Vladimir Makeew CEO of Surf

    Development of Mobile Medical Apps: Solving Challenges, Control Costs

    The demand for mobile medical app development is higher than ever. Currently, nearly 80% of patients view telemedicine as an acceptable form of healthcare, and express satisfaction with treatment they get.

    Healthcare professionals share this perspective; for instance, one study finds that clinicians consider telemedicine a viable option for almost 90% of initial doctor visits and subsequent follow-ups.

    But building a health mobile application that appeases both patients and doctors is no trivial task. Beyond the standard challenges of designing and creating an application, telemedicine software must adhere to stringent compliance and convey trust while addressing the sensitive nature of the industry.

    With over 12 years on the web and mobile market, Surf has been delivering custom healthcare software that encompass telemedicine solutions, products for remote monitoring, and medicine-related e-commerce. In this article, we’ll discuss unique challenges of medical apps development and ways to control costs for these complex projects.

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    Why mobile medical app development is on the rise

    Telemedicine applications witnessed  a remarkable increase during the pandemic, contributing to the boom of mobile medical app development.

    ehealth market growth

    In the US, telemedicine adoption rates soared from a mere 11% in 2019 to over 46% in 2020. This growth was bootstrapped by the pandemic, but, crucially, the adoption didn’t decline after the crisis was over. 

    Examples of popular medical app types

    Other e-health solutions have been catching on too: remote monitoring, fitness and well-being, data collection and processing applications – the list of software types just keeps growing.

    Telemedicine apps provide doctors with a possibility to carry out remote consultations via video conferencing, while patients can receive help from home. The approach can alleviate some of the stress, make healthcare more easily available in rural areas or for patients with reduced mobility, and keep others safe when dealing with infectious diseases, by eliminating the need for hospital or clinic  visits.

    rpm web app

    Remote monitoring apps utilize IoT devices, such as specialized hardware or smart wearables, to continuously track a patient’s condition. These applications can either send alerts during emergencies or gather data over time to assist doctors in providing more accurate diagnoses.

    vsee clinic

    Fitness and daily healthcare apps assist users in managing their health and monitoring chronic conditions. Such software can provide reminders for diabetes patients to take insulin shots, track oxygen levels, or even simply promote an active lifestyle, helping users prevent potential chronic illnesses.

    healthcare app

    3 unique medical app development challenges

    Developing a medical application can be considered more challenging than in any other industry, mainly because healthcare is such a sensitive area. With patients experiencing high stress levels and doctors bearing significant responsibilities, it is crucial to ensure that the application functions flawlessly while remaining simple and easy to use.

    Regardless of the app category, there are three challenges that often stand out as particularly critical in creating medical software.

    1. UX/UI design

    Well-thought-out UX/UI design is key for a mobile app in any industry, but it’s especially crucial in healthcare. With 95% of healthcare apps rarely or never opened, it’s vital to get the usability aspect right.

    Visiting the doctor is invariably stressful, and while mHealth applications alleviate some of this anxiety, they don’t completely eradicate it. So, it’s essential to ensure that users never feel disoriented and can swiftly access the app’s value.

    Things that can interfere with the user experience include but are not limited to:

    • Colors: Soothing and neutral colors tend to create a more relaxing user experience.
    • Typography: Readability is important, as people with different eyesight levels should easily understand the typeface.
    • Contrast: Low contrast between elements might make it challenging to distinguish interface components.
    • Clarity: Well-thought-out UX writing in error messages, tips, and navigational elements can help guide users achieve their goal which in medical software means getting assistance or advice.

    All of it  combined makes a significant difference in the mobile app’s usability. But, getting each aspect right won’t have the desired impact if the app doesn’t address the main pain point of its audience.

    At Surf, we eliminate negative user experiences through deep customer research: we conduct user interviews and create Customer Journey Maps to gain insight into:

    • The audience’s needs and pain points
    • The reasons why they might use the app
    • The emotions they experience at different steps of using the app
    • The comparative importance of various features
    • Usability barriers stemming from users’ perception of the app 
    • Possible restrictions or blockers that can arise during development
    cjm building

    It takes an average of 2 weeks to create a comprehensive CJM, but in the end it is key to delivering a great user experience and sidestepping potential development pitfalls.

    2. Data security and compliance

    The healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. IBM estimates that the average cost of a data breach in healthcare is $10.10M, up 42% since 2020, making it the sector with the highest average data breach cost.

