Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It influences how we feel, think and act. Moreover, it also helps us know how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Understanding people’s psychological patterns assist in building up tools to cope with mental health diseases. One of the most effective instruments can be a mental health application.
This eBook gives you a specific approach to mental-hygiene app creation, from the idea of mental health application development to bringing this app to fruition, knowing the life-disrupting peculiarities of different people. We will guide you through the sequence of steps toward the wished result. The appropriate order of app development stages is clarified below.
Step 1. Form a clear vision of your mental health app idea
When creating a mental health app, it’s crucial to have a clear idea of what kind of application you’re planning to build. You can begin by answering several simple questions:
- Is mental health the primary problem the app solves or is it a secondary problem?
- Will your application be for a specific category of users?
- Will your app tackle a particular mental health issue, or will it be a general-purpose app to keep one’s healthy mind in shape?
- Will you create a standalone application, or will it complement in-person therapy?
What kind of app are you thinking about?
Do you want to create a digital library, an assessment app, or an app that will actively help patients through meditation audio records, mood tracking, and affirmations to boost self-confidence? Or will you create a teletherapy app?
Is mental health the app’s primary focus?
Some applications deal with specific physical issues — addictions, disabilities, chronic illnesses, rehabilitation — that offer, among other things, functionality to treat the mental side of things. Usually, these apps offer mood trackers, sleep-aiding functionality, and meditation as a supplement to dealing with the primary physical issue, to help users form healthy habits, and so on.
Who is your app’s target audience?
Understanding your target audience is vital for finding a market fit. Specific mental health issues can be appropriate to certain groups of people. You can create a mental health application for children, youth, older people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, etc. Alternatively, you can target the general population.
But bