The constant evolution and Technology influence has not only transformed the healthcare industry, but it has put a great demand and pressure on healthcare service providers as well.
We have witnessed a massive impact of COVID-19 all over the globe, where people are not hesitant to visit physicians or hospitals due to the risk of potential infection, and this has increased the demand for Personalized healthcare assistance. That is among the biggest factor behind the astonishingly increasing demand for Healthcare apps and Medical reference apps.
Healthcare service providers are focusing on the expansion of their operations, and they are implementing several strategies and tactics to venture into the personalized healthcare assistance mechanism.
Personalized healthcare assistance is slowly capturing the imagination of entrepreneurs, as these health apps are going to offer them a seamless business opportunity amid current world scenarios. Entrepreneurs are now mulling the idea to develop an app like Epocrates, as these apps offer a robust platform to doctors and users, who are hesitant to visit healthcare facilities for medical assistance.
Currently, we have several renowned medical applications in the market, such as Epocrates, Medscape, Micromedex, and Lexi-Comp.
In this article, we will discuss all the aspects of healthcare apps, the efforts required, and the estimated development cost. We are pretty much sure that this blog will help you while developing an application like Epocrates.
The medical reference app is among the most used medical app type in the world and is used by both patients and doctors. As per a study conducted by Grand View Research report “The global mHealth apps market size was valued at USD 38.2 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.8% from 2022 to 2030”
Currently, we have more than 1,00,000 mobile Health applications listed on major app stores, and more than 42% of apps are working on a paid business model, and they are making good revenue. Hence, developing an innovative mobile reference app is certainly a brilliant idea, as it will allow your business to expand rapidly, and also enhance revenue and profit.
Epocrates is a Medical Reference application, which was initially developed by 3 Stanford business school students in 1998. Initially, the Epocrates was launched for Palm devices. In 2013, Athena Health acquired Epocrates for about $293 million.
Epocrates is used by doctors to look up drug information, and currently, it has more than 1 million active members. It helps them to find medical information, alternate medicines, service providers, drug interactions, drug dosing, drug safety details, medical news, disease diagnosis, and management guidance, and calculate patient measurements like BMI.
The application is available for both Android and iOS platforms, and both free and paid subscription versions are also available for users.
It also allows users to validate Information from several authoritative sources ( Medical literature and FDA) and then digitally transformed it to assist with clinical decision-making.
Epocrates comes with the capability to identify pills based on their traits, multiple risk assessment tools, medical calculators, therapeutic recommendations, laboratory test ordering guides, coding lookups, and a contagious disease treatment guide.
Epocrates is a comprehensive, reliable, and easily navigable application used to fetch information about medicine usage, dosing, reactions, interaction, contraindications, pharmacology, pregnancy, and more. However, it is important to know from where it fetches the content and other information.
Most of the content is developed and compiled by the Epocrates Medical Information team. It sources the licensed content from 3rd party organizations, as mentioned below :
Though Epocrates is the oldest medical reference application in the market, there are certain worthy competitors available. These applications also offer numerous innovative features :
It offers a comprehensive drug guide, news aggregator, CME, and clinical reference. Medscape is a free application, and its iOS version is quite popular. It can be used offline as well, and it is known as a great alternative to Epocrates for drug interaction checking and drug dosing.
However, its medical reference feature falls short of getting updated information and evidence-based answers to queries.
This is a cost-effective alternative to the Epocrates app. Micromedex is available to the users via institutional subscription or could be owned by paying a small annual fee. Micromedex provides information on pharmacokinetics, which is missing in Epocrates.
Micromedex also offers a premium version that provides active surveillance, medication management, and clinical decision support service.
It is known for offering complete and in-depth information about drugs, symptoms, and alternative medicine. Lexi-Comp doesn’t offer a ‘free version’, it provides a subscription-based version, though many healthcare institutions enable their service providers to access Lexi-Comp free of cost.
The full version comes with guides for toxicology, natural products, 5-minute clinical consultations, infectious disease, and many others. Lexi-Comp is now embedded into UpToDate, and institutions that have UpToDate, won’t have to purchase it separately.
Epocrates is equipped with several important features, which makes it the most used medical application :
Epocrates CME provides educational articles, podcasts, videos, and more content based on the specialty selected by the users. This is a free feature available for all users.
This is an important feature, that helps users and healthcare professionals to check for potentially harmful interactions between multiple brands, OTC and generic drugs, or herbs and supplements.
It offers detailed interaction profiles for the active ingredients of a drug, it helps users to determine the requirements of monitoring, adjusting, or substituting therapy.
This feature helps users to identify a pill based on its physical characteristics and imprint code, including color, shape, and scoring. It also suggests possible matches with links and images of several substitutions of that product.
