Complete Guide to Healthcare Application Development: Trends, Future, and Types

Healthcare application development is rapidly evolving to meet the changing needs of patients, providers, and healthcare systems.

This guide examines healthcare industry trends, types of healthcare software, and special considerations for software development strategies.

Healthcare Industry Trends Driving App Development 

Several major trends have reshaped the healthcare application landscape over the past few years. Some of these movements will continue to impact health software and the healthcare industry for several years.

Shift to Value-based Care

Healthcare systems are moving from fee-for-service to value-based care models, requiring applications that can track outcomes and demonstrate improved patient health.

The shift to value-based care represents a significant transformation in healthcare delivery and reimbursement models. Drivers of this change are unsustainable healthcare costs and concerns about poor performance on quality indicators.

Value-based care models seek to align provider payments with cost, quality, and outcome measures. The goal is to refocus healthcare organizations on improving patient outcomes rather than increasing service volume.

Under value-based care models, providers can earn reimbursements from the government for meeting quality and cost targets. The downside is that there are potential penalties for poor performance or excessive costs.

Increased Focus on Patient Engagement

There is a growing demand for patient-facing apps that empower individuals to take a more active role in managing their health. The increased focus on patient engagement is a significant trend in healthcare, driven by the recognition that actively involved patients tend to have better health outcomes and lower healthcare costs.

A significant driver behind the interest in patient engagement is the shift toward value-based care, which has metrics for it. The reasoning is that patients engaged in their health emphasize preventive care and chronic disease management, resulting in fewer hospital admissions and high-cost care.

Key components of patient engagement include shared decision-making between patients and providers, patient access to health information and education, self-management of their health conditions, and active participation in treatment plans.

Providers seek technology that will help improve patient engagement. Examples include:

  • Mobile health apps for tracking health metrics, medication adherence, and appointments for well-checks and treatments
  • Patient portals for accessing medical records and communicating with providers
  • Telemedicine platforms for virtual consultations with doctors and care teams
  • Wearable devices for continuous, remote health monitoring

The increased focus on patient engagement represents a shift towards more patient-centered care models, recognizing that informed, involved, and empowered patients are more likely to achieve positive health outcomes. As healthcare continues to evolve, patient engagement will likely remain a key priority, with ongoing technological innovation and strategies to support it.

Rise of Telemedicine and Remote Care

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth solutions, creating opportunities for virtual care applications. Telemedicine continues to be a significant trend in healthcare, particularly for its ability to provide health services for traditionally underserved populations.

Despite the recognized benefits and popularity with patients, healthcare organizations have been hesitant to adopt telehealth solutions long-term. The digital divide factors into this; not all patients can access the necessary technology or internet connectivity. There are also concerns about the level of training needed for more complex tools, both for providers and patients. Regulatory and reimbursement uncertainties also concern some organizations.

These trepidations have not halted the development of patient engagement platforms and the integration of telemedicine features into electronic health record systems (EHRs). Healthcare providers continue to seek out custom software development companies to create innovative solutions.

Data Interoperability

Data interoperability in healthcare refers to the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged. The goal is for a patient’s health data to be immediately available to doctors, regardless of what hospital or health network they are in.

There are four defined levels of interoperability:

  1. Foundational: Basic data exchange without interpretation
  2. Structural: Standardized format for data exchange
  3. Semantic: Common understanding of exchanged data’s meaning
  4. Organizational: Governance, policies, and social/legal considerations for data exchange

Interoperability is crucial for improving patient care and outcomes, enhancing medical research capabilities, enabling public health surveillance (e.g., to detect disease outbreaks earlier), and streamlining administrative processes.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) issued their final rules for interoperability years ago. Since then, healthcare organizations have faced major challenges in achieving it, including legacy systems with different data structures, varying terminologies and documentation methods across systems, and privacy and security concerns.

Emerging trends in interoperability include an increased focus on semantic interoperability,  the integration of artificial intelligence for data interpretation, and the expansion of patient access to their own health data.

Data interoperability remains a critical goal in healthcare, with ongoing efforts to overcome technical, organizational, and policy challenges to achieve seamless, secure, and meaningful exchange of health information across the entire healthcare ecosystem.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are revolutionizing healthcare by enhancing diagnostic accuracy, personalizing treatment plans, and optimizing operational efficiencies. Areas already impacted by AI include:

Medical Diagnosis and Imaging: AI algorithms can analyze medical images (X-rays, MRIs, CT scans) to detect abnormalities such as tumors, fractures, and other conditions with high accuracy. AI also assists in examining tissue samples to identify diseases at a microscopic level, improving the speed and accuracy of diagnoses.

