Building a mobile healthcare app without breaking the bank

For many years, healthcare organizations were skittish about adopting new digital tools and technology due to concerns around compliance and interoperability.

However, with digital transformation driving massive innovation in other industries, healthcare organizations have realized they need to embrace new technologies and tools to deliver a better, more engaging experience to patients.

Mobile applications are one such tool that are coming to the forefront. Whether they are being used by physicians to access health records and prescription information, administrative staff to maintain facilities and manage operations or patients to communicate with doctors or nurses, mobile apps are taking healthcare by storm. In fact, a study conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that nearly 90 percent of healthcare organizations are adopting mobile and telehealth tools for patient engagement.

However, before jumping in headfirst, healthcare organizations need to carefully consider how they develop their mobile strategy. Building applications can be an extremely costly and time-consuming process, and costs can quickly add up over multiple projects—especially if development is not approached from the right angle.

The Hidden Costs of Application Development
It’s easy to get in the mindset that developing a new application is a fairly straightforward, one-and-done process. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s why many healthcare organizations wind up dramatically overbudget and without much to show.

Take, for example, the user interface and user experience. If these aren’t designed well from the beginning with the full understanding of project requirements and user needs, they may have to be done over from scratch. And even if they were satisfactory on release, they can quickly become outdated or inadequate over time, which costs even more money to fix later on.

Healthcare organizations also need to consider the sheer number of devices that are being used today and could be used in the future. From phones and tablets to smartwatches, there are already dozens of different mobile platforms being used today, and in the future, applications may be accessed via chat bots, augmented/virtual reality devices and more. Developing applications for all these platforms is costly, especially if these applications are designed to push the boundaries of user interaction and experience. To optimize performance, each platform may need its own small support staff, plus the time and money required to maintain and update the application.

Finally, there is the issue of compliance. Each application can cost millions of dollars to ensure it is compliant—if healthcare organizations are deploying upward of a dozen apps, that alone can put a giant dent in the budget.

5 Best Practices for Building Healthcare Applications

All that said, building a suite of highly performant and very engaging applications doesn’t need to run your organization into the red. By being mindful of these hidden costs from the outset and applying some of the following best practices, you can build the applications that your staff and patients will love without going overbudget.

1. When Building Your App, Ensure There is a Demand for It

The biggest way to save money with application development is to simply avoid building apps that don’t provide much value to users. Many organizations get caught up building applications on principle, without doing enough due diligence to determine whether it’s something their users actually need.

For every application you want to deploy, build wireframes and mockups and do extensive user research to get their feedback. It may be worth working with a third-party provider to help with this so you can expedite the process and quantify demand. If you can’t pinpoint any “wow” moments when users engage with your application, it’s probably worth going back to the drawing board and reconsidering the application’s purpose and goal.

2. Use Tools that Enable You to Build Once and Deploy Across All Channels

The rise of new frameworks that enable healthcare organizations to build truly native applications across multiple platforms using a shared codebase has made application development much easier. From initial development to maintenance down the road, having a shared codebase means teams can deliver consistent native experiences across the board for less money.

Plus, this ensures your development team can focus on producing great user experiences without having to worry about translating the experience to other platforms. In the past, it wouldn’t be unusual to see one platform become a lead platform based on the number of users, while others lagged behind as they weren’t the top priority. This could quickly lead to substandard user experiences on some platforms, which in turn often results in user abandonment in favor of better applications.

We live in a world where new means of engagement are coming to market every day. Being able to build once and deploy across all channels not only enables you to cover your bases today, but also in the future—no matter what devices patients are using.

3. Focus on the Value-Added Features and Don’t Get Bogged Down with Infrastructure

One of the most time-consuming parts of application development is building out all the infrastructure that forms the foundation of every application. While building this foundation is critical to the success of the application, it can be a fairly mechanical task that takes time away from developers that could be spent on more high-level challenges.

Enterprise health cloud vendors can deliver all the features that healthcare organizations need out of the box. This means your developers can get the foundation off the ground quickly and devote more time to developing features that deliver meaningful value to end users. Moreover, BaaS vendors will often work to align their pricing model with your success, which means you can get in at a low price and both parties win in the end.

4. Mitigate Extra Costs by Picking the Right Health Cloud Vendor

Building upon the previous step, choosing the right health cloud vendor can also help you mitigate a lot of other costs. Because most health clouds are delivered as a service, it’s the health cloud vendor that is responsible for operations and end user support. Those are costs that you don’t incur at all, it’s all included in the service cost.

5. Tap Your Vendor to Take Care of Security and Compliance

Two of the biggest concerns regarding digital tools and technology in the healthcare space are compliance and security. With a mountain of ever-changing regulations and new security threats cropping up every day, it’s difficult for healthcare organizations to keep their applications up to date—especially if they are using a variety of applications.

If you use the right health cloud vendor, they will take care of security and compliance for you. They will often do the leg work of gaining HIPAA compliance from the outset, which means any application you build on their platform will be compliant without having to spend any time on it, even as your application continues to evolve over time. This alone can save millions of dollars and hours of development time.

When you put these five practices into action and leverage best-of-breed technology for frontend, backend, infrastructure, security and compliance, your project can go from millions of dollars to hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. This enables you to not only save costs and development time for each project, but also focus on building applications with meaningful user experiences that deliver the value that your users expect from a modern mobile application.

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