Vladimir Makeew CEO of Surf

    7 Tips to Start Your Medical App Development and Not to Go Over Budget

    The digital health market size is increasing, and the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact upon it. Today, in the USA, it is predicted to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 26.9% in the next eight years. The forecasts are so positive that many entrepreneurs are planning to start medical apps development as soon as possible, to write their own success story, and help people be healthier with the help of modern technologies and opportunities they provide.  

    A healthcare app becomes popular if it really makes patients and doctors’ lives better. But how to launch it when budget is limited? 

    At Surf, we have been developing apps for various niches including healthcare. We know how to choose the optimal solution, taking into account the budget our client has—and in the article our IT team shares their expertise on how to not go over budget while building a healthcare app. 

    Having read the article, you’ll know what factors influence a medical app cost and how they can be mitigated with pre-project activities. Bearing this in mind, it’s easier to estimate app development costs in advance and avoid overpaying. 

    Want to know why Y Combinator startups, Société Générale bank, and KFC trust our developer team?
    Meet Surf

    Pre-project activities to start a cost-saving medical app development  

    Before we review the priority factors of healthcare app development cost and suggest you some tips about how to reduce it, let’s find out more about pre-project activities: they can become a solid foundation for a guaranteed project success. Read further to learn why. 

    Whether you manage a healthtech startup or a healthcare service providing company, software development costs are of prime importance, and each step should be well-thought. Pre-project activities help reach this purpose: with a detailed plan for building your medical app, you are more likely to estimate risks, compare possible solutions for backend and frontend to each other, choose the best ones—and not go over budget as a result. 

    And here you could use the help of experienced specialists, who have developed healthcare apps many times and know everything about their specific features? At Surf, we are ready to lend a shoulder to our clients before each project and offer an opportunity to get a development roadmap developed by an IT team with 12 years’ experience. 

    As a result of our Design Sprint approach, our clients get: 

    • Unique set of MVP (minimum viable product) features including the app architecture, list of integrations, and requirements for the back end. 
    • The graphic design concept for 4 or 5 screens of the future healthcare app.
    • A detailed estimate of the app development cost and time.
    • Accurate information about the project risks and their influence on the development cost and time. 

    It costs about 5% of the future project budget  and takes from 1 to 3 weeks. For those who are going to start a project or present a healthcare app idea to investors, it’s really a great solution to save time and money over the long term.

    For example, one of our clients, a pharmacy chain with 3,000 pharmacy stores in 54 constituent entities, addressed us with a task to create 3 mobile apps for their customers. Each app should have been developed for a separate brand and become a new sales channel. 

    Had we done as planned, it would have cost our Client really much, because 3 brands needed  6 apps (3 apps for iOS and 3 apps for Android devices). Instead, our experts offered to use a technology that helped the Client save about 40% of the final software development cost

    How does it work? With Flutter, a cross-platform framework developed by Google, it was enough to create a single codebase for 3 apps. So, we did it, and only 3 different graphic design solutions were left to create for each pharmacy brand. Here is the app design our Client liked most and asked us to use for one of their pharmacy brands.

    medical retail app

    Now, as we promised, let’s find out how to stay within the budget while building a healthcare app and what IT solutions are the most reliable for it. Read further if you want to be on top of things. 

    The priority factors that have an effect on your medical app building cost 

    Business research before you start medical app 

    The first step in any healthcare app development should be not the development process itself, but analysis. During business research, it’s a good idea to find out:

    • what things about your competitors’ apps meet a warm response from users, and what are not that good,
    • which ideas can be adapted to your needs,  
    • what benefits your app will offer to the target audience(s),
    • are there any needs and pains that your audience still has without the opportunity to solve with the existing healthcare apps,
    • what features you need to add to your app MVP. 

    At Surf, the Business Analytics team helps clients make all these steps during the pre-project activities (Design Sprint process). We overview the client competitors’ solutions, check the users’ requests, and discuss ideas of the new app functionality with the client’s team.

    💎 Tip 1: Conduct your own market research to find the right focus area before the app development starts. It will help you decide which priority features to add in the MVP, thus avoiding numerous iterations and saving money on the medical software development process.  

    Healthcare app functionality to enhance user engagement

    When you know a direction and have enough information about your audience needs, it’s time to think about tasks that the app will solve for different users:

    • doctors and nurses,
    • other medical staff,
    • patients,
    • managers,
    • marketers, etc.

    For example, if you are working on an app for dentists and their patients, they both will appreciate it if you add a dental manager: a function that helps dentists form a treatment plan and send it to each patient. 

    dental app screens
    Healthcare app features example. Source:

    If you’re planning to develop a doctor appointment app, users will be happy to communicate with doctors via stable-working video service, plan their next visit fast, and have an opportunity to choose a pharmacy and send doctors’ prescriptions with a few taps.  

    Doctor On Demand app

    At Surf, we create a unique MVP composition during the Design Sprint process. And when the project starts, we create CJM (Customer Journey Map) that contains detailed feature lists for the future MVP and further versions of the app.

    💎 Tip 2: A well-reasoned MVP composition contributes to speeding up the medical app building process, and the final software development cost reduces.

    Tech stack for frontend and backend to start reliable medical app

    Tech stack optimal for creating a healthcare app depends on the tasks it solves and the budget. So, solutions for backend and frontend may vary. For example, if you’re planning to build a Machine Learning service, it’s better to choose Python for the backend. For other cases, Golang can be considered as the most time- and cost-saving solution in the long-term perspective. 

