How to Develop a Helpful Healthcare Mobile Application - Tips and Trends

No industry is immune to digital disruption, and healthcare is no exception. Cloud storage, hospital websites, mobile apps, and chatbots – all these things are intended to make healthcare easier and more transparent. And this is great, as hospital experiences are often anything but pleasant, so if digitalization can reduce annoyance and stress, it has reached its purpose.

Mobile healthcare applications, that are commonly referred to as mHealth, are designed to establish easier communication between patients and doctors, hospitals, nurses, and other medical service providers.

In this article, we will look at mobile applications for healthcare and try to understand their specifics. This way, we can see if there are any special recommendations for their development.


Who Is Your Customer?

When an application is developed, the design process starts with identifying the problem it solves and the target group of users it is made for. If we talk about mobile apps for healthcare, they usually fall into two distinct groups:

  • Doctor apps – solutions made for doctors and other medical staff or even institutions. Their functionality is intended to be useful for medical personnel
  • Patient apps – solutions designed for patients and to be used by patients

Thus, the problem that lies at the core of your healthcare app is the dilemma between a doctor and patient software, and this factor can largely define the goal, structure, and functionality of the solution. Further, we will look at different types of mobile health applications to see which features they should support.

Apps for Doctors

Medical apps can be used by physicians to manage patient records, schedule appointments, search for information. Therefore, while creating a healthcare app for doctors, you should include the following functions:

  • Calendar and scheduling. A physician working with patients should be able to schedule and manage their appointments. Thus mobile app should support the calendar with the options of creating, editing or deleting appointments, adding notes and comments to them, as well as sending reminders.
  • Tracking. Since most physical conditions and diseases require monitoring over time, the doctor should be able to log different medical statuses, complaints, test results, readings, etc. for each patient. In addition, the tracking feature should also support building graphs for a visual representation of the patient's dynamics.


  • Database access. To see the overall patient record doctor will have to retrieve it from the hospital or national database.
  • Multi-level access method and secure authentication system. Healthcare is the industry where security, data protection, and privacy are of utmost importance. Therefore, access to the patients' files has to be provided according to a carefully managed system of multi-level access, with the ability to set permissions for viewing, editing or copying data from the patient database.

Other useful functionality includes push notifications for sending various reminders, social features allowing to create communities for medical discussions, support of image galleries storing visual data related to patients, textual and video chatting to provide remote consultations, and so on.

One of such apps is Virtual Practice for Healthcare Providers through which doctors can manage their appointments, consult patients, issue prescriptions, take care of their reports and billing, and perform a lot more useful actions to ease and streamline their collaboration with customers.


Image credit: Virtual Practice for Healthcare Providers

Software for doctors can also be of enterprise scale to serve entire hospitals. An example of such app is Airstrip One, an enterprise software suite including several applications for clinical use. There is an app for patient monitoring, solution for accessing the medical records database, and a number of other helpful apps to be used by physicians and hospitals.


Image credit: AirStrip ONE®

If we are talking about apps for medical staff, there is also a need to mention solutions providing information on various subjects. In fact, such apps are said to be mobile encyclopedias on different medicine-related subjects. They are widely used by doctors to verify diagnoses, look up symptoms and statuses, check treatment protocols and drug descriptions. Having such application at their fingertips, physicians can consult it immediately during their working day. Info apps can be of general scope (for example, UpToDate, an app giving answers on various clinical questions) or focused on a specific field (such as Eye Handbook, a reference tool for ophthalmologists). For a medical reference app, the following features are important:

  • Search function. Convenient search with auto-completion is a must-have for any reference tool.
  • Bookmarking and history retrieval. The doctor should be able to bookmark a page and to retrieve the previously viewed data from history.
  • Email option. There may be a need to forward the information to a colleague or patient, and the app should provide an easy way to do so.

Epocrates, a wealth of knowledge on various medical supplies, holds one of the leading positions in the app store rankings. Doctors can view descriptions of various medicines, notes on their interactions, and possible drug side effects. The app also helps to find medicine vendors, view insurance coverage policies related to the specific drugs, and stay tuned for the latest news in the world of medicine and pharmacology.


