Back to Resources


Posted July 17, 2023

Building Healthcare Mobile Apps: What You Need to Know

Get a comprehensive overview of healthcare app development, the features required, and the steps you'll need to take from ideation to launch.

The widespread use of mobile apps has made it possible to expand traditional face-to-face services like healthcare into online and remote experiences. You can now download an app and attend a live telemedicine session with a doctor without leaving your house. This presents unprecedented opportunities for innovation. If you are wondering how to design and build a successful healthcare mobile app, this guide is for you.

This tutorial provides an overview of the process of developing a healthcare app. It covers the features that are necessary for a healthcare app, including security, compliance, functionality, and usability. It also explores the various stages of app development, from ideation to launch.

Let’s get started, shall we?

What is a Healthcare Mobile App?

As the name suggests, a healthcare mobile app is an application that is designed specifically for healthcare and wellbeing purposes. Whether it's a telemedicine app (which enables video calls with your healthcare practitioner) or a mental health app, its primary purpose is to help users deal with health and wellbeing issues. The distinction does not end there, however, since there are more specialized apps that deal with other concerns like diagnosis, prescription drugs, managing clinical trials, medical research, and more. 

Essentially, there are two types of healthcare mobile apps: apps for patients and apps for professionals, each with its own unique features and target personas.

The healthcare app industry is booming, and the market size is predicted to increase to over $500 billion by 2025, according to Statista. Therefore, you should be familiar with the key considerations when developing healthcare mobile apps and also know how to develop and release them securely, with testability in mind.   

The Importance of Healthcare App Development

Healthcare app development is essential for innovation and convenience, providing personalized and user-centric features that aim to improve quality of life. When developing a healthcare mobile app, it's important to consider the diverse types of healthcare mobile apps, technology trends, and features that users expect. It is also important to have a complete and solid mobile test development plan that covers many aspects of security and compliance since there is an expectation that the security level of these apps will be on par with that of financial apps. 

Overview of the Healthcare App Development Process

In order to bring a successful healthcare-related product to the market, you need to seriously invest in development. The app must fulfill various purposes that improve quality of life, support patients, maintain electronic health records, and audit events without failure. In certain cases, it’s also a matter of life and death, since patients might need certain services to be available online with quick delivery. The healthcare app development process generally consists of the following steps:

  1. Identify the purpose of the app: The app needs to solve real problems that users face, and it needs to do so in a way that offers something unique to the market. Therefore, the first step is to identify the target audience, value proposition, and proposed solution.

  2. Write down requirements and allocate resources: The next step is to make sure that you write down (in detail) the app’s requirements and ensure that they can be met. It is essential to make a small POC or MVP to validate the app’s features with a limited set of users as well. You will also need to estimate the milestones of the development process so that you will know when the app is ready to launch. We recommend that you create requirement specification documentation that you can validate after each release step.

  3. Design the app: How will the final app look? Designing the user experience is a crucial step in the healthcare app development process. Since you have gotten past the MVP phase, you can spend some time here to ensure the app is accessible and easy to use. We recommend that you adopt accessibility and design regression testing to ensure that the quality of service remains the same.

  4. Development and testing: In the mobile app development and testing phase, the app goes through various iterations to successful delivery. This step depends on the kind of application that is being developed and the planned scope of the initial release. The development process must ensure app quality and security, and it must be backed by development and testing best practices. You must also ensure that compliance and certification requirements are met.

  5. Delivery and continuous improvement: Once the app is rolled out to users, the infrastructure services need to be operational, and you should monitor the app’s quality. Availability and reliability are critical here since users might require the app’s services urgently. Accuracy and safety are also paramount so that users will trust the application and recommend it to other people.

Now, let’s talk about some key considerations for healthcare app development.

Key Considerations for Healthcare App Development

Since you are interested in developing a healthcare mobile app, there are some unique considerations that you need to take into account. 

Regulatory compliance (HIPAA and FDA)

As your app may need to store personal health records, you need to ensure that it complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other related frameworks. In the U.S., FDA classification may be required if your app is considered to be a medical device. This means you have to train people as well as support monitoring and auditing procedures to ensure that the app is safe to use under these legal rules.

Security and privacy requirements

Healthcare mobile apps need to be designed with security and privacy in mind, and they must adhere to industry-standard security best practices. Once your business is established and has the infrastructure to support continuous improvements in information security, it’s common to seek ISO 27001 certification, for example. Certain regions like the EU also require specific controls to protect against privacy violations.

Technical considerations (platforms, programming languages, and APIs)

Choosing the right tools, third-party vendors, PLs, and APIs is one of the most crucial steps for ensuring that the development of your healthcare mobile app is stable and secure. For instance, you might consider whether you should develop a hybrid app to reduce total development costs or invest in native tooling to provide the best UX. Or you might think about whether you should use a third-party vendor to perform real device cloud testing or test only a list of pre-approved models. You might also weigh whether you should develop your own libraries from scratch or just adopt a popular framework.

