5 Best Practices for Developing a Great Healthcare App

Developing healthcare apps comes with numerous challenges, primarily due to the sensitive nature of the data involved. Here are five tips for navigating the complexities of healthcare app development.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology analyst

June 19, 2024

4 Min Read
person using a healthcare app on a smartphone

Few types of applications are more challenging to develop than healthcare apps. Due to factors such as the sensitive nature of healthcare data and the need to deliver a great user experience, healthcare application development can be especially vexing.

That's why being strategic about how you build your app is especially important when you're dealing with healthcare software. This article offers guidance by walking through five best practices for developing a great healthcare app.

What Is a Healthcare App?

Before diving into the best practices, let's discuss what healthcare apps do.

A healthcare app is any software application that helps to collect, process, or report on health data. There are a wide variety of types of healthcare apps, including:

  • Telemedicine apps, which help healthcare providers interact with patients remotely.

  • Health record applications, which store healthcare data and allow patients to access it.

  • Healthcare management apps, whose purpose is to help coordinate care, schedule appointments, and so on.

  • Health tracking apps, which can help consumers monitor health metrics, with or without direct oversight by a care provider.

These apps serve a variety of purposes, but they share the core trait of helping to track or manage healthcare-related data.

Related:5 Key IT Certifications to Stand Out in the Healthcare Industry

rendering of smart watch health app

The Challenges of Developing Healthcare Apps

The fact that all healthcare apps deal with healthcare data in some way is why developing healthcare apps can be challenging. When you're building software that manages healthcare data, you need to contend with the complex regulatory rules — such as those associated with HIPAA, if your app users are based in the United States — that govern that data. Regulatory mandates may require you to implement certain types of security controls, backups, and so on to protect healthcare data that is processed or stored by your app.

A second challenge of developing healthcare apps is that because many such apps are designed for use by the general public, they need to provide a great experience for a wide range of users. Unlike other types of apps — such as those designed for use by employees in a certain business function — you can't typically count on healthcare app users to have specific types of skills or a particular type of technical background. Instead, you need to create interfaces, workflows, and other user experience elements that make your app a delight to use no matter who the users happen to be.

The need to create a highly reliable application is also a challenge. When you're building an app that impacts people's health, you need to take special care to minimize the risk of downtime and bugs.

Tips for Building a Great Healthcare App

The following practices can help developers conquer these challenges when building healthcare apps.

1. Keep It Simple

For healthcare apps in particular, simple is usually better. Avoid building overly complicated interfaces or implementing extraneous features, which are likely to confuse some of your users.

2. Consider Manual Testing

To ensure that your app delivers a great user experience, consider performing some manual software tests by asking real users to experiment with the application. Automated testing is great, and you can use automated tests as well to vet basic application functionality. But the feedback provided by real-user tests can be invaluable for healthcare apps in particular.

3. Avoid Extraneous Data

The less data your healthcare app stores and processes, the better, so avoid collecting healthcare data that isn't necessary. This strategy will help simplify the regulatory requirements that your application needs to meet and reduce the risk of attacks or breaches that could give threat actors access to sensitive health data.

4. Choose Compliant Hosting Infrastructure

If you deliver your application to users via a SaaS architecture — which means you host it somewhere and let users connect via the internet — make sure to select hosting infrastructure that meets regulatory requirements for healthcare data. This is another key best practice for meeting the unique challenges of healthcare application development.

5. Make Your Healthcare App Easy to Monitor

Ensure that your app generates logs and metrics that make it easy for IT teams to monitor and observe application performance. This is a critical consideration for avoiding performance issues that could cause serious disruptions for users who depend on your app for healthcare needs.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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