Predictive Analytics: AI models predict the likelihood of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer by analyzing patient data, including genetic information, lifestyle factors, and medical history. Likewise, AI can forecast disease outbreaks by analyzing patterns in large datasets, aiding in public health planning and response.

Personalized Medicine: AI helps create personalized treatment plans by considering individual patient data, including genetic makeup, environmental factors, and lifestyle. This approach is particularly beneficial in oncology, where treatments can be tailored to the genetic profile of a patient’s tumor.

Drug Discovery: AI accelerates drug discovery by predicting how different compounds will interact with targets in the body, identifying potential drug candidates faster and more cost-effectively.

Robotic Surgery: AI-powered robotic systems assist surgeons in performing precise and minimally invasive procedures. These systems provide enhanced visualization and control, leading to fewer complications and faster recovery times.

Healthcare Data Management: AI streamlines the management of EHRs by automating data entry, reducing errors, and ensuring that critical patient information is easily accessible. It may also help achieve interoperability; AI facilitates the integration and analysis of data from various sources, improving the continuity of care and enabling comprehensive patient insights.

Patient Engagement and Support: AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants provide patients with 24/7 support, answering questions, scheduling appointments, and offering health advice. AI systems monitor patients’ health metrics in real time, alerting healthcare providers to potential issues before they become critical.

While challenges remain in leveraging healthcare AI, ongoing advancements and regulatory support will likely drive further integration of these technologies, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes and more efficient healthcare systems.

Types of Healthcare Software

To address these shifting industry trends, software development companies adapt existing healthcare applications and create solutions to leverage new technologies. Broadly categorized, healthcare software solutions fall into one of nine categories.

1. Electronic Health Records Systems Core

EHRs are comprehensive software systems designed to manage and streamline patient care in healthcare settings. These systems store and organize patient data such as medical histories, diagnoses, current medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, laboratory test results, and other critical information.

Doctors and nurses use EHRs daily to create and update clinical notes, order new prescription medications, schedule tests and procedures, and submit referrals to specialists. EHRs can also provide alerts, reminders, and evidence-based guidelines to assist clinical decision-making.

Epic and Oracle Health (formerly Cerner) are market leaders in the EHR space for large healthcare organizations, while vendors like Athenahealth cater to smaller practices.

EHR solutions continue to evolve, with increasing focus on user-friendly interfaces, interoperability, and leveraging AI and other technologies to improve patient care and provider efficiency.

2. Practice Management Software

Practice management software is designed to streamline the administrative and business aspects of medical practices. Whereas EHRs are primarily used by doctors and nurses, practice management software is used by office staff to book, modify, and cancel patient appointments, capture and store patient insurance information, and handle insurance claims, patient billing, and payments.

Practice management solutions also include reporting and analytics features that help office managers track accounts receivable, revenue cycles, appointment no-show rates, and provider productivity. They often integrate with the practice’s EHR system or include EHR functionality of their own to enable the seamless flow of clinical and administrative data.

3. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

RPM apps allow patients to share biometric data, such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, weight, and so on with healthcare providers remotely. These apps interface with Bluetooth-enabled medical devices to record readings and transmit data to a centralized dashboard for providers to review. 

Providers use these apps to monitor patient data in real time, allowing for quick interventions when needed. RPM also allows for long-term monitoring of many health conditions and enhances data-driven clinical decision-making. For example, wearable or implanted heart monitors give cardiologists a steady stream of data about heart function to detect instances of atrial fibrillation.

Remote patient monitoring improves patient self-management and adherence to care plans and increases their engagement and satisfaction. Whether RPM provides a constant reminder of their care plan or they feel like “the doctor is always watching,” patients take better care of themselves at home, which reduces hospital readmissions and unnecessary ER visits—in turn, lowering overall healthcare costs.

The future of healthcare RPM will see the increasing use of AI for predictive analytics, which will allow for earlier detection of symptoms. There’s also room for greater integration with telehealth platforms, enhancement of patient engagement features, and an expansion of RPM technology to serve broader patient populations and health conditions.

4. Telemedicine Platforms

Telemedicine platforms are software systems that enable healthcare providers to deliver remote clinical services to patients. As previously mentioned, these platforms saw a surge in uptake during the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their popularity persists.

At their core, these types of healthcare software allow real-time audio and video interactions between patients and providers. Some applications include features like screen sharing and digital whiteboards to allow doctors to share images, diagrams, and other information during an encounter. Secure messaging, appointment scheduling, and EHR integration are common to telemedicine apps.

