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 a risk of potential infection, and this has increased the demand of Personalized healthcare assistance. That is among the biggest factor behind the astonishingly increasing demand for Healthcare App and Medical reference app.
Healthcare service providers are focusing on 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 app like Epocrates, as these apps offer a robust platform to doctors and users, who are hesitant to visit healthcare facility 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 app, efforts required, the estimated development cost. We are pretty much sure that this blog will help you while developing an application like Epocrates.
Table of Content
- 1 Why developing a Medical reference app is a good idea?
- 2 What is Epocrates?
- 3 How do Epocrates work?
- 4 Competitors of Epocrates
- 5 Features of Epocrates
- 6 Benefits of Epocrates application
- 7 Development Life Cycle to create Epocrates
- 7.1 Define the scope for the overall app–
- 7.2 Prioritize important features for MVP–
- 7.3 Adopt a suitable Development Approach–
- 7.4 Onboard the Development team–
- 7.5 Adopt a strategy to enhance App Security–
- 7.6 Select MBaaS and PaaS platforms–
- 7.7 Select 3rd Party APIs to implement non-core features–
- 7.8 Build APIs for core features–
- 7.9 Develop the Web Application–
- 7.10 Develop the iOS and Android app-
- 7.11 Application Testing-
- 7.12 Deploy and Publish the App-
- 8 What is Epocrates Plus, and how it is different from Standard App?
- 9 Additional Features of Epocrates Application
- 10 Technology Stack to build Epocrates like App
- 11 Cost to Develop an Epocrates Like Application
- 12 Let the Ideas Roll!
Why developing a Medical reference app is a good idea?
Medical reference app is among the most used medical app type in the world, which is used by both patients and doctors. As per a study conducted by Grand View Research report “The size is going to reach a massive USD 236.0 billion by 2026, and this market is going to witness an astonishing CAGR of 44.7%.”
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.
What is Epocrates?
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 the Epocrates for about $293 million.
Epocrates is used by doctors to lookup drug information, and currently, it has more than 1 million active members. It helps them to find medicine 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 the users.
It also allows users to validate Information from several authoritative sources ( Medical literature and FDA) and then digitally transformed to assist with clinical decision-making. Epocrates comes with the capability to identify pill based on its traits, multiple risk assessment tools, and medical calculators, therapeutic recommendations, laboratory test ordering guide, coding lookups, and contagious disease treatment guide.
How do Epocrates work?
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 :
- Drug retail pricing information from GoodRx.
- Colored pill pictures from First Databank.
- Formulary content is sourced from MMIT (Managed Markets Insight and Technology).
- Alternative medicine content is developed in collaboration with Natural Medicines, and Therapeutic Research Center, Inc.
- Diseases Reference content is developed with the help of BMJ Group.
- Calculators and Tools: Epocrates medical team works with EBMcalc to offer interactive medical equations, decision trees, and clinical criteria sets for wide range of medical specialties.
- Clinical Practice Guidelines: It source this information from top Government agencies and Medical societies, that enables healthcare professionals to fetch actionable recommendations based on the patient type.
Competitors of Epocrates
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 cost-effective alternative to 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 consult, infectious disease, and many others. Lexi-Comp is now embedded into UpToDate, and institutions that have UpToDate, won’t have to purchase it separately.
Features of Epocrates
Epocrates is equipped with several important features, which makes if the most used medical application :
Epocrates CME –
Epocrates CME provides educational articles, podcasts, videos, and more content based on 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 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.
COVID-19 News and Resources–
Users can access the 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.
Benefits of Epocrates application
Epocrates application offers numerous benefits for users:
- It saves Doctors while prescribing.
- It helps Doctors to prevent harmful interactions by using the drug interaction checker feature.
- Effective identification of pills by using medical equations and dosage calculators.
- It streamlines the prescribing process.
- Users can drag-and-drop the features and customize the applications as per their requirements.
- Users can access peer-reviewed medical content, which helps them with decision-making.
- It helps Doctors to fetch drug coverages information for over 6,000 US insurance plans.
Development Life Cycle to create Epocrates
We must follow the given steps to develop this application.
Define the scope for the overall app–
In this phase, we must onboard the competent project manager, IT architect, 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.
Prioritize important features for MVP–
Here we determine the vital features to be incorporated for MVP application by taking the below steps:
- Understand the requirements and Business value for customers by conducting discovery sessions.
- Use ‘Pain and Gain’ map tools to analyze how proposed features will address customers’ concerns.
- Prioritize features for MVP by using a prioritization matrix.
Adopt a suitable Development Approach–
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 :
- Decide if we need Native Android or iOS app development or a Cross-functional approach.
- Use a runtime environment like Node.js
- We must factor in app internationalization guidelines.
- For the Medical app, we need to ensure PHI information is secured.
- Adequate measures should be taken to comply with HIPAA and other industry-specific regulations.
- Select managed cloud services platforms like PaaS, MBaaS to eliminate the IT infrastructure management overheads.
- Develop core features by building own APIs, also use the 3rd party APIs for non-core features.
