UX Design for Mobile Health Apps: Best Practices

With 3G and 4G networks, smartphones, tablets, other mobile platforms, and various connected devices being such an integral part of modern life, it’s no wonder that mobile health (or mHealth) has become so popular around the world. People are more interested in their well-being, health, and personal safety and have become more proactive when it comes to monitoring their vitals and participating in the treatment process. It’s obvious that technological developments are changing every industry, and healthcare is no exception.

 

One more reason for the increase in mHealth popularity is rising healthcare costs and health insurance premiums that have a considerable impact on the US economy. In 2016, US healthcare spending reached a new peak of $10,345 per person. So it’s no wonder that instant access to relevant and up-to-date medical and caregiver information is very important. Healthcare industry stakeholders, such as care providers, doctors, and patients, all benefit from healthcare apps providing timely and targeted health data. Mobile health is a real way to improve the healthcare system efficiency, communication, and quality of healthcare services, while lowering costs.

 

Mobile healthcare apps have become an essential part of the healthcare industry. The Statista forecast for the value of the global mHealth market for 2017 is around 25.39 billion U.S. dollars. Another report by mHealth Solutions Market, which covered connected devices, mHealth apps and services, forecasts the global mHealth solutions market will reach USD 90.49 Billion by 2022.

Thus, designing mHealth apps to provide healthcare professionals with state-of-the-art and user-friendly software ensuring efficient healthcare services provisioning is an ambitious task for developers. App design poses some specific challenges to developers who build applications intended for the healthcare industry.

 

What are the Challenges for Healthcare App Design?

The mHealth market is flooded with many types of connected devices (such as blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, peak flow meters, etc.), applications (which usually are targeted at specific purposes like weight loss, personal health records or medication reminders), and services (which include diagnostic, remote monitoring, and consultation). The wide variety of solutions suggests that the market is ready to absorb more efficient and convenient solutions.

 

The core requirements for mHealth solutions are usability, mobile security and support for mHealth services. But a lot of developers make very similar mistakes when designing healthcare apps. Let us find out what these mistakes are.

 

When dealing with medical app design, developers should know the laws governing healthcare data transactions in the industry. Ignorance of the laws can be very costly, especially if there are data breaches involving your applications. Building apps for patient generated health data (PGHD) is often covered by HITECH Act and HIPAA rules that regulate patient privacy and the security of medical data. If you app is intended for the Canadian market it must comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). European market medical applications are governed by EU data protection laws (Data Protection Directive 1995/46/EC (Section 2.1) and the e-Privacy Directive 2002/58/EC (Section 2.2)). It should be mentioned that not all health-related apps need to be HIPAA compliant but it is always better to check to be sure if your prospective application is excluded from HIPAA rules.

 

Another common pitfall is giving priority to functionality and introducing too many features that are not used by patients and doctors, making the app too complicated. An app that makes users wait too long to load won’t be popular for sure.

 

Healthcare app UI that is not intuitive either for patients and doctors is another mistake often made by developers. Always keep the user in mind. Your app must demonstrate definite clinical benefits for healthcare professionals and offer real value to its users. Healthcare professionals want to get the correct medical data in a timely manner and to be able to interpret this data without additional effort. Too many buttons and options confuse users and slow down their effectiveness.

 

What can be done to avoid these mistakes? Let’s look a bit deeper.

 

Ways to Improve Healthcare App UX – Best Practices

 

There are certain areas that require the attention of app developers in the process of mobile health app development. Let us review the best practices that will help make your app usable, easy-to-navigate, safe, fast, and popular with users.

 

  • Understand your user and design for the needs of your user only.

The development project should start with a clear understanding of the market needs and the clinical problem the app should address. Define the target group (for example, General Health and Fitness Apps, Chronic Care Management, Diabetes Management Apps, Medication Management Apps, Personal Health Record (PHR) Apps or Professional Medical Applications, etc.) and include only those functions and features relevant to the audience. When building mobile health apps, it is extremely important to understand the needs of all the stakeholders interested in the app, collect all necessary data concerning usage, and use the obtained information throughout development. You always have to involve practicing clinicians specialized in the area your app will service to evaluate the key problems the app will solve for the users and to develop the functionality that will be most useful for your audience. Additional features that are not really necessary and don’t add much value to the app should be avoided. Remember: to be successful in the market, any medical app should be based on existing user behavior.

