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How to Build an Effective Medical Mobile App

Monday September 17, 2018,

9 min Read

The technological revolution has impacted industries across the world, providing businesses with the opportunity to develop custom solutions for their particular needs. The medical field is no exception in this respect. Although this field often deals with complex or sensitive data, doctors and patients can greatly benefit from taking advantage of the ever-growing mobile platform through the development of various medical mobile apps.

Millions of people rely on their mobile devices to help them simplify their daily life. By developing a medical mobile app to help monitor their health conditions and nutrition levels, we can provide more people with access to even the most basic levels of healthcare. As well, having an easy and convenient way to schedule a doctor’s appointment or share health-related information can greatly benefit patients while also saving clinics lots of time and effort in their administrative duties.

These are all great reasons to develop a medical mobile app, but let’s take a quick look at what’s already on the market before getting into the details of what a successful medical mobile app should have.

The current state of medical mobile app development

Consumer surveys conducted in the USA report that a quarter of US adults use one or more health tracking apps and a third of physicians have recommended an app to a patient in the past year. Globally, around a billion smartphone users use a health or wellness app and this stat is estimated to triple in the coming years.

App stores already feature over 165,000 health apps and, as this innovative technology-enabled type of healthcare grows, hospitals and other relevant stakeholders have begun engaging in medical mobile app development to offer patients new, more convenient ways to collect and share health-related information efficiently.

However, not all of these digital interventions are successful. Many medical mobile apps are not living up to customer expectations due to poor user experience, confusing user interfaces, and unsatisfactory functionality.

To make an exceptional mobile app for patient care, it’s important to know where hospital app development has failed thus far. The main shortcomings of many apps currently on the market include:

  • unclear structure that doesn’t address a specific problem;
  • a lack of clinical input;
  • poor usability;
  • failure to comply with rigorous privacy regulations and security practices.

The development of meaningful solutions that are reliable, as well as compliant with the law, is a critical step in the adoption of medical apps among patients and care providers. There are many different types of medical mobile apps, but most fall into 5 common categories:



Key features of successful on-demand medical mobile apps

Developers are constantly looking for new ways to improve applications. A crucial aspect of medical mobile apps is their ability to collect and analyze patient health information from several different medical devices. This often requires a wide range of potential features and can be challenging when developing the app.

In order to develop a mobile health application successfully, it is important to find out what the target audience needs most and focus development around the implementation of those essential features. Patient-oriented medical app development should always target the end user’s needs and should focus on delivering a great user experience.

Only 11% of medical apps currently on the market offer patients the most desirable functionalities. These include the ability to:

  • access electronic medical records;
  • view the schedule of doctors;
  • book, change, and cancel appointments;
  • access lab test results;
  • get appointment reminders;
  • get prescription reminders;
  • request prescriptions refills;
  • get notifications for the latest hospital news and events;
  • download and upload reports such as X-rays, ultrasound scans, MRI scans, etc.;
  • track and monitor weight and height changes, glucose and cholesterol levels, and other health indicators;
  • call in a doctor and get emergency aid;
  • view doctor profiles, their photos, publications, and records or credentials;
  • view pop-up maps that show the route to hospital wards and sections, indicating the floor they are located on.

Privacy and security standards in different regions

In today’s day and age, technology increasingly facilitates the circulation and exchange of information and it is vital to consider security regulations when trying to build a mobile app for a hospital. These regulations differ from country to country so it’s important for developers to be aware of the requirements and to strictly follow them in order to safeguard healthcare information effectively.

A medical mobile app’s architecture must be properly designed and should meet the security and privacy standards set out by governmental bodies to ensure that app owners don’t face potential financial liability that can amount to millions of dollars.

There are various laws and regulations to adhere to, depending on the region the app is going to be used in.

The United States

A medical mobile app for the US market that stores or transmits Protected health information (PHI) of a patient must be in full compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA regulates how protected health information is transmitted between servers and limits access to individually identifiable healthcare information for/to unauthorized entities.