Onboard the Development team–
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 :
- UI/UX designers
- Web developers with Angular JS, React JS, and Node.JS skills
- Seasoned Android developers with advanced level Java skills
- iOS developers with Swift skills
- Software Testers
- DevOps engineers
- Project Manager/Scrum Master
This team should work cohesively to complete the project within 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.
Adopt a strategy to enhance App Security–
Information Security is the key parameter of any app’s usability and popularity. As far as Medical app is concerned, the 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 app and implement the following :
- Usage of strong AES-256 encryption algorithms.
- Implement MFA (multi-factor authentication) mechanism.
- Utilize next-gen Antivirus solutions and Firewalls.
- Mitigation of security risks such as broken authentication, injection, cross-site scripting, XML external entities, etc.
- Implement robust Cloud computing deployment strategy to ensure adequate security.
- Use encryption, digital signatures, quotas, authentication, secure gateways, and throttling to secure APIs.
- Usage of real-time threat intelligence software.
- Proactively include security in CI/CD pipeline via “compliance-as-code”.
Select MBaaS and PaaS platforms–
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 mobile backend.
On the other hand, the PaaS platforms help us to expedite app development, as it offers seamless management of operating system, 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 seamless scaling of applications at any point in time.
Select 3rd Party APIs to implement non-core features–
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.
- Use InferMedica API to display diagnostics information.
- All Drugs APIs solution, which includes Drug Allergy, Adverse Drug Effects, and Drug Interactions APIs.
- Use Twilio Programmable SMS to implement the Push notifications feature.
Build APIs for core features–
It is important to build the APIs to implement the core features, that may be used by the healthcare professionals and the 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 solution for API development.
Develop the Web Application–
Develop the iOS and Android app-
We must follow the below steps to develop the app.
For iOS app:
- Adhere to “Human Interface Guidelines” and develop a user-friendly UI.
- Program the app using Swift language and Xcode (IDE).
- Integrate core feature APIs and the 3rd party APIs.
For Android app:
- Design a neat and clean UI by using the Material Design guidelines.
- Code the application in Java and Android Studio (IDE).
- Integrate the core APIs and 3rd party APIs.
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.
For iOS apps-
use ExperiTest and XCTest mobile device lab to perform the application testing.
For Android apps-
use ExperiTest and Espresso mobile device lab to perform testing.
Deploy and Publish the App-
The app can be tested and deployed on Cloud via AWS DevOps tools. For iOS platform, we must follow the instructions provided on “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 on “Publish your app” section.
What is Epocrates Plus, and how it is different from Standard App?
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 labs information, which helps users to save time and effort. Users can subscribe Epocrates Plus for just $16.99/month or $174.99/year.
Epocrates provides the features of Standard version such as-
- Drug information
- Pill ID
- Epocrates CME
- Clinical Guidelines
- Interaction Check
- COVID-19 Resources and News
Additional Features of Epocrates Application
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 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.
Infectious Disease Treatment–
This feature offers information about 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.
Technology Stack to build Epocrates like App
We can utilize the following technologies to develop Epocrates type of 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
Cost to Develop an Epocrates Like Application
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 product 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 clinician 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 a 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.
FAQ’s Epocrates Application
- 1- Where can we find the Usage and indications for a drug in Epocrates?
We can find Off-label uses (denoted by and 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.
- 2- Where can we find Formulary information in Epocrates?
We can access the Formulary information by clicking on Drugs tab. In the “Browse Drugs” section, the Formulary codes are displayed to the right side of every drug. Users can click on these codes to fetch more details and meanings of these codes.
- 3- What is Interaction Check and how important it is?
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 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.
- 4- Where can we access Drug Allergy information in Epocrates?
Epocrates drug monographs include the information about multiple clinically relevant allergens and cross-allergen risks. Users can access the Drug Allergy information in the Contraindications/Cautions section of application.
- 5- When do Epocrates adds latest drug products?
A latest Drug product is added into the Epocrates application once the Drug is commercially available to be prescribed in the USA.
- 6- How can customers purchase Epocrates?
Users can purchase the Epocrates+ subscription by logging into the application and then proceed with upgrade and Checks Out. Users can also tap on the ‘Locked Tiles’ on Home page, and then proceed with the subscription plan purchase using your Google Pay or Apple.
- 7- From where Epocrates derives the Black Box Warnings content?
The Black Box Warnings section of Epocrates application monographs incorporates the content derived from boxed warnings usually appears in the US prescribing information. Epocrates application can add content and update this section before it is being published in the US prescribing information.
- 8- What is Pill ID?
Pill ID is 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 matches organized drug name in alphabetical order, including images which can be tapped to enlarge.
- 9- Can Medical students’ access Epocrates?
Yes, Medical students can access the full version of the application called Epocrates Plus. This version provides them all the features of standard Epocrates app, along with disease information, ICD-10, Lab information, alternative medicine, and infectious disease treatment information
- 10- Does Epocrates provide intravenous (IV) administration information?
No, it doesn’t provide this information, at least till now. However, the users can refer to the “Notes” section of a Drug monograph to make a record of Intravenous (IV) administration information for frequently administered and ordered drugs.
Satyam Chaturvedi is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Arka Softwares, a leading mobile app development company dealing in modern and futuristic web and mobile app solutions. He loves to spend his time in studying the market trends and helping startups and enterprises in achieving their business goals.