical app project is just at the beginning of the journey and you are not yet sure that the customers need a mobile app;
- you offer a unique product or service.
But it’s worth creating a custom medical app, if
- it is to be implemented by middle- and large healthcare service providers with a high average check;
- you have already tested the hypothesis to make sure that customers need the app;
- you already lack tools in an out-of-the-box solution.
Let’s have a closer look and check what advantages you get with development of a custom medical app.
- From the very beginning of development you lay the foundation for future growth. In consultation with engineers, you can choose architectural solutions and the technology stack to ensure scalability and the possibility to be easily updated in the future. While in the out-of-the-box solutions many things cannot be added or changed unless done through the developer company (if possible at all) while some changes may be introduced into software without notifying you.
Having the app development process under control, you may anytime add automated features such as visit number tracking on a patient’s chart, alerts, or prompts for progress notes, or scale your app for better performance or higher workloads.
- Through the process of creating, you are guided by your own goals and expectations. The custom app is adjusted and adapted to your processes and KPIs, and not vice versa. You are free to choose and set up special functionality such as appointment booking, order tracking, diagnosis mapping, tech stack, and design to match your company brand.
For example, if your patients are 50+, they can be simply confused about where to click in an app, and what happens after that. Therefore, scheduling features are better to be adopted for them, but it’s not always doable with ready-made solutions.
- Custom solutions provide more flexibility in integrating with third-party platforms and solutions. Besides, this is your developers team who will take care of and reliably ensure the integration security and compliance with industry standards and requirements.
The option is vital for healthcare organizations as they need integration with laboratories, EMR/EHR and scheduling systems, billing software, and others.
- Сustom software development provides you with a competitive advantage. You get an efficient tool, which is not available to your competitors. It can help you in achieving your specific goals: from improving revenue cycle, service quality and data safety, to reducing medical costs, or workload of your staff.
Since 2011, we have successfully developed a lot of custom apps for various industries where the focus has always been on clients’ specific needs
- bringing fail safety up to 99%,
- creating a custom YouTube-like video streaming service to process a routine load of 25 thousand to 50 thousand requests,
- cutting HR expenses by 80%,
saving managers 10 hours per week due to routine processes automation, and more.
How to cut costs in your medical app project without quality loss?
One of the ways to reduce medical app project development costs that we have already tested in practice is cross-platform development with Flutter, an easy-to-use toolkit launched by Google in 2018.
With Flutter, you need to develop a single code base that can be used for several platforms (Android, iOS, web, Windows, macOS, and Linux). This means, the main part of your project code base will be unified (80-95%, depending on the specifics of the project). Adaptations will be necessary, both for platform features and for UX. But they still remain adaptations, not rewriting the app from scratch.
Why is a Flutter app a good solution for a medical software system?
- As compared to other cross-platform frameworks, Flutter provides native-close performance, smooth animations, and user-friendly interface elements. Your patients and staff will not see the difference in the way the app will look and behave.
- The code is stable. It will be tested once and for all platforms, all bugs will be fixed simultaneously on all platforms.
- Support will be easier. Eventual issues and problems will be solved once and for all. There will be no need to share information about corrections and adjustments across all platforms.
- Flutter-powered projects require less time and resources to manage. There will be no need to hire different teams for each platform. It is enough to have several developers with platform-specific expertise in one team. They will help each other on platform tasks, and share the common pool of unified tasks.
- As a result, the project will enter the market 30-40% faster, and will also cost less.
For one of our clients, we created Flutter-powered apps for 3 pharmacy chain brands for iOS and Android. It took us less than 4 months to finish the task, and due to a single code the Client saved 40% of the budget they would have spent on native development.
How to avoid excessive features but leave end users satisfied?
Whether you develop an app for patients or for doctors, or for other medical staff, user satisfaction is an important metric. High level of patient satisfaction may be an efficient tool for marketing. While a low satisfaction level can help you find issues in your services or workflow.
Therefore, before you dive into development, ask yourself whether you know exactly who your end users are and what features they really need. Besides, it is unlikely that you would be happy to pay excessively for the development of features that no one will use.
For example, interactive onboarding is a significant feature for a telemedicine app, though this can be less obvious at first sight. This type of software is designed for people with different backgrounds, and not all your patients are tech savvy. Detailed introduction and explanation of the app options and ways to use them will help to win your patients’ trust and reduce risk of errors in information exchange between doctors and patients.
Why is Customer Journey Mapping a great approach to understanding your users?