  • Make your app easy to access, but maintain the necessary level of security

Make your app simple and easily consumable. The register/sign-in process must be easy and must not take much time. Avoid too many screens and clicks for registering or signing in. Provide the option of additional checks when the app is not used actively for a certain period of time. Also, it would be great if your app has quick access to in the event of an emergency, for example, quick access to such data as the doctor’s phone number and information about previous hospitalizations, allergies, etc. Another good idea is to introduce the feature of data back up in the cloud in case of a lost or stolen phone.

Healthcare apps deal with massive patient generated health data inputs and tracking. This data includes personal details and information that should be strictly secured under the personal data protection laws. So, when designing mHealth apps observe all laws and regulations that govern the personal data privacy.

 

  • Make the appearance of the app attractive

Keep in mind user psychology, current design trends, and your target audience. Statistics show that less than 10% of mobile health apps are used regularly after the download. And one of the reasons for this is app appearance. It is obvious that apps with clear and appealing data visualization have greater chances to retain users.

The layout of the app pages should be attractive to users and the content should be easy to read. Users prefer pages made with soothing colors. The alignment and spacing should be appropriate and the headings clearly visible. Also, you should keep in mind the app target audience when designing its appearance – older people need larger text and bigger icons, and people with certain health conditions (such as epilepsy, diabetes, mental disorders etc.) need an app that does not attract gawkers.

 

  • Functionality is crucial, but it is necessary to keep the balance between functionality and usability

Keep your primary audience in mind. Any mHealth app is either professional-centric or patient-centric. Don’t lose sight of the main objective of the app and don’t try to fill the app with the maximum number of features. The app should be informative, but not overloaded with details. An app that deals with patient data, medication prescriptions and/or doctor appointments should have the proper messaging matrix providing different types of notifications and calendar integrations. Vitals monitoring apps should have additional features for doctor’s or nurse’s feedback and alerts. Educational apps should contain different types of content, such as text, images, and video.

Whatever it is, your app should provide only relevant, clear and concise information visualized in a user-understandable way. The forms for data collection must be as simple as possible, and there also should be HELP and FAQ sections that can explain all the features of the app.

 

  • Testing and support through the whole app lifecycle are of  vital importance

Quality assurance and testing are a must. Any medical app should be field-tested before it is released to the marketplace. Proper testing, including testing the prototypes among the target audience, helps to make sure your app is easy to use and satisfies your users’ needs. Thus, the app’s UX design testing should be performed at the end of each iteration, not at the final stages of app development. Test every aspect that is important for the users, and make sure you satisfy all the requirements for the project. Support your app constantly and provide app users with undisrupted service. If new releases and versions are made, your app should deliver significant improvements and provide more value to your customers.

 

Archer Software is a premier software development company having extensive experience in the development of medical and healthcare solutions. We provide precise and efficient solutions for industry players, including Medical Device Integration Software, Electronic health tracking systems and applications, Healthcare communication platforms, and Industry focused websites.

 

Here are several Archer Software success stories of UX design for mobile health apps:

  • The Shift life-wheel family of applications was developed for Wisen LLC. The suite of 3 mobile applications are simple to use, display user vitals and produce graphs about how balanced the user’s life is and a line for each of the indicators. The applications are intuitive to use, allow for push-notifications and provide the opportunity to customize necessary indicators and visualize progress and changes on dynamic graphs.

  • Musketeer: personal safety network. The app is a kind of tracking app that brings people an enhanced communication experience and tracking of their current location. The mobile app is used to help customers who need some help, for example in the event of accident.

  • The Online Health Tracking Application was developed for Moodspin, Inc. The app monitors medication effect on patients outside hospitals. The product is user-friendly, customizable, and available at Apple store. It monitors the patient’s condition and medication doses, reminds the user to take their medication, records the actual time it was taken, generates reports and sends them to the doctor via email. Data security is provided with a username and password.

 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to UX design for apps like this, since the goals of each medical app is different. If you want to develop a specialized mobile medical app, either designed for healthcare professional or patients, hire a strong development team with strong UX design skills. Contact us now at info@archer-soft.com. We have successfully developed apps for more than 200 happy clients around the globe.