Review summaries of clinical practice guidelines from national specialty societies, with recommendations arranged by patient type.
This is an important feature, that lets the users fetch the drug information, safety information, and prescribing for thousands of brands, OTC, and generic drugs. Users can find pediatric and adult dosing information, drug interactions, pharmacology, adverse reactions, and contraindications.
Users can access COVID-19-related resources and breaking news via this feature.
This feature sends medical news alerts along with web links, which provide detailed information on a different genre of specialty.
This feature enables users to access comprehensive drug coverage information for more than 6,600 insurance plans by US state.
The app comes with more than 600 medical calculators, risk scores, and equations. Users can label the most used tools as favorites for easy access.
Epocrates application offers numerous benefits for users:
We must follow the given steps to develop this application.
In this phase, we must onboard a competent project manager, IT architect, and Business analysts (BAs) with extensive experience in the healthcare industry. They will discuss the business requirements, potential application features, and platforms (web, iOS, and Android) for which this application is going to be developed.
Here we determine the vital features to be incorporated for MVP application by taking the below steps:
It is important to have strong planning to ensure successful project delivery, and for that, we need a suitable development approach. We must discuss and decide on the given parameters :
Once the development approach is defined and adopted, we must onboard our development team. We need to have suitable staff for the below-mentioned roles :
This team should work cohesively to complete the project within the given timelines, and we must utilize the “Scrum” methodology to organize the resources. The project work could be tracked using project management tools like Jira.
The team will assess the requirements and define the iterations (Sprints) in the scrum parlance. The Project Manager must hold Daily stand-up meetings to ensure smooth project functioning. Apart from that regular ‘Sprint review meetings’ can be held to demonstrate the application and to obtain approvals from all stakeholders.
Information Security is the key parameter of any app’s usability and popularity. As far as Medical app is concerned, PHI needs to comply with regulations such as HIPAA. This is the reason why we must adopt a robust strategy to implement adequate security for the app and implement the following :
MBaaS platforms help us to integrate APIs and implement security features. We can integrate features such as push notifications and user management with an MBaaS platform, it also provides seamless scalability for the app.
MBaaS also manages the storage and cloud infrastructure, therefore, we don’t have to put extra effort to develop and manage the mobile backend.
On the other hand, the PaaS platforms help us to expedite mobile app development, as it offers seamless management of the operating systems, cloud infrastructure, network, runtime environment, and middleware, therefore, we can keep our focus on the application development tasks.
PaaS platforms also help us to add database resources, integrate APIs, and use DevOps tools. We can use AWS Elastic Beanstalk, which also helps us with the seamless scaling of applications at any point in time.
For an application like Epocrates, it is crucial to display medical diagnostics and drug interaction information, though it is not a core function of the app. Similarly, we need a ‘push notifications’ feature to keep the customers informed, and it is again a non-core feature.
To implement such features, it is better to integrate 3rd party APIs from the market. We can integrate the following 3rd party APIs for additional functionalities in our app.
It is important to build the APIs to implement the core features, that may be used by healthcare professionals and patients. We can use RESTful APIs to add such core features.
We can use Postman to develop APIs and carry out their testing, while Swagger can be used for API documentation. The APIs could be hosted on AWS or Azure cloud, apart from that MongoDB and PostgreSQL can be used as a database solutions for API development.
We must follow the below steps to develop the app.
Once the application is ready, we must initiate the mobile testing process to test the app on a wide range of devices, to ensure it works on all devices and platforms. The web app version could be tested using Selenium and other Automation tools to mitigate the errors and bugs.
We can use multiple mobile devices along with the Browser lab on the cloud to perform app testing on the following platforms.
use ExperiTest and XCTest mobile device lab to perform the application testing.
use ExperiTest and Espresso mobile device lab to perform testing.
The app can be tested and deployed on Cloud via AWS DevOps tools. For the iOS platform, we must follow the instructions provided on the “Submit your apps to the App Store” page to publish the app to the Apple App Store. To publish the application on Google Play, we must use the instructions given in the “Publish your app” section.
Epocrates app offers a ‘Plus’ version, that enables users to access additional content, including alternative medicine and disease information. Users can also access diagnostic and lab information, which helps users to save time and effort. Users can subscribe to Epocrates Plus for just $16.99/month or $174.99/year.
Epocrates provides the features of the Standard version such as-
It offers in-depth and peer-reviewed disease content sources from BMJ Publishing Group. Users can access exam information history, differential diagnosis, and treatment options for a specific patient.
Users can access information on huge numbers of panels and lab tests. Users can check collection guidance, test preparation, review differentials conditions, and other parameters, that may lead to test results.
It offers comprehensive information about alternative medicines, including supplements and herbs. Alternative medicines monographs include reported doses, usages for various reactions, cautions, symptoms, and conditions.
This feature offers information about the robust disease and alternative medicine.
Users can access ICD-10-Codes, which is a standard transaction code used for diagnostic purposes under the HIPAA act. It is utilized to keep a track of health care statistics, quality outcomes, disease burden, billing, and mortality statistics.
We can utilize the following technologies to develop the Epocrates-type app.
Frontend: Angular.JS, Vue.js, React
Backend: Laravel, Django, and Node.JS
Real-time Analytics Tools: Hadoop, Spark, IBM, Apache Flink, and Cisco.
Payment Gateways: PayPal, Braintree, E-Wallet, Stripe.
Push Notifications: Push.io and Twilio.
Database: HBase, MS SQL Server, MongoDB, Redis, PostgreSQL.
Cloud Environment: AWS, Google, and Azure.
Notifications Service: Nexmo and Twilio.
Monitoring and Log Maintenance – AWS CloudWatch
Storage & Backup Solutions – Amazon S3
The cost of developing an application such as Epocrates is indeed dependent on the efforts and hourly rates of the team you are going to hire.
We have provided a cost estimation of various countries, and it is quite evident that most of the western countries have higher hourly charges when we compare it with India and South American countries. Here we have a comparison of average hourly rates in different regions.
|Region||Monthly Price (Per Resource)||Average Price (Per Hour)|
With the above figures, it is highly recommended to outsource the system development work to these countries, as they can offer quality software products at a much lower cost.
However, we must state that this is just an estimated cost, the actual cost could vary due to various parameters. It depends on technology and the features we are incorporating into the application.
This estimate does not cover other costs and efforts, such as time spent on communication, project preparation, project release activities, project promotion, and several other activities, which are bound to influence the project cost.
Epocrates is certainly the most popular drug information app, which is widely used by clinicians and users alike. It has been designed in such a way, that anyone can use it at the point of care.
It offers comprehensive and highly reliable drug information, that can help people with decision-making. It helps prescribers to fulfill their drug dosing, adverse effects, interactions, and pharmacokinetics information requirement, without wasting time for both doctors and patients.
It is a wonderful idea to develop Medical reference and Drug information, as this sector is growing astonishingly and offers more space to worthy competitors for the existing applications. One can develop this app in-house or may engage a professional software development company for the same.
If you have an idea in mind and want to develop your own medical and drugs reference application, then you can contact us, we will be delighted to offer our assistance.
We can find Off-label uses (denoted by an asterisk) and FDA-approved indications for prescription drugs under the ‘Adult Dosing and Peds Dosing’ sections inside Epocrates drug monographs. Every bold header show use of the product along with its appropriate dosing.
We can access the Formulary information by clicking on the Drugs tab. In the “Browse Drugs” section, the Formulary codes are displayed on the right side of every drug. Users can click on these codes to fetch more details and meanings of these codes.
Interaction Check is a feature that helps users to check for potentially harmful interactions between up to 30 branded, OTC, alternative, and generic drugs at a time. It allows users to view the detailing of the interaction profile of every ingredient of the drug. These Interaction details are displayed at the ingredient level, which helps users to determine the adjustment, monitoring, and substitution of a drug component.
Epocrates drug monographs include information about multiple clinically relevant allergens and cross-allergen risks. Users can access the Drug Allergy information in the Contraindications/Cautions section of the application.
The latest Drug product is added into the Epocrates application once the Drug is commercially available to be prescribed in the USA.
Users can purchase the Epocrates+ subscription by logging into the application and then proceeding with the upgrade and Checks Out. Users can also tap on the ‘Locked Tiles’ on the Home page, and then proceed with the subscription plan purchase using Google Pay or Apple.
Pill ID is a parameter to validate the Identity of a pill. A pill can be identified by the code imprinted on it and/or by its physical characteristics such as color, scoring, and shape. A user or physician can also fetch the possible matched organized drug names in alphabetical order, including images that can be tapped to enlarge.
The app quickly earned over 1,000 downloads within two months of launch, and users have responded positively. ARKA Softwares boasted experienced resources who were happy to share their knowledge with the internal team.
While the development is ongoing, the client is pleased with the work thus far, which has met expectations. ARKA Softwares puts the needs of the client first, remaining open to feedback on their work. Their team is adaptable, responsive, and hard-working.
I started my project with Arka Softwares because it is a reputed company. And when I started working with them for my project, I found out that they have everything essential for my work. The app is still under development and but quite confident and it will turn out to be the best.