In our practice, CJM research has proven to be an effective tool both for new large-scale product concepts where it is necessary to determine which features are of real importance and priority, and for existing solutions to identify problem areas to optimize.
The key idea of the CJM research is to find out users’ pain points and needs the app solves. For medical software development, the psychological and emotional state of the patients is of special importance. For example, patients feeling nervous because of their health problems, can refuse using the app because of complicated payment procedures or a long flow. And this is what we analyze to exclude any barriers in their interaction with the product and make their journey in the app easy. Such things are better to be handled at the beginning of the project to avoid unnecessary expenses to correct them when the product is ready.
Based on our experience, the results of the CJM research are better to be fixed in three documents
- customer journey map itself, in the form of a multilayer table with user steps in the app and functional units to solve the user’s needs;
- table of app features prioritized for consecutive release (MVP, next releases, backlog);
- list of ideas and insights for backlog to be researched in detail.
Put to good use, the information will help improve the retention rate and loyalty and give your team a clear picture of the app’s strategic development.
Is medical app design secondary to a set of features?
No. To offer necessary features is the first step, but not sufficient by itself. Medical app design should be thoroughly thought out to make it easy to use and stand out. Otherwise, patients will abandon your app having chosen clearer navigation, and doctors will feel irritated getting through the complicated app in search for information.
Here are some points to be aware of while building a medical app
- interface should be intuitive, with menu items, buttons, and icons having intuitively understandable functions and clearly indicating what happens if the user taps them;
- navigation should be clearly structured and simple, with the key functions always at hand on the main screen;
- The vital point is the app’s accessibility as it can be used, for example, by elderly people whose needs should also be taken into account by designers. Indicating clearly what shall be done next and what has been done wrong (for example, when a password is invalid), using readable fonts, avoiding too much and too bright animations will help them feel more confident.
We at Surf have been working with various apps for all family members, including children and grandparents. Speaking of elderly people, it is very important to apply the usual patterns of behavior as people in general are not inclined to change their behavior, and in older ages it becomes even more obvious. Therefore, it is important to run in a groove and offer familiar and simple functions. The same refers to updates: the older people are, the harder it is for them to perceive new information and create new connections to solve new problems. It is important to develop loyalty and trust in the application, and frequent updates can only add to anxiety.
Coming back to the UI/UX environment, we should say that the older generation is doing a great job with gadgets right now. Therefore, the focus in working with people in general, and especially with older age, is the emotional state. It is important to pay attention to the functionality and proper operation of the app. Honesty is of top priority: a button should function exactly as it is identified. Otherwise, the user who visits the medical app to relieve stress and get help, will experience growing anxiety and failed expectations.
How does a loyalty program in a healthcare app increase LTV and engagement?
It’s the accepted truth that acquiring new customers is more expensive than retaining.This refers to healthcare software as well. Moreover, this is valid both for patients and staff.
In this context, increasing LTV and engagement belong to key goals for business growth. And digital loyalty programs efficiently work on improvement of both parameters.
Offering your patients some incentive for using your services, you make their behavior more predictable. They visit your site or app frequently and tend to cover more services or products. As a result, you have higher average purchase size and less canceled appointments.
In parallel, the loyalty program will provide you with more information about your patients and help segment them to test different offers and improve personalization for better engagement.
More about how to implement a loyalty program in a pharmacy app you may read in our dedicated article.
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff experience pressure and stress (which has been especially true for the pandemic period), they also need recognition and rewards to keep productive working and stay engaged in the process.
The internal loyalty program can provide employees with the possibility to share their achievements with the company, compete for rating positions, or earn points or other incentives. This is a great approach to improve motivation, developing HR brand, and decreasing staff turnover.
For one of our clients, we implemented a store inside of an enterprise-scale training app. The store is actually a kind of a window display with goods that can be purchased with the bonus points earned for the progress in the app. An administrator has rights to manage the store: set the items, prices (points), and quantities (in stock at the warehouse), and upload images. The users in turn, need only to press the Order button to get the chosen goods in exchange of points.
The above cases are a few of those that we have developed for our clients across various industries.
For over 12 years we have grown into a strong team of programmers, designers, analytics, QAs, and PMs who used to devote all their energy and skills to every new project. Therefore, we do not work on projects that relate to the distribution of tobacco products, microcredits, gambling, or do not match our moral and ethical principles. And therefore, creating medical apps is our special field because it allows changing people’s lives for better. If you need any assistance with your next project, or want to discuss your ideas and their implementation, do not hesitate to contact us.