    So, data security and vulnerability assessment need to be made a great emphasis on.  Even more important is the requirement for healthcare apps to adhere to regulatory standards like HIPAA, GDPR, or PIPEDA, depending on your company’s location.

    All of it adds a lot of complexity to the development process, and makes it difficult to strike the right balance between development speed and thorough quality assurance (QA).

    However, this challenge can be addressed through modern DevOps practices, such as:

    • Implementing automated license compliance checks for code commits
    • Establishing a compliance pipeline to enforce standards
    • Streamlining audits by automatically pinpointing problematic code areas
    • Incorporating automated vulnerability management
    • Utilizing integrated testing and assessments for early feedback on the code

    3. Accessibility

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1 in 4 American adults live with some type of disability. Meanwhile, the adoption of telehealth solutions is rapidly increasing in rural areas, especially in the US. This makes it essential to guarantee that the medical app stays inclusive for:

    Users with disabilities: Telemedicine can substantially aid people with disabilities, but only if the app meets their unique needs. This involves designing mobile interfaces with adequately sized touch targets, achieving AAA Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) contrast targets, and customizing the experience for users relying on assistive technologies, such as screen readers.

    Elderly users: to improve the telemedicine accessibility for older adults, who may be less familiar with modern web and mobile software, it’s important to establish a highly readable and intuitive navigation system.

    Rural users: One of the most significant benefits of medical software is its ability to deliver healthcare to remote locations. However, connectivity can be an issue. Consequently, the app should be designed to work well with lower-quality internet connections.

    How to control medical app development costs

    Of course, all of these factors add to the complexity of building medical apps and may  lead to longer production time and higher project costs. 

    However, there are ways to manage these costs effectively:

    1. Choosing the right tech-stack

    Each medical app solution is unique, so picking the right technologies depends on your project’s specific needs. But in general, It’s important to go for technologies that are popular among coders and try to avoid rare solutions when you can.

    Cutting-edge technologies like Jetpack Compose on the frontend or Elixir on the backend can take care of some engineering challenges right off the bat. But, finding developers with enough experience in these tools can be tricky, and they tend to charge higher salaries.

    At Surf, we often use Golang, Python, and Java for the backend, and Flutter for the frontend. Going with a cross-platform framework like Flutter helps us cut down project budgets by around 40%, compared to native approach.

    pharma app

    For instance, we recently developed a Flutter mobile app for a client with 3,000 pharmacy stores across 54 regions. The client — whose parent company encompassed three pharmacy brands — initially planned to create six separate native apps (three for iOS and three for Android, one for each brand).

    However, using a cross-platform framework, allowed us to deploy 3 separate designs from a single codebase, which resulted in approximately 40% savings on the budget.

    2. Choosing the right technological partner

    Development costs can vary depending on location. For instance, US programmers can charge around $100 per hour, while equally skilled developers in Eastern Europe offer rates between $25/h – $45/h.

    Although the location of your IT services provider can influence project costs, their level of experience holds greater importance. Along with higher quality and lower project-related risks  an experienced development partner can bring unique solutions and expertise that reduce your time-to-market.

    Surf can help you build a high-performance and cost-effective medical app
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    For instance, at Surf, we’ve created a proprietary collection of architecture and UI libraries called Surf Gear, which helps to quickly add common features like push notifications and OTP autofills in our Flutter projects.

    We’ve also developed Surf Gen — a technology agnostic automation tool that streamlines routine coding tasks. For example, writing a network layer for a single screen used to take us 3 – 4 hours, but with Surf Gen, the average time is reduced to just 15 minutes.

    3. Carefully managing project scope

    Developing a mobile app begins with an MVP (minimum viable product). But to ensure your MVP effectively addresses users’ needs, it’s important to conduct market and audience research to:

    • Identify your target audience and understand what they’re looking for in the app
    • Pinpoint the essential functions that should be included in the MVP
    • Establish the product development roadmap

    This preparatory work makes certain that no initial development time is spent on features that aren’t absolutely necessary, allowing for a faster time to market and fewer expenses.

    Summing things up

    Creating medical software comes with a distinct set of challenges. With over a decade of experience in developing mobile apps for healthcare, we at Surf apply our expertise and proprietary tools to design medical digital products of any complexity.

    Our skilled experts are here to support you in realizing your vision, while the time and material pricing model we use helps to tightly control and adapt the development process to match your requirements.