The European Union

In Europe, a medical app must be compliant with EU laws like the Data Protection Directive 1995/46/EC and the e-Privacy Directive 2002/58/EC. These directives aim to protect the rights and freedoms of persons with respect to the processing of personal data by laying down the key criteria for making processing of this data lawful.


The Canadian government sets parameters for the administration of personal data by businesses in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act(PIPEDA). This act sets out the rules governing the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in a manner that recognizes the right to privacy of individuals with respect to their personal information. The act also regulates the need of organizations to collect, use, or disclose personal information in reasonable and appropriate circumstances.

The United Kingdom

In the UK, the major governing legislation is the Data Protection Act which sets limits on the appropriate storage and use of personal information, requiring that these uses be clearly specified in a privacy policy.

Asian Regions

Countries in Asia have seen a number of significant regulatory developments in recent years, resulting in the implementation of new, comprehensive “European-style” privacy laws. In Japan, for example, the Personal Information Protection Act(PIPA) dates back to 2003 and stands as one of Asia’s oldest laws in this field.

In Singapore, the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) established in 2014 has been enacted with some of the stiffest penalties for data privacy offences in the region.

Encrypting medical app data

Maintaining security standards and ensuring the protection of sensitive personal data should be a top priority when developing a medical app. Stored or transmitted data must be encrypted at all stages in order to meet guidelines. Data encryption translates the data into another form or makes use of a secret code so that only people with access to the key (formally called a decryption key) or password can read it properly. Encrypted data is commonly referred to as ciphertext, while unencrypted data is called plaintext.

Currently, encryption is one of the most popular and effective data security methods used by organizations. The purpose of data encryption is to protect digital data and maintain its confidentiality as it is stored on computer systems and transmitted using the Internet or other computer networks. The outdated data encryption standard (DES) has been replaced by modern encryption algorithms that play a critical role in the security of IT systems and communications.

Developers working on medical mobile apps should ensure that they follow standards and use any or all methods available to keep patient and healthcare provider information private and secure.

SteelKiwi’s hands-on experience with medical applications

A good example of how technology can be incorporated into wireless medicine is Nova Vita, one of SteelKiwi’s clients. Nova Vita is a medical care center that provides high-quality services, including diagnostics and treatment plans.



Our team worked together with Nova Vita in order to develop online services that offer electronic documentation flows and differing levels of access to records for medical personnel and patients. An operating schedule for doctors and diagnostic labs at the center have also been automated to help care providers work more efficiently.

Patients are offered personal accounts with their treatment histories, lab test results, and doctors’ conclusions. Online registration, direct messaging to a doctor, and push notifications for the latest news are available on patients’ devices. Personal health information is transmitted through protected channels compliant with the Data Protection and e-Privacy Directives.

Through collaboration, SteelKiwi was able to provide Nova Vita with a comprehensive solution to help healthcare providers at the medical center improve their services and increase the practice’s efficiency.

How much does it cost to build a medical application?

The price of a medical app will heavily depend on the complexity of the app and the amount of hours spent on its creation. Based on our experience, it will take 35-40 days to make a mobile health app for Android and the same number of days will be necessary to build an app for the iOS platform. The design for both operating systems will take approximately 20 days.

Outsourcing app development can be a great solution for those looking to save resources (money, in-house developer time, etc.), while still getting the same high-quality result. At SteelKiwi, we’re happy to offer consultations and pricing quotes for the development of medical mobile apps and many other projects!

Developing a mobile health app for patients

Using technology to enhance healthcare in incredible and meaningful ways is a sophisticated task that requires collaboration and involvement from multiple parties. After presenting a proposal to the development core, an idea needs to undergo medical and ethical analysis. Design and development must strictly adhere to all regulations established and enforced by laws that protect sensitive health information in order to avoid data breaches.

To build a medical mobile app that has successful impact, the patient's best interests should be a top priority. Effective medical apps must be developed in such a way as to be adopted with ease, and developers should understand that the end goal of any app is to assist its users.

Have an idea for a startup or app, but don’t know where to begin? Contact us and ourteam will help you build your project from the ground up, making mobile technology accessible for your practice and patients.

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