How To Build A Medical App For Doctors
The healthcare sector is seeing a large-scale infusion of technology, which is important for its overall transformation. As I have explained in “Benefits of building medical chatbots for your healthcare business”, the sector is exploring how to deliver substantive value to patients with the help of technology.
Within this larger context of overall transformation, a notable aspect is how doctors are trying to offer a better experience to patients. Technology is helping here too, as doctors try to cut down on paperwork. Doctors are also trying to access and disseminate information quicker, and medical apps have come to their aid.
The global market for medical apps is a happening one, and many entrepreneurs are trying to tap into it. Are you such an entrepreneur? You could use some help to launch an app that stands out, therefore, read this guide on how to build a medical app for doctors.
The market for medical apps
The healthcare sector is already large, moreover, it’s expanding significantly. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that healthcare spending is growing at a rate of 4% annually in high-income countries.
The report also states that the growth rate is 6% annually in low and middle-income countries. You can read more in “WHO: Global health expenditure rising but public outlays lag in low income countries”.
The investment in technology is a significant component of this growth, and experts believe that technology can help healthcare providers to deliver better value to patients. Read more about this observation in “Here are 6 major issues facing healthcare in 2019, according to PwC”.
Given this backdrop, it’s no surprise that the global market for medical apps is growing. From $1.4 billion in 2016, this market is expected to be worth $11.22 billion by 2025, as you can read in this Cision PR Newswire report.
An example of medical apps
Review an example of a medical app before you set out to launch one since this will give you a fair idea of what you should offer. Epocrates is an excellent example, and it’s available on the web, Android, and iOS. It offers the following features:
- Doctors can save time while prescribing.
- Epocrates offers help with many areas of prescribing, e.g., pharmacology, safety around prescribing, adult and pediatric dosages, adverse reactions, etc.
- Doctors can access a drug interaction checker feature, which helps to prevent harmful interactions.
- Epocrates has a pill identifier feature, moreover, it offers dosage calculators, medical equations, and similar tools.
- The app helps doctors with information on drug coverages for over 6,000 US insurance plans.
- The app offers a customizable home screen, and doctors can use its drag-and-drop features.
- The premium version of the app has additional features like peer-reviewed medical content.
Building a medical app for doctors: An overview
How do you build a medical app for doctors? Such a project involves the following steps:
1. Define the scope for the overall app
Start with onboarding a competent project manager (PM), an experienced IT architect, and a team of business analysts (BAs) with experience in the healthcare industry. Decide on the features you will offer. I recommend the following:
- Build a web app, an Android app, and an iOS app.
- Offer features like Epocrates, and support English-speaking users in the US to start with.
You will likely launch a “Minimum Viable Product” with minimal features to test the market, subsequently, you will enhance the app. Consider using the Agile SDLC model for such projects, and learn more about Agile in “What is software development life cycle and what you plan for?”.
2. Prioritize features for your MVP
Determine the features you will offer in your MVP app by taking the following steps:
- Understand your customers and what constitutes “business value” for them, by conducting intense “discovery sessions”.
- Analyze how your planned features address specific customer pain points, with the help of tools like the “Pain and gain map”.
- Based on the above, prioritize features for your MVP using tools like the “prioritization matrix”.
Read our guide “5 tips to create a sleek MVP” for more insights.
3. Formulate a development approach geared towards success
Meticulous planning is the key to the success of this project, therefore, formulate an appropriate development approach. The following are my recommendations:
- Develop native iOS and Android apps since they offer the best user experience, performance, and security.
- Use a modern runtime environment like Node.js, which helps to develop scalable and performant web apps.
- You could launch your app in more geographies later, therefore, factor in app internationalization guidelines. Read about them in “The ultimate guide to mobile app internationalization”.
- A medical app will process “Protected Health Information” (PHI), therefore, plan to secure your app.
- Use managed cloud services platforms like “Platform-as-a-Service” (PaaS) and “Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service” (MBaaS), which will eliminate the task of IT infrastructure management for you.
- Implement core features by developing own APIs, and use market-leading 3rd party APIs to implement non-core features.
- Use a mobile device and browser lab on the cloud to enhance your test coverage.
You can learn about the value of this approach in “What is the best development approach to guarantee the success of your app?”.
4. Onboard and organize your development team
Onboard your development team and read our guide “How to find a good software developer” for help. You need to staff the following roles:
- UI designers;
- Web developers with Node.js skills;
- Android developers with Java skills;
- iOS developers with Swift skills;
- DevOps engineers.
Your team must collaborate and work cohesively for the success of the project, therefore, use the “Scrum” technique to organize it. Use an effective PM tool like Jira, and do the following:
- Form “Scrum teams”, i.e., small, cross-functional teams where developers and testers work together. The PM needs to perform the “Scrum Master” role.
- Empower the team sufficiently so that it can estimate requirements and plan them in iterations called “Sprints” in the scrum parlance.
- Ensure that the PM prioritizes creating value for users over mechanical processes, e.g., the PM should hold effective “Daily stand-up meetings” for project tracking.
- Build a transparent environment where collaboration with customers is valued. E.g., the team needs to demonstrate a functional app in “Sprint review meetings” to obtain approval from the business stakeholders.
Our guide “How to build a Scrum development team?” can help you.
5. Strategize for securing your app
Businesses processing PHI need to comply with stringent regulations like the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act” (HIPAA) in the US. Information security is a key aspect of such regulations, therefore, strategize carefully about securing your app.