    For frontend, we at Surf usually choose Flutter and Dart, and it helps our clients reduce software development costs. One of our largest Flutter-powered developments is Youtube-like Video streaming service for a famous producer of online content. Design and engineering took us a month, and implementation—three months: now we know how long it takes to make your own YouTube. 

    streaming platform by Surf

    Read the full case studies if you’re planning to add video communication services to the healthcare app.

    💎 Tip 3: Before choosing tech stack for your medical app, ask your developer team or vendor to tell you about all possible solutions and provide an approximate app development cost estimation. It will help you implement the smartest software development practices to build a smooth-working service. 

    Check more cases where businesses saved about 40% due to Flutter development
    Read more

    Integrations and their complexity

    If you’re planning to start a medical app, it’s recommended to plan the integrations necessary to add. It will help you prevent possible risks and launch projects on time, without overspending. Depending on your app type, there can be various integrations

    • reminders of appointments with doctors or lab analysis,
    • alerts that help patients take prescribed medication on time,
    • mobile payment services,
    • IoT medical devices,
    • EHR (Electronic Health Record) for synchronization of patients’ health data,
    • Apple health or Google health,
    • e-prescriptions,
    • navigation systems,
    • CMS, etc. 

    During the pre-project activities (or Design Sprint process) at Surf, we estimate how many integrations are needed and how difficult it is to implement them. It helps see risks, prevent possible problems, and not go over budget while developing a healthcare app. 

    Want create a medical app that will bring you success? Read about our top 5 ideas to implement in 2022 and 2023

    💎 Tip 4: To choose integrations for your healthcare app, estimate risks of each one first. It’ll help you save time and money on development and decide what integrations to leave for the further versions of your project. 

    Graphic design concept to start modern medical app 

    Healthcare app design means much more than eye-pleasing picture: it’s a tool that helps users to easily navigate in the app. Effective UX/UI solutions allow them to find menu items they need with a few tips without any need to keep in mind where each function is. 

    During the pre-project activities, we usually show the client how the future healthcare app can look like. Analyzing the competitors’ apps design solutions and taking into account the client’s preferences, we create 4-5 screens that help our clients visualize our ideas and decide whether there’s anything to change.

    Based on our experience, we recommend choosing a minimalistic healthcare app design—and it will be convenient enough for people of different backgrounds and ages, including older generations: they are using apps to monitor health changes more and more actively nowadays. 

    Here are some pieces of advice for your powerful app design

    • The tabs in the TabBar are located in the logical order, and namely, the titles reflect how information is arranged within the app. 
    • It’s enough to press one button to return to the previous tab: it can be either a back arrow or a cross.
    • Gestures are familiar to people and help them navigate faster and easier.
    • Identical elements should behave in identical ways, without any exceptions. Otherwise, users will feel confused and disappointed.
    • The app contains guides that make navigation easier even for older generations.
    • You chose not too many colors for your app design, and two of them are the main ones. Colors aren’t too bright. 
    • Letters are big enough to help users read the text. 

    Look at some examples of laconic app design created by the Surf team. Hope, they’ll inspire you.

    apps developed by Surf

    💎 Tip 5: Think of your app design in advance and implement healthcare app design best practices to meet your audiences’ expectations. Ask your vendor to estimate the ready-made UX/UI cost to get an understanding of how it forms and not overpay for it. 

    Some more tips about how to hire the best team for your healthcare app development are waiting for your attention. Read our new article to avoid common mistakes the entrepreneurs make and launch an app that will bring you success. 

    Compliance, privacy, and security solutions 

    A healthcare app should provide a high level of data security and follow HIPAA compliance regulations. The exceptions are apps that keep anonymous information about weight changes, fitness/diets effectiveness, or self-care activities results. In other cases, the rule is strictly important.  

    Here are some of the measures to provide users with data privacy 

    • make authentication secure using biometrics, PINs, passwords, or physical methods (keys, cards, etc.),
    • ensure transmission security,
    • choose the right PHI (Protected Health Information) disposal methods,
    • use backups & safe data storage, 
    • apply encryption.

    Your pre-project activities will become a great basis for the future project development if you choose the most efficient ways to protect data. HIPAA compliance regulations are too important to miss the step. 

    At Surf, we know everything about tools and measures that provide high data security while developing healthcare apps. We estimate their volume, cost, and honestly speak about possible risks to help our clients plan the budget.

    💎 Tip 6: Choose data security tools smart to follow HIPAA compliance regulations and provide your users a reliable service and form a perfect reputation. It’s one of the most money-saving steps to take care of your app’s future before you start a medical app building. 

    Backlog—the foundation for future product development 

    When you got business research results, pitched the best ideas on the tech stack, key features, integrations, and graphic design concept of your medical app, we recommend to finish the pre-project activities with the backlog. And this is another deliverable that our clients receive after the Design Sprint. It includes an ordered set of elements, a task queue, a list of the features to add in the future app versions, and contains brief descriptions of desired product features beyond the MVP scope.

    This document will become a foundation for your in-house developer team or vendor—IT specialists can build upon it while your app will grow and extend step by step..

    💎 Tip 7: When your MVP concept is ready and key features for your healthcare app are chosen, don’t refuse from other ideas offered during brainstorm. Use backlog to systematize them for developers and other specialists working on your project. 

    Wrapping up 

    When you’re planning to start a medical app and choosing cost-saving solutions is important for you, don’t forget about pre-project activities. Depending on developer team approaches, it can help you save up to 40% of the budget or more. Just note priority factors for the final medical app cost, and you’ll achieve success.

    At Surf, we provide our clients with an opportunity to start with the Design Sprint. In this step, the client gets a detailed project estimate, information about the scope of work, key features, a graphic design concept, backlog, and a healthcare app development map. It helps plan spending in advance and minimizes the risks of going over budget.