The Challenges of Designing a Mobile Medical App for Safe and Effective Use

As application designers have begun taking advantage of the advancements of technology and the growing patient trend for self-diagnosis and treatment, regulators have begun scrutinizing mobile medical apps.

One of the main challenges that appears when designing a mobile medical app is the respecting the data protection rules. Data security is crucial in a health care environment. Thus, correct authentication of authorized users of mobile devices to ensure appropriate data access is a central issue. One of the vital concerns is that most of health apps transmit sensitive health-related data to third-party companies without doing so over secured (HTTPS) connections. Most of the apps do not meet legal requirements or standards meant to prevent users’ inappropriate and uncontrolled data usage and disclosure to third-party companies.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation – in force as of 25 May 2018 aims at ensuring   better protection of personal data , which might  increase the  trust in mobile medical apps.

Another challenge related with designing an effective interface, which is often underestimated, is a proper implementation of user interfaces and interaction models in clinical contexts. The lack of visibility of some information can easily lead to errors and jeopardize the health of the patient. This problem is accentuated when working with mobile devices. There is little research analysing the impacts of these new interfaces, such as using eye tracking to evaluate the screen exploration or evaluating cognitive load and cognitive tunnelling. Indeed, the unique characteristics of mobile devices often require an entire rebuild of the existing interface. Regardless of high performance offered by the technology, the usability of mobile information services consequently suffers from interfaces which are too compact and cluttered with information.

Lastly, limited financial resources present an additional challenge. The introduction of mobile devices in a care facility requires a strong initial investment. When transitioning from a personal computer to a mobile device, important costs are incurred:

  • the cost of the device which is the core instrument of using mobile apps
  • the cost of development: the applications running on a personal computer must be adapted for the new platform
  • the cost of training: using a new tool induces a change in the workflow of the user which needs to be communicated properly

Ruta Petrosiute

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