Hire expert developers for your next project
1,200 top developers
us over the last 3 years
Do the following:
- Incorporate multi-factor authentication (MFA) instead of relying solely on passwords.
- Use strong encryption algorithms like AES-256.
- Utilize next-gen firewalls and antivirus solutions.
- Proactively mitigate top application security risks like injection, broken authentication, XML external entities (XXE), cross-site scripting (XSS), etc. You can read the “Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) top 10 application security risks – 2017” report for guidance.
- Consider using cloud computing smartly, e.g., you can use a hybrid cloud deployment. Here, you will store sensitive data on a private cloud, however, you can run other workloads on a public cloud.
- Secure your APIs using various techniques like digital signatures, encryption, authentication, quotas, throttling, secure gateways, etc.
- Utilize real-time threat intelligence solutions.
- Instead of treating security and compliance testing as the last activity, proactively include it in your CI/CD pipeline with the help of “compliance-as-code”. Read “Compliance-as-code: Addressing compliance challenges through automation” for more insights.
6. Sign-up for the right PaaS and MBaaS platforms
PaaS platforms can help you to expedite web app development since they offer the following advantages:
- PaaS platforms manage the cloud infrastructure, networking, operating system, middleware, and runtime environment, therefore, you can focus on development.
- As I have explained in “10 top PaaS providers for 2020”, PaaS platforms enable you to integrate APIs, add database resources, and use robust DevOps tools.
- Scaling a web app is easier when you use a PaaS platform.
Sign-up for AWS Elastic Beanstalk, which the PaaS offering from AWS.
You can expedite mobile app development with an MBaaS platform. Such platforms offer many advantages, e.g.:
- They manage the cloud infrastructure and persistent storage, therefore, you don’t need to build and manage the mobile backend.
- MBaaS platforms enable you to integrate APIs, moreover, they help you to implement security features.
- Implementing features like user management and “push notifications” is easier with an MBaaS platform, furthermore, you can easily scale your mobile app.
Use AWS Amplify, i.e., the MBaaS offering from AWS.
7. Find market-leading 3rd party APIs to implement the non-core features
Displaying drug interaction and medical diagnostics information is important, however, it’s not a core feature. Similarly, you need the “push notifications” feature, however, it’s a non-core feature.
I recommend that you use the following market-leading 3rd party APIs:
- Use the Infermedica medical API for displaying diagnostics information in your app. The Infermedica AI inference engine can analyze patient data and provide a list of likely conditions and relevant observations. Read the Infermedica documentation to learn how to use this API.
- Sign-up with Wolters Kluwer and use its “All Drugs APIs” solution. This solution is broad and includes APIs like “Adverse Drug Effects”, “Drug Allergy”, “Drug Interactions”, etc. Consult the Wolters Kluwer “Resources” webpage to learn how to use these APIs.
- Use the Twilio “Programmable SMS” offering, which is a bulk-SMS API solution to help you to implement the “push notifications” feature. Read “Messaging services and Copilot” to learn how to use this API solution.
8. Develop APIs for your core features
You ought to develop APIs for implementing the core features that doctors will use, and I recommend that you develop RESTful APIs. Take the following steps:
- Use Postman for API development and testing, moreover, use Swagger for documenting the APIs.
- Host the APIs using your AWS account, and use robust database solutions like PostgreSQL and MongoDB for API development.
- Manage the development, staging, and production environments effectively.
- Secure your APIs using the techniques that I have suggested earlier.
- Design URL paths meaningfully, moreover, formulate effective rules for API requests and responses.
Our guide “How to build RESTful API for your mobile app?” can help you.
9. Find a mobile device and browser lab on the cloud
Test your mobile apps with a wide range of devices to ensure that they work with all relevant devices. You need a mobile device and browser lab on the cloud for this, therefore, sign-up for the Experitest mobile device & browser lab. It’s easy to use, thanks to its excellent documentation.
10. Develop the proposed web app
It’s time to get on with the web app development, therefore, take the following steps:
- Design a user-friendly UI by using best practices mentioned in “User interface design guidelines: 10 rules of thumb”.
- Code the app using js, the popular open-source runtime environment.
- Use IntelliJ IDEA, a popular IDE to code the app. You also need to read “js and NPM” for guidance.
- Integrate the 3rd party APIs, and the APIs you developed.
- Test the app, and deploy it using the AWS DevOps tools. Read “Deploying Node.js applications to AWS Elastic Beanstalk” for guidance.
11. Develop your planned Android and iOS apps
You need to take the following steps to develop your proposed Android app:
- Design a UI that’s simple for your users, and follow the “Material Design” guidelines.
- Code the app in Java, and use Android Studio, the popular IDE.
- Integrate the APIs, and test the app using Espresso and the Experitest mobile device lab.
- Publish your app to Google Play using the instructions in “Publish your app”.
Developing the planned iOS app involves the following steps:
- Follow “Human Interface Guidelines” and design a user-friendly UI.
- Code the app using Swift, and use the Xcode IDE.
- Integrate your APIs and the 3rd party APIs.
- Use XCTest and the Experitest mobile device lab to test the app.
- Read “Submit your apps to the App Store”, and publish your app to the Apple App Store.
Preparing to launch your medical app for doctors?
The market for medical apps is highly competitive, and you need to develop an app with key differentiators. Such a project can be complex, therefore, consider working with a reputed software development company. Read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” to find such a development partner.