Healthcare organizations are largely dependent on digital technology to deliver quality products and services. In the last 5 years, we have seen the healthcare sector going through a digital transformation and mobile apps are at the core of this transformation. Healthcare mobile apps are used by patients as well as healthcare professionals to handle daily tasks like medical references and maintaining databases. Meeting the quality standards set by healthcare regulatory authorities like FDA is crucial as in many instances, people’s lives are at stake. So let’s see how mobile apps are helping healthcare companies to enhance productivity and deliver quality services.
The Evolution of Mobile Healthcare Apps
Since the arrival of smartphones, we have witnessed a rise in the number of mhealth apps and the type of services they offer. In the initial stages, we saw apps that offered information about the healthcare centers in the vicinity and these apps also provided the option to book appointments. The advancement in mobile and wearable technology opened the doors for healthcare organizations to unleash their full potential.
In the last couple of years, enterprises are using technologies like AI and predictive analytics to develop better mHealth apps. Now we can see a variety of mHealth apps in the market providing different solutions to the healthcare professionals and the patients. Let’s have a look at the categories of mHealth apps that we can find on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
The most downloaded apps are among healthy lifestyle and women’s health categories. Smart fitness bands are in trend these days and fitness tracking apps are also one of the most used apps around the world. Apart from this, apps that provide health insurance services also come under mHealth apps. It bridges the gap between the policyholders and the insurance company by providing all the information on the fingertips.
Challenges in healthcare app testing
By the first quarter of 2020, there were more than 45,000 mHealth apps available on the app store. This shows how competitive the market has grown in recent years. But to stay ahead of the competition you need to overcome the challenges in testing and deliver a quality app. So let’s look at some of the major challenges in mHealth app testing.
Meeting the usability expectations
Whether it’s patients or healthcare professionals, usability is the most sought for quality in a mHealth app and EHR systems are a good example. So if the app is being built to maintain and search health records or to recommend a nutritional diet, the app should be convenient to use for all age groups.
There can be emergency scenarios where an elderly patient needs help and the app needs to alert the doctor or the caregiver. In this scenario, the elderly patient should be able to tap on the button quickly or the app should have a function to initiate a video call so that the caregiver can help the patient without wasting time.
This was just one scenario where only the caregiver and the patient were involved. But a healthcare app can be multifunctional and can be used by other stakeholders like administrative staff, insurance advisors, nurses, and more. This is why testers need to make sure that the app supports different workflows by creating user stories and scenarios as per the user’s needs. For instance, an insurer might want to track a patient’s treatment plan activities, including tests, office visits, and procedures remotely. While a physician might want to review a patient’s treatment progress remotely. Also, a caregiver should be able to access the supervisee’s current health status remotely.
Some patient management apps might need to access their medical documents to monitor the care receiving activity. In such cases, testers and developers can create a list of documents that can be accessed by the caregiver using some category filters. The documents can include medical prescription, procedure notes, lab and imaging results, consent forms, identification form, and medical conditions.
Building a foolproof app
It is crucial to develop a secure healthcare app that can withhold all the confidential data safe from malicious attacks, viruses, and other types of security breaches. To achieve this level of safety the app needs to be compliant with a legislative regulation like HIPPA.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act focuses on the security and privacy of confidential healthcare data and testers need to have knowledge of this act to make the app compliant. Some of the key areas to focus while checking the app’s HIPAA compliance are access control, encrypted data transfer, audit log, data sanitization, load testing, and information on correct/incorrect data usage.
Ensuring quality in healthcare apps
Overcoming the challenges in healthcare app testing is essential but not enough to deliver a quality healthcare app. There are certain aspects of healthcare apps that need to be taken care of. So let’s take a look at the best practices that we need to focus on to achieve the level of quality that users expect from a healthcare app.
1. Continuous testing
Continuous testing gives you the confidence you need to meet the user expectations from a healthcare app. By implementing continuous testing you will be testing the code continuously at each and every step of the testing cycle. Continuous testing also means that you will use automation often to reduce the chances of human error while reducing the release cycle. The added advantage of shift left in testing will result in test automation scripting and defect identification in the coding phase resulting in a superior quality build. The best way you can deliver a flawless app is through implementing continuous testing.
2. Data confidentiality
While testing healthcare mobile apps, authentication, and user authorization process has to be given due attention. But there are still some areas that a quality engineer sometimes forget like report generated data and departmental boundaries. Restrictions on data availability should be implemented in the main EHR (Electronic health record) work process of an app. Also, protected health information (PHI) should be available for the patient care team. EHR restrictions should be included in the reporting module for drill-down reports. Reporting is regularly executed as a part of the data warehouse. If the caregiver does not access the patient’s data then the relevant PHI fields must be concealed.
3. Test Data Management
To get better test coverage and get better results of testing you need diverse test data. Especially in the case of testing clinical and non-clinical workflows through test automation. Therefore for successful automation testing of healthcare apps, you need to have production-like data including the inconsistencies that might be there in the production data. The app should be able to retrieve data swiftly whenever required. Protected health information must be organized to assure compliance. The data that mirrors its authenticity in production must be the foundation of a current test data management strategy.
4. User experience
Attributes of usability should be fixed prior to reaching the testing phase. However, a QA is not directly responsible for this. IT must be focused on the issues related to the usability, during the QA process. The reason is that IT adoption is the biggest issue in healthcare, unlike other sectors. Similarly, usability related problems can give rise to clinical issues. A recent example of this is when a patient in UCSF Benioff Children hospital got overdosed by 300%. The main reason was that the medication management interface was unsuccessful in preventing the user from committing the mistake.
5. App performance
Health apps usually serve a small number of users in a definite geographical boundary, unlike social media apps that have users across the globe. Still, a healthcare app should go through a rigorous load and scalability testing process. There can be scenarios where the user traffic might spike and the app should be able to handle the load smoothly. insights from performance systems would assist product managers to define areas such as archival strategy, local data size, scalability model, and so on. If the mHealth app does any CPU intensive actions or uses storage more often then there must an extensive evaluation of its performance.
In this blog we shared insights into the evolution of mHealth apps, challenges in healthcare app testing and ways to ensure quality in healthcare mobile apps. But to implement the new healthcare app testing trends, enterprises are opting for cloud solutions. A cloud testing platform like pCloudy provides the option to test healthcare apps on hundreds of real devices from anywhere, anytime. Refer to our case study where you will see how pCloudy helped a US-based multinational to achieve accelerated app adoption. In the recent turn of events, the flexibility of testing apps from anywhere in the world is much required. And you can make sure that you deliver a great app using next-gen features like an autonomous testing bot and Wildnet.