Image credit: Epocrates Plus

Apps for Patients

With solutions for patients, the variety is much more colorful. Within the number of apps designed to be used by individual examinees, we can single out the following types:

  • Doctor or hospital search apps for finding a medical institution nearest to you. These software solutions provide users with driving directions and sometimes support a booking option (for example, Zocdoc helps to find a physician nearby and book a visit immediately)
  • Doctor-on-demand apps – healthcare marketplaces which let users get immediate advice via a textual or video chat (for example, Doctor On Demand – an app for getting doctor advice through video chat)
  • Self-diagnosis apps make it possible for users to get a tentative diagnosis based on their symptoms (for instance, Symptomate is an app that makes a presumptive diagnosis, based on your answers to a carefully selected set of questions)


Image credit: Symptomate Symptom Checker

  • Applications to track chronic conditions, for example, blood sugar level for diabetic patients (the mySugr app automatically logs sugar levels from tests and adjusts them with each eaten meal. The collected data can be easily analyzed by a physician)
  • Applications to create a treatment regimen and remind patients to take medication or run a test (for instance, Medisafe Pill Reminder not just reminds you to take the prescribed medicines but also tracks blood pressure, glucose level, etc.)
  • Healthy lifestyle apps address all aspects of healthy living – fitness or yoga software, weight loss solutions, sleep monitoring applications, etc. (with Runtastic you can create an individual running program setting up goals and tracking your progress)
  • Nutrition apps range from calorie counting solutions to healthy eating plans (MyPlate Calorie Tracker not only counts calories, but also develops a personalized nutrition plan balanced in terms of protein, fat, carbohydrate, etc., tracks your workouts and water consumption, and offers to join a community for peer support)
  • Smoking and alcohol cessation apps support people determined to quit an unhealthy habit (with Stop Smoking – Easy Quit you can set up either a cold turkey plan or a slow mode quitting schedule, track your money savings resulting from not buying cigarettes, make gifts to yourself or other users for staying off smoking for a certain time)


The nature of the application and its goal define the functionality to be supported. Thus, when you build a healthcare mobile app, think of including the following components:

  • Textual search with auto-completion to enable quick and easy search for physicians, hospitals, symptoms, medicines, etc.
  • Map service to provide information about the location together with driving directions. Usually, a map service is integrated by using an API of a third-party map provider, such as Google Maps.
  • Scheduling and calendar function to support appointment booking.
  • Chatting to enable real-time communication between patients and doctors.
  • Payment service ensuring a convenient and secure payment process directly through the app. Support of multiple payment options will be definitely appreciated by the users.
  • Easy registration including a possibility of signing in with social media accounts. Lifestyle apps should store user's progress right in their account, thus the software should support this function. However, for hospital search apps, there may be no need for the registration, thus it can be omitted in order not to overwhelm users with unnecessary steps.
  • Push notifications to send reminders of various types – to take meds, to log a meal, to do a workout. There is no need to mention that notifications are a primary feature in appointment scheduling apps, where they are to remind users about an upcoming visit to a physician.
  • Chatbots can perform a whole range of functions – starting with a consultation in self-diagnose apps to serving as personal assistants in fitness and nutrition apps. In self-diagnostics, a chatbot can be programmed to ask a series of questions about patient's symptoms and on the basis of their answers determine a tentative diagnosis. In a workout app, a chatbot can turn into a personal coach to set up individual workout routines and remind of the scheduled sessions.
  • Community functions include, but not limited to forums, groups, and peer-to-peer communication channels. This feature will be greatly appreciated in applications designed, for example, for weight loss or smoking cessation, where support is very important.
  • Reviews. When it comes to health, users are very keen on finding a physician or a hospital with a good review rate. Including this feature will increase patients' confidence, as they tend to prefer the experience of their friends and relatives, than any promotional material.

As you can see, making your own healthcare mobile app can be interesting and exciting, as well as challenging and sophisticated. It is important for healthcare app developers to remember that their product touches on the most private and intimate spheres of human life – our bodies, health, and well-being. Therefore, it is critical for an application to be easy to use and to provide valid information backed by the experience of professional doctors. And a truly advanced, user-friendly, highly technological health application will be definitely appreciated by the global physician and patient community.
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