All of these technical choices will shape the characteristics of your processes and your final product. You should weigh these options carefully to make sure that your choices provide stability and flexibility during the development process and in the long run.    

Failure to consider all of the above would mean that your app is more likely to be breached due to security holes. You could also face a mountain of legal consequences due to regulatory non-compliance as well as the loss of reputation (meaning your users won’t trust your offering and would seek alternative options). So you need to take those considerations very seriously and incorporate all of the necessary mechanisms to support them.

Examples of Healthcare Apps

So far, you’ve learned what healthcare mobile apps are and the key considerations to take into account during the process of developing them. But before you begin to develop one from scratch, you may want to review examples of successful healthcare apps.

There are tons of mobile healthcare apps (there are more than 40K apps in the AppStore and more than 50K in the Google Play Store), so it's important to review a few distinct cases so that you understand their unique market position and value proposition. I’ve compiled a small list of them for this guide:

  • MyFitnessPal: This app helps you with dieting, exercising, and monitoring your progress. It is targeted to the mainstream user base – people who want to understand what they eat, get meal recommendations, and search for nutritional information. It is not considered to be a medical device or anything that would strictly require HIPAA compliance, but users might still choose it because of its features and ratings.

  • mySugr: This is an app that lets patients track blood sugar, carbs, bolus, and estimated HbA1c. Since it stores private health information, it must comply with HIPPA. Their target user base is diabetics and anyone else who wants to control their sugar intake. 

  • Zocdoc: This app helps users find doctors, review services, and book appointments online. This is basically an online doctor search service, and it is targeted at users who are trying to find relevant physicians that can help them treat certain symptoms.

  • Medisafe: This app helps users manage their medications (by sending reminders to take pills) and prescriptions. It is targeted mainly at elderly patients and their families as well as doctors and nurses who want to make the drug management and prescription process more effortless (and also avoid delays in taking medications and obtaining refills).

Now let’s get to the real practicalities of building a healthcare app.

7 Steps for Building A Healthcare App

Perk up, because this part is crucial to understand. Here are some important steps to consider when building a healthcare mobile app:

1. Planning and research

The first stage is what defines the healthcare app you want to build and how it solves real user issues. You should start by figuring out your target audience and market as well as who your competition is. You should have an idea of what the app is going to do and how it’s going to do it. Since you will be building a healthcare app, you should also research any requirements for privacy and compliance issues (such as HIPAA and others).

There are plenty of resources to use for guidance here. You can use focus groups and surveys to validate your idea. You can conduct market analysis and try to find any pain points within your target audience. Or maybe you’ve already identified a gap in the market and want to establish that your app does something better than the competition.

Depending on the application’s scope, availability, and allocated resources, this phase takes anywhere from a few weeks to several months of planning.

2. Design and UI testing 

After conducting research, designers should start mocking the healthcare mobile app, including the user interface (UI) and user experience. They should focus on accessibility, consistency, usability, and creating unique brand elements.

In terms of UI testing, it is recommended that you start working on a design system that incorporates visual regression testing and automation. This is to ensure that any inconsistencies are captured when implementing the design elements in the app – before they’re rolled out to production. This testing doesn’t have to be extensive, but it needs to capture the primary screens or workflows of the application.

For example, you might use Android UI Automator or iOS Swift Snapshot Testing (which are tools that you can start implementing early in the development process). Again, this phase could take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to complete.

3. Development

Once you’ve established the basic design elements, the development team should begin the development process – which involves coding the healthcare mobile app and collaborating with stakeholders about the status of the project.

We assume your development team has expertise in the field and can coordinate with domain experts about the correct use of the application domain models. Also, developers should focus on creating a secure and scalable architecture for the app, and they should ensure that the app is compatible with a wide range of mobile devices and operating systems. In addition, they should be responsible for writing sufficient test cases covering both unit and integration cases as well as collaborating with the QA team for the smooth resolution of any defects.

This phase could take longer than the rest since this is when you build the final product. Expect development and testing to take at least 6 months, depending on the scope and size of the team.

4. Testing

Testing should be a priority throughout the development of the product, and there should be a written testing strategy in place. Developers and QA engineers need to conduct thorough testing to ensure that the healthcare mobile app is free from bugs and glitches. At the minimum, testing should include functional testing, user acceptance testing, and security testing.

Depending on the requirements, you may also need to conduct performance testing and load testing to make sure that the system remains responsive after spikes or DoS attacks.

