App development in Healthcare gains steam

As U.S. healthcare organizations begin to incorporate the new business model that the “Affordable Care Act” creates for them, the idea of delivering health services and information by way of mobile applications is gaining momentum. Physicians are already signaling they would welcome mobile Electronic Health Record (EHR) access.

In a recent survey of physicians by Black Book Rankings, 83% of the doctors polled would welcome mobile access to these records should it become available. Considering that Manhattan Research’s survey discovered that 72% of physicians now use Apple iPads in their everyday practice, that clearly signals that increasingly, healthcare professionals will be depending on mobile apps for delivering their services.

close up of male doctor holding tablet pc with medical app
close up of male doctor holding tablet pc with medical app

Mobile EHR apps are difficult to build securely outside of IOS for now but they are only the tip of the iceberg of the mobile application boom about to hit healthcare. According to Motley Fool technical writer Leo Sun, “Unlike mobile apps from retailers, EHR companies cannot simply repackage a website as an app and release it. Mobile EHR apps must be built from the ground up since tablets are not optimized to include all the powerful features that the desktop version has. Tablets have smaller displays and less processing power, rely on slower wireless connections, and require optimized graphical user interface designs for touch screens.”

He goes on to note, “The iPad’s greatest advantage over Android competitors is that each generation has identical hardware and software, meaning that apps can be easily developed and tested for the platform. By comparison, the Android tablet market is fragmented, with multiple vendors creating a plethora of hardware combinations — making it difficult for app developers to create a single app that works flawlessly across all platforms and configurations.” As such most development has been to create a “native app” or one designed specifically for the iPad’s OS.

You can find a few out there already that have built an audience. WebMD, Heart Rate, Glucose Buddy, and Find Me Gluten Free are just some apps that are already on app store shelves. These are designed to do everything from helping to diagnose a symptom you are experiencing to actually using the phone’s camera to calculate your heart rate.

However more large hospital systems are looking to push out to their patients pro-active health tools, applications to allow for remote diagnosis, and even apps that allow mobile devices to provide remote patient monitoring for outpatient applications.

“Patients sharing data about how they feel, the type of treatments they’re using, and how well they’re working is a new behavior,” says Malay Gandhi, chief strategy officer of Rock Health, a San Francisco incubator for health-care start-ups. “If you can get consumers to engage in their health for 15 to 30 minutes a day, there’s the largest opportunity in digital health care.”

Smaller practices will need to join in as even small practices can benefit from mobile solutions. Yet they often have fewer resources for developing specialized mobile applications. For these organizations, looking for outsourced development services may be an answer to keeping their practices competitive with larger health organizations.

Application development of patient and doctor tools, even integration with existing practice computing systems, can be accomplished by an experienced software development team. Many will benefit from utilizing offshore teams in countries where the hourly cost of development is significantly lower yet the level of expertise is in some cases higher.

Regardless of how various healthcare organizations take up the challenge of using technology as a tool to lower patient costs, mobile applications will be a part of it. Providers of healthcare have the lead now and the pressure is on for them to provide better services for less. Mobile apps will be fundamental to this effort and something your practice might need to start using sooner rather than later.

Brought to you by UBNSoft, leaders in software application development, deployment and management.