Healthcare organizations value telehealth software’s ability to improve access to care, which is especially beneficial for rural or mobility-limited patients who find it difficult to attend in-person checkups. Telemedicine improves the continuity of care by facilitating follow-up care and better management of chronic disease.

Patients prefer telehealth options for their convenience. They can attend an appointment from anywhere with an internet connection, eliminating travel time and hassles.

Both providers and patients value the reduction of healthcare costs telemedicine fosters by preventing unnecessary ER visits. It also limits exposure to contagious illnesses for healthcare staff, patients, and family caregivers.

Telemedicine platforms continue to improve, with increasing focus on user experience, integration with other healthcare IT systems, and leveraging advanced technologies to improve the quality of virtual care.

5. Clinical Decision Support Systems

A clinical decision support system (CDSS) is healthcare data analysis software that healthcare providers use to make better care decisions. A CDSS employs knowledge management and data mining to deliver clinical advice based on patient data. Providers use it to analyze a patient’s history, symptoms, and other data to reach a diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan.

Clinical decision support systems assist doctors and nurses at the time of care and give care plan recommendations. They deliver reminders for preventive care, alert doctors to dangerous drug interactions, and flag when redundant testing has been scheduled.

A CDSS can surface improper diagnoses and missed or erroneous medication doses. These mistakes are reported in population health management (PHM) reports to drive improvement initiatives.

6. Patient Engagement Portals

Patient engagement portals are digital platforms designed to enhance the interaction between patients and healthcare providers. These portals empower patients by providing them with easy access to their health information and facilitating communication with their care teams.

Using their provider’s patient portal, patients can view their medical history, lab results, medication lists, and immunization records to gain a comprehensive overview of their health status. They can also book, reschedule, or cancel appointments online. Most portal solutions provide secure communication between patients and healthcare providers, allowing patients to ask questions, request prescription refills, and receive advice without needing an in-person visit.

The value of a patient portal to providers is that it helps them improve patient engagement. Most portal software tailors educational materials to the patient’s condition, providing articles, videos, and interactive tools to help patients better understand their health and medications.

Patients can view their billing statements and make payments online via their patient portal. They can also request prescription refills and view their medication history. Some portal apps can send reminders when it’s time to take a medication, which helps improve treatment adherence.

Patient engagement portals are transforming the way patients interact with healthcare providers, making healthcare more accessible, efficient, and patient-centered. As technology continues to evolve, these portals will play an increasingly vital role in improving patient outcomes and healthcare delivery.

7. Health Information Exchange (HIE) Systems

Health Information Exchange (HIE) systems play a significant role in the drive for healthcare data integration and interoperability. They enable the secure sharing of patient health information across different healthcare organizations and providers, allowing doctors to access comprehensive patient records regardless of where care is delivered.

HIEs use standardized formats and protocols (like HL7) to ensure data can be understood across different systems. Sophisticated algorithms accurately match patient records from different EHRs and other sources.

HIEs give providers access to more complete patient histories, enabling them to make better-informed decisions and avoid duplicating tests and procedures by making existing results available. These systems also increase patient safety by making critical information—like allergies and medications—visible across care settings.

HIE systems play a crucial role in modern healthcare by facilitating the secure and efficient exchange of patient information across the healthcare ecosystem. As technology advances and regulations evolve, HIE systems will continue to be a key driver of improved care coordination and healthcare quality.

8. Medical Imaging Software

Medical imaging software aids doctors and specialists in analyzing X-rays, MRIs, CTs, ultrasounds, PET scans, and other image-based tests. These applications often include advanced algorithms for automated image analysis, such as segmentation, registration, and quantification.

Imaging software reduces the turnaround time for image interpretation and reporting, allowing radiologists to deliver critical results faster. Modern imaging solutions incorporate AI and ML algorithms to assist in detecting abnormalities, such as tumors or fractures, with high accuracy. This improved diagnostic accuracy enhances healthcare providers’ ability to diagnose conditions accurately and early.

Because medical imaging software automates routine tasks, radiologists can focus on complex cases. The advanced image analysis enabled by these applications reduces the likelihood of missed diagnoses, leading to more effective treatment plans.

9. Custom Healthcare Software

Medicine continually advances, and new devices and techniques are developed each year. From new ways of assessing newborns’ health to innovations in managing concussions and paralysis, forward-thinking healthcare professionals are making great strides in improving treatment. Many of these innovations need custom healthcare software to power them.

Custom software also addresses the niche requirements of specialty clinics, pharmacies, and other healthcare organizations whose needs aren’t met by commercial solutions.

Without in-house resources to build the application they envision, these healthcare innovators turn to software development companies like Taazaa to create tailored solutions.

Key Considerations for Healthcare App Development

Whether creating applications internally or partnering with an outside resource, developers must take into consideration several types of healthcare software factors. Chief among them is compliance with the laws, regulations, and standards of the countries in which the software will be used.

Regulatory compliance is central to healthcare software development due to the sensitive nature of patient data and the potential impact on patient care. There are many compliance aspects that will need to be addressed.

HIPAA Compliance: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets standards for protecting patient health information. Healthcare software must implement security measures to safeguard patient data, including encryption, access controls, and audit trails.

FDA Regulations: Depending on the functionality, some healthcare software may be considered a medical device and subject to FDA regulations. This can include requirements for quality management systems, risk management, and clinical validation.

Interoperability Standards: Regulations like the 21st Century Cures Act promote interoperability in healthcare IT. Software developers need to ensure their products can exchange data using standard formats like HL7 FHIR.

Data Privacy Laws: In addition to HIPAA, developers may need to comply with other data privacy regulations like GDPR (for software used in Europe) or state-specific laws.

Security Requirements: Compliance with the regulations listed above goes a long way toward ensuring your app has strong security. Nevertheless, new healthcare data breaches happen all the time, and the future of healthcare software will be increasingly focused on preventing these attacks. Today’s developers must keep up with the latest security measures, including features like multi-factor authentication, encryption, and regular security audits.

Documentation and Traceability: Regulatory compliance often requires extensive documentation of development processes, testing, and risk management activities. Depending on the types of healthcare software being built, developers may need to create and maintain a comprehensive traceability matrix in order to pass regulatory audits.

Regulatory compliance evolves to address healthcare industry trends and new threats. It requires ongoing attention and expertise to ensure that new digital products meet all necessary standards and regulations. Healthcare software developers need processes in place to monitor regulatory updates and maintain compliance over time.

Other Considerations

Beyond compliance concerns, other software development factors that need close attention include:

  • User-Centered Design: Intuitive interfaces are crucial for both patient-facing and clinical applications. If the application is patient-facing, the user may be physically impaired. Clinicians may also have uncommon interface issues that need to be addressed. MVPs and prototypes are particularly valuable in ensuring the application’s design overcomes any unique user limitations.
  • Scalability: Patient data is big data, and it’s only going to get bigger. The future of healthcare software depends on applications that can handle growing data volumes and user bases.
  • Integration Capabilities: To meet the mandates for interoperability, healthcare software must seamlessly and securely connect with existing healthcare IT ecosystems. Integration capabilities should be addressed early in the development process.

The Future of Healthcare Applications

Healthcare industry trends are heading into uncharted, tumultuous waters. A continuous stream of new discoveries and technologies makes developing healthcare applications both challenging and exciting.

Artificial intelligence will undoubtedly have the biggest near-term impact on the industry. AI’s ability to mine medical data, formulate treatment plans, and discover new drugs has already caused a sea change. With the evolution of generative AI tools, we will see a flood of enhanced tools for both patients and healthcare professionals.

The AI revolution is also fueling new developments in robotics for healthcare. Robots are under development for an array of health-related purposes: robot companions for mental health, surgical robots, pharmaceutical robots, robots that disinfect facilities, and even robotic exoskeletons.

Digital therapeutics (DTx) is another emerging avenue that is quickly gaining traction. DTX refers to the use of software to improve patient health. It goes beyond consumer fitness and health apps to help patients manage chronic conditions more effectively and reduce hospital readmission rates. DTx apps are evidence-based, clinically backed solutions that work in conjunction with traditional therapeutics, and they are proving to be very effective.

AR and VR, wearables, and portable diagnostic devices are other software-empowered healthcare industry trends to keep an eye on. These technologies help improve treatment and make remote patient monitoring more accurate.

Healthcare application development presents unique challenges and opportunities. By focusing on user needs, leveraging emerging technologies, and adhering to industry standards and regulations, developers can create innovative solutions that improve patient care and streamline healthcare operations.

As the industry continues to evolve, staying abreast of trends and maintaining a flexible, modular approach to development will be key to success in this dynamic field.

 If you have an innovative healthcare idea or need custom healthcare software, we’d love to help you bring it to life. We’ve developed many types of healthcare software and are ready to bring our expertise to your project. Contact Taazaa’s solution consultant to get started.

David Borcherding

David is a Senior Content Writer at Taazaa. He has 15+ years of B2B software marketing experience, and is an ardent champion of quality content. He enjoys finding fresh, new ways to relay helpful information to our customers.