Essential Features of a Healthcare Application
In the light of the pandemic, the healthcare industry has rapidly shifted towards digitization and this accelerated the popularity of healthcare mobile applications.
From fully featured virtual assistant services to your favorite fitness trackers, these apps fulfill a great variety of functions and help both patients and medical professionals promptly access the needed information and communicate with each other.
While there is a huge variety of healthcare apps in the market, all of them share a certain set of features. Below we list down the most important ones.
Integration with EHRs
Electronic health records or EHRs for short are the primary sources of patients’ data. An EHR contains not only the patient’s bio but also their medical history, diseases, prescribed medications, recommendations from various doctors, and etc. It is critical both for medical professionals and patients to be able to immediately access this data and a mobile application can be a perfect way to do so.
While not many healthcare apps have access to the patients’ EHRs, this feature is highly valuable. It allows medics to instantly obtain the needed information in a few taps only instead of searching through numerous departments. As for patients, an opportunity to access their health records makes the treatment process more transparent and reliable.
Multiple communication options
One of the most common use cases for a healthcare app is receiving remote medical consultation. As well, doctors use such apps to communicate with each other and share different documents such as scan images or prescriptions. Thus, a good healthcare app should provide its users with different communication options. These options may include:
- Voice and video chats;
- In-app messaging;
Remote communication is especially important when a patient does not have a chance to visit the hospital. By adding multiple communication options, you will significantly increase the value of your app for its users.
Appointment scheduling and reminders
Appointment scheduling is another vital feature that patients and doctors expect to see in a healthcare app. Before digitization impacted the healthcare industry, patients had to spend quite a lot of time in a line in the hospital, waiting for their turn to schedule an appointment. Now, the whole process can take just a few taps, and voila - all the information is presented in the application.
For efficient appointment scheduling, you will need to have an integrated calendar so users can easily choose the desired data. As well, make sure users can conveniently choose the needed specialist from the list and provide an option to contact this specialist if needed. And of course, don’t forget about notifications - this is a must-have feature when it comes to appointment management. Overall, by providing users an option to easily book, reschedule and cancel their appointments, you will contribute to better communication between patients and doctors and will greatly assist the latter ones with time management.
Due to the COVID-19, it became critical to enable people to check their symptoms on a daily basis. Hence, many healthcare mobile apps now provide an option to do so via an in-app questionnaire.
Such questionnaires usually contain a set of questions, aimed at determining whether a person is in the risk zone according to their symptoms. This helps prevent the spread of disease and timely react to the most minor warning symptoms.
Integration with wearables
Wearable devices collect a great variety of important information such as heartbeat, blood pressure, steps, sleeping hours, breathing, and much more. This data can be used by healthcare professionals for better diagnostics, drug prescription, and more accurate patient monitoring. Therefore, a good healthcare app should have seamless integration with various wearables in order to collect the data from the primary source aka a user.
An in-app virtual assistant can become a priceless feature when used by patients with certain disorders, such as dementia or with conditions that require constant monitoring. A virtual assistant is usually an AI-powered feature that interacts with the user and helps them with the following tasks:
- Reminders to take their medicine;
- A regular check of the patient’s state;
- Immediate notification of a doctor in case of an emergency;
- Assistance in contacting the doctor.
Since the implementation of a virtual assistant may be quite costly, it is best suited for specialized apps that are aimed at providing such services. For other types of medical applications, it will be enough to add a chatbot and an option to quickly contact the doctor.
An activity dashboard displays all recent activities/events that a patient or a doctor took part in and helps immediately recall them. While seemingly minor, this feature is actually quite important. If a doctor wants to better understand the patient’s condition, he won’t need to spend time searching through EHRs and records - instead, he can have a look at the dashboard and see what were the latest treatments/medications assigned.
Location-based services are a great addition to a healthcare app. They can show a medical establishment on an integrated map or navigate the user to the nearest hospital. While many apps have outdoor maps only, it might be a good idea to include an indoor map of a hospital too for a better user experience.
Main considerations in healthcare app development
Because healthcare applications process a great amount of sensitive data, it is crucial to follow certain guidelines in healthcare app development to ensure the safety of the data.
Security of the app
Security is the top priority of any mobile application and is especially important for healthcare digital solutions. While it is a very fast field to study, there are some essentials that every app developer should know about:
- Data encryption: make sure the data is encrypted according to the OWASP standards.
- PINs and passwords: must be encrypted or hashed.
- High-level authentication: add several authentication steps for the users to complete.
- Limited access to the app: assign different levels of access to different user roles.
- Server-side security: use and optimize SSL protocols.
- Regular updates and security patches: help prevent any breaches.
- Secure data storage: check the way your data is cached, masked, and processed.
While these are not all recommendations on app security, they will be enough to get you started. And don’t forget to always double-check and verify third-party code (if you are using any) as it’s one of the biggest risk factors in software development.
If you work with the healthcare industry, you are most probably aware of Health Insurance Profitability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA. This act dictates the guidelines for proper storage, management, and processing of protected health information and requires an app to meet technical and physical safeguards of HIPAA Security Rule.
In other words, compliance with HIPAA serves as a guarantee that you process the data in a secure manner and that it can be used and shared by authorized parties only.
The development of a healthcare application is a complex process that requires a significant investment of time and resources, especially considering the high competition in the market. On the other hand, the impact of the pandemic and transformation of users’ needs and expectations fuel the demand for such applications so you can rest assured that the development of a healthcare application now will bring you a high ROI in the future.
Featured Image by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
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