Finally, test reports should be available for auditing and compliance purposes. As a side note, you should not use any real patient data for testing purposes.

5. HIPPA compliance

If your product needs to be HIPAA compliant (or achieve any certification), it’s important to invite relevant experts (either internal or external vendors) to provide guidance, training, and support. This is because the development and testing teams might not possess the relevant experience or insight into what the regulators need in terms of satisfying protocol requirements.

Ensuring that the app meets HIPAA’s technical safeguards should be a priority from the start. Depending on the size of the business (and the dedicated effort you can make), it might take 1-2 years from start to finish. Therefore, if you plan to have an app that handles protected health information (PHI), you should set and achieve relevant compliance milestones to ensure that your app is ready to go once it has been certified.

6. Security and privacy

When it comes to security and privacy, developers should adhere to industry standards for mobile application security (including OWASP) and utilize FTC’s mobile app interactive tool. This process should be baked into the development pipeline, with security controls and checks added during CI/CD pipelines via quality gates.

For instance, the following types of security testing and controls should be introduced one way or another to ensure there are no loopholes or weaknesses that could result in a security breach:

  • Penetration testing: Perform penetration testing by simulating real-life cyber attacks against an application, software, system, or network under safe conditions. This must be done by an external vendor to ensure compliance.

  • API security testing: Test against APIs that your mobile app connects to in order to try to find holes and gaps that would allow attackers to gain access to the system.

  • Scanning: Regular scanning for vulnerabilities and security misconfigurations as well as static code analysis and assessments will shorten the reaction time and help detect risky changes during development.

In terms of privacy, there should be an independent review of privacy-related controls, legal documents, and cookie consent forms to ensure transparency and consumer consent regarding data usage.

7. Post-release

The development process does not stop after the app has been launched. There will be legitimate users handling the app, reporting feedback, and reviewing the product. If you want the product to be successful, you need to continuously improve it.

This means that you have to keep people on your payroll to support the app, fix bugs, write more tests, and keep up with any compliance requirements.

Error monitoring and reporting can help detect and prevent any issues in production by automating the process of recording and tracing back incidents at the source. You should expect to sustain this process for as long as the app remains operational.

Benefits and Challenges of Healthcare Mobile App Development

Mobile app development has many benefits, but also several challenges. Some of the benefits of these apps are that they:

  • Make healthcare services more accessible: Ensuring the accessibility of your app is essential. These apps aim to make our lives easier by tracking diet and exercise, managing medications, finding doctors, and providing video consultations with doctors and therapists. In the past, you had to go to an office, sometimes wait many hours, and often pay lots of money to receive healthcare services.

  • Support the economy: Healthcare mobile apps support the economy by increasing connectivity between healthcare providers and users. They also create business value by optimizing costs and healthcare support.

  • Accelerate innovation: By investing in revolutionary technologies and ways to support telemedicine (as well as the accurate detection of health-related issues), these apps can help improve the accuracy and reliability of this service sector. They can also help doctors make informed decisions about their patients.

On the other hand, the main challenges are:

  • Adopting the right technology: Should you use Flutter, React Native, or take the native route? Choosing the right mobile development and testing tools is an important design decision that needs to be made before developing the app, and each choice has its pros and cons in terms of cost, features, and reliability. You also need to consider the differences in testing requirements and how they can affect the successful delivery of the product.

  • Real device testing: If you need to support users with mobile devices, you need to have a plan for testing compatibility requirements. This is another significant challenge, as developers need to ensure that the app works on a broad range of mobile devices and operating systems. Having dedicated real device testing infrastructure can help alleviate the costs of maintaining this sort of investment.

  • Security and compliance: Healthcare apps need to be on top of cyber threats and adversaries that aim to tamper with or exfiltrate sensitive information from the app. Such measures have both positive and negative trade-offs in performance, maintenance, or usability that have to be taken into consideration.

With all of this in mind, finding the right balance between new features and security is paramount to the success of the product you’re building. It takes a lot of experimentation and testing to rise to the top of this competitive market. Therefore, you need to strategically prepare your steps to success.


This tutorial gave you some pointers on how to develop a healthcare mobile app. As with any software-related product or service, there are many hidden factors and parameters you have to consider when developing such a project. The key challenges of delivering a successful app include finding the right market fit, developing your product with security and testability in mind, and making sure that it meets and maintains compliance and quality requirements throughout the development process as well as after it has been deployed to production.

Fortunately, you can leverage solutions like Sauce Labs to help you with mobile app testing and quality requirements.

Start mobile app testing in minutes with Sauce Labs

Build your best app yet

© 2023 Sauce Labs Inc., all rights reserved. SAUCE and SAUCE LABS are registered trademarks owned by Sauce Labs Inc. in the United States, EU, and may be registered in other jurisdictions.