What Is the Cost of Developing a Healthcare App?
Industry wide, healthcare costs are continuously increasing. Medical services have become more expensive, especially in the US, and the market for digital solutions is experiencing record growth. According to Global Market Insights, the digital health industry, valued at $86.4 billion in 2018, will exceed $500 billion by 2025.
Healthcare app development costs rise in tandem with the industry as a whole. A recent Research2Guidance report shows that development expenditures have increased tenfold over the past ten years and will further increase. The time-consuming nature of mHealth app development, compliance with numerous security regulations, and the continuous emergence of new technologies fuel these rising costs.
Currently, making a healthcare app costs $425,000 on average, without taking into account post-launch support and marketing. This figure isn’t sufficient for very complex solutions, though. Let’s reveal what functionality is an absolute must in healthcare app development, what features are the most expensive and the value they bring.
General App Development Expenses
There’s no universal way to implement a development project. What matters is that your application solves your business’ problems and brings value to your customers. You can carry out a project with just one full-stack engineer for $20,000 or you can onboard a team of 40 including engineers, testers, designers, and managers, which costs about $400,000 a month. It depends on the logic of your app, the number of platforms you release it on, and the number and complexity of integrations.
But with healthcare, you have one significant exception. More than other programs, healthcare apps require an unassailable level of stability, security, and user experience. Let’s get a rough estimate of the simplest possible team needed for a health-tech project (these prices are based on the hourly rates of engineers with relevant expertise and experience in Australia):
- Two mobile app developers for iOS and Android ($60-180 per person per hour)
- Two part-time mobile app developers for continuous code review (8 hours a week each for $60-180 per hour)
- A team lead or a project manager ($90-210 per hour)
- One QA engineer for manual and automated testing ($50-140 per hour)
- One part-time cyber security engineer (10-20 hours a week for $80-170 per hour)
- One backend developer ($60 per hour)
- One part-time backend developer to participate in code review ($60-180 per hour)
To hire such a team, you will need to spend over $26,000 for one sprint. A sprint is a cycle of development which usually takes two weeks. If you’re looking for specific medical knowledge or integrations with third-party services, costs will increase.
Healthcare App Types
As we’ve seen, the cost of making a mobile healthcare app depends on its type, that defines a set of features and their complexity. The choice of a platform will also impact expenditures. Let’s examine the most popular healthcare application types and their essential features.
Electronic Health Records were introduced back in the 70s but it wasn’t until recently that EHR systems were widely adopted and supported with mobile apps. A 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed the majority of customers, primarily young adults, are satisfied with the use of EHR and claim it improved their treatment.
There are still issues with EHR adoption, for instance, patients often face errors in the system, which may negatively affect medical care. Sometimes users opt out because of hacking events and overall privacy concerns. Patient data being sold to third parties is no small matter and it happens quite regularly. As one example, Australian platform HealthEngine was recently revealed to have shared information with legal services. It’s only logical that people are more likely to trust services facilitated by governments, such as HealthRecords.
But it’s clear that apps allowing users to access and manage their own medical records represent a promising development area. At the moment, very few hospital apps offer access to EHR but many are interested in this feature.
Statistics show that more than half of all Americans and almost half of the Australian population take prescription drugs on a daily basis. This makes for a large target group for drug management solutions. To make such an app, you will need to implement a calendar, reminder notifications, and an option for data exchange between users and doctors/caregivers. A drug database with information on medications can also be a helpful addition.
At MadAppGang we developed Secure My Health, an app for managing drug intake. Doctors and patients are connected to the system and the former can monitor whether prescribed medicines are taken correctly and on time.
Doctor and patient communication is among the top features modern users want. You can make an appointment booking app for a certain hospital or for an entire city. You will need to integrate doctors’ profiles, a calendar with the possibility to add and amend appointments, and payment systems. There also should be notifications reminding users of scheduled appointments.
The possibility to communicate with doctors in real-time without visiting a clinic is desired by many patients. Statistics show that connecting to doctors and nurses via direct call is the most popular use of medical apps. Telehealth services are beneficial to both urban residents with busy schedules and people from rural areas with less access to healthcare services.
The Stanford Medicine’s telehealth program, ClickWell Care, accompanied by the MyHealth app, has been successfully engaging users and has eliminated up to 60 per cent of primary care visits, replacing them with video calls.
To develop a telemedicine app, you need integration with a video chat client. There are many communication-platform-as-a-service options and you can choose the most suitable API for video chat or messaging. For detailed info, we go into details on Twilio and its alternatives in our blog post.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote monitoring connects patient-generated health data to medical institutions, which makes it easier to react to urgent situations and analyse information in general. A 2019 Accenture consumer survey identified an increase in patient interest in healthcare providers offering remote monitoring. In 2016, 39 per cent of respondents stated they considered this feature when choosing a provider, by 2019 that figure had risen to 53 per cent.
Remote monitoring apps vary in functionality depending on the devices they integrate with and the type of data collected. You can develop a healthcare app for managing a specific chronic illness or an overall monitoring tool for tracking vitals like blood pressure.
Looking up symptoms online has become common practice. With online portals and mobile apps backed by clinical researchers and practitioners, it has become safer and more accurate. Symptom checkers such as the ones developed by the Mayo Clinic or Ada help people identify their condition and get further recommendations.
To create a medical app which is a symptom checker, you will need to engage healthcare professionals to establish credibility. As for the features, a step-by-step self-assessment tutorial should be at the core of the app. You can also add navigation functionality so that when patients get healthcare services recommendations, they can find the nearest hospital or lab to confirming the diagnosis and get the medical treatment they need. For more details, check out our article on navigation features.
Applications for mental well-being constitute a huge segment of the health app market. We described the most important aspects of mental health app development in our blog post. Such programs can have various features borrowed from the other health app types described above; they can connect users with therapists, provide self-assessment tests, and log and analyse health data.
Mobile App Development for Healthcare: Essential Functionality
Here’s information on the functionality you will need regardless of the app type, the average time to develop a healthcare application, and how much money it will cost.
Tracking health parameters in real-time is what users want in a mobile health app. Whether it’s integration with a glucose monitor or a schedule for prescriptions, tracking functionality is what helps people manage their condition, which is a major purpose of a healthcare app. The time needed for integrations will vary from one manufacturer to another: the higher is the quality of their SDK and the faster their support responses, the better.
How much money and time this functionality requires depends on complexity and the number of integrations. Here’s what you need to consider:
- Are you able to integrate directly with hardware or do you need to get the data through an API?
- What integration tools and languages do you need? (Some manufacturers have an outdated SDK or no SDK at all, in which case you will need to implement it yourself)
- How complex is the integration? (It could use simple data or a huge amount of information collected every second)
On average, tracking features require 2 to 8 sprints, which will cost you $50,000 to 200,000. For collecting, processing, and storing user data and data visualisation, you will need more time. AI and machine learning can also be involved, which requires at least 2 to 4 more engineers and data analysts.
Medical records can be integrated in hospital app development to facilitate document management and enhance care plans within a given institution. But when it comes to combining medical records from different providers, which is normally the case with an average patient, the question of how to standardise data formats, and make them available across different providers, arises.
Standardisation will depend on whether a particular EHR system works according to FHIR or uses its own format. Integrating EHRs from one provider will take approximately 1 to 6 sprints and costs from $25,000 to $150,000.
Since healthcare applications deal with patient data, and in the case of daily tracking apps, lots of it, reliable storage is a key development consideration. When you decide on the type of app you want to make, define all information you will use and then learn about privacy and security regulations.
You can choose from existing industry-specific solutions like InterSystems and Cloud Healthcare or use HIPAA-compliant cloud solutions like AWS. We provided general information on storage options and regulations in our post on healthcare app compliance.
One of the reasons why medical apps improve treatment is that they help transfer valuable data swiftly. Modern-day patients are conscious of their information at a level they never were before, and given the possibility to export their records and share them with doctors or caregivers, they can expect more informed clinical decisions and quick reactions in emergency cases.
More than a third of respondents in the 2018 Deloitte Health Care Consumer survey said they wanted such self-diagnosis and connection to doctors and nurses features in an app. Mobile solutions for doctor-patient communication are a crucial building block of effective treatment. Doctor-on-demand apps with live chat or apps for scheduling appointments contribute to the growing trend of flexible communication.
Learn more about secure messaging in healthcare from our article. You might want to integrate:
- Text messages
- Video chat
- An AI-powered assistant
Communication functionality also requires:
- Public profiles
To implement these features, you will need 4 to 8 sprints, which costs around $100,000 - 200,000. If you need to implement a point-to-point security protocol using Signal or an alternative solution, the price and time are likely to be doubled.
In What Cases Do You Need Medical APIs and How Much Do They Cost?
In healthcare app development, it’s often reasonable to use existing tools or databases. There are many medical APIs and third-party libraries for making a certain type of app. Each has an individual pricing system which depends upon the volume of transactions or has monthly options.
Practically any type of health app requires APIs. Medical APIs are too numerous to mention in full, but here are some examples:
- Symptom checkers – ApiMedic API, Infermedica
- Vocabularies – Medical Terminology Toolkit
- Health calculators – BMI Calculator
- Drug databases and analytics – eHealthMe, openFDA, DrugPatentWatch
- Some APIs facilitate data interoperability – Google Cloud Healthcare, Human, Azure
- Health records management – DrChrono, Apple’s Health Records, Android’s CommonHealth
- Healthcare professional information – BetterDoctor
As the authors of an IBM Cloud API white paper argue, healthcare is a data-intensive industry and every organisation needs to start, if hasn’t already, strategising the use of business APIs.
Most APIs for healthcare don’t reveal their pricing systems. For example, Human states the service is priced per connected user and suggest contacting the sales team to get an exact quote. Some services offer specific monthly subscriptions, such as DrugPatentWatch which has six options costing between $450 to $1000 based on the volume of data.
Additional Features You Need and How These Impact Costs
When you’re all set with basic features, which means you know which data your app will track, what storage it will use, and what type of user interaction it provides, consider which additional features you want to implement. Depending on the app’s purpose, it could be some of the features below.
Hospital apps can display routes to the facility and have an indoor navigation system so patients know which department to go to. Applications that inform users about the nearest hospitals, pharmacies, or labs also need a map and navigation. Learn more about how to choose a mapping API and how to develop powerful navigation from our blog posts.
Geolocation can also be used to send location-based notifications or implement a one-click ambulance feature, which notifies the patient’s trusted contacts or a hospital of an urgent situation. In an Accenture consumer survey 23 per cent of respondents named convenient location as the top criterion when choosing a healthcare provider, so it’s important to offer comprehensive navigation.
Consider the time needed to implement turn-by-turn navigation (1 to 8 weeks) and the cost of a chosen API. For example, basic Google Maps functionality, which includes routes and places, costs $200 per month.
For an app featuring doctor’s appointments or healthcare products, in-built payment processing systems and a shopping cart are essential. Adding payments to your app will take at least one sprint. PayPal, Braintree, and Stripe are among the most popular payment gateways, check out their pricing systems and take into consideration the fees taken for each transaction (usually 2.9% + $0.30).
Speaking of applications that collect information on different institutions and/or practitioners, they can offer users the possibility to rate the service received and check reviews left by others. For developing a rating system or a user forum, count on 1 to 2 sprints.
A medical app can allow users to customise their profiles to a certain extent – add photos and social network links, set preferences, change location etc. The more flexible a profile is, the more time and effort development takes. Note that even though it’s important to give patients control over their medical records, they shouldn’t be able to amend sensitive data without verification.
An application isn’t finished the moment it’s launched on the app markets. You will need to update your product and take into consideration customer reviews and suggestions. If you want to get regular reports on app issues and user behaviour, opt for analytics integration. At first, develop a plan for what data to analyse and how. Then, check if analytical systems don’t compromise sensitive information. For this, you will need at least one sprint.
Many of the features we’ve described depend on integration with certain smartphone hardware or other devices. A lot of body signs and stats, from blood pressure to seizure symptoms, can be analysed by medical sensors. For more details, check our post on trends in healthcare wearables. For tracking health measurements, an app has to receive data from such sensors or monitors, which can be individual devices or embedded in fitness trackers or smartwatches.
If your application needs basic health measurements, add heart rate sensor integration to your project. It will take at least 2 to 6 sprints and $50,000 to 150,000.
Another integration you might need is with a smartphone’s camera. A healthcare app can use it to provide video communication, photo attachment and sharing capabilities, or barcode identification. If you’re focusing on live chats or clinical photography, the quality of this integration will define the overall helpfulness of your app.
Estimating the Cost of Healthcare App Development Services
To roughly estimate your project’s cost, count all the features and the time they will take in development. Apart from developer hours, you need to consider visual aspects and the designer’s hours. Note that you will also need more time for communication within the team; having your app developed based on the Agile methodology means you will take an active role as the app owner and oversee the process and set priorities.
The cost of healthcare app development will depend on your platform of choice (iOS, Android or both), the selection of features, and the hourly rate of those you hire. For a general impression, check out our article on how different app development costs are for prototypes and full-featured products. But since healthcare is a complicated and regulated area, building a healthcare app will take more.
As we mentioned at the beginning, the average cost of mobile application development in healthcare is $425,000 and the cost is rising.
What Is Compliance Cost?
Protecting patient data is often a stumbling point in healthcare app development. To guarantee users their information won’t be compromised, and to avoid regulatory fines, address security thoroughly.
In terms of expenditures, you have to consider the security practices you’ll use in the app:
- Two-factor authentication
- TLS1.3 protocol
- Point-to-point encryption
- Automated integration tests
- Automated unit tests
- Cyber security project review
- IT disaster recovery plan
- Data backup
For the app’s testing, allocate 2 to 3 more sprints. You can also use security compliance audit at an additional cost.
Note that it’s not a one-time action: you will need continuous maintenance and testing, as well as some kind of risk-analysis plan. A security analyst claims that HIPAA compliance costs start from $4,000 for small companies and reach over $50,000 for large entities. Any data breach or other violation will cost overwhelmingly more.
When your app is finally done and submitted to the app market/s, you still need to allocate some of your budget to maintenance and bug-fixing. The reaction of end users should be helpful when making updates, fixing bugs, and changing features, if there are such requests.
As for marketing, expenditures on store optimisation, PR, and other activities reach around $10,000 on average. Presence on social media, high positions in search engines, and overall digital strategy are crucial parts of a marketing strategy for any modern healthcare product.
How to Find a Reliable Healthcare App Development Company
When you know exactly what your app should be, look for developers with relevant expertise in healthcare. Examine their portfolios and always interview the team to see whether you’re on the right track. If you’re going to hire developers from other countries, make sure they understand the culture of your app’s target audience. Outsourcing app development will cost less but eventually may cause more troubles. For more details, check out our post on how to find the best app developers.
Get in touch if you’d like help with your healthcare app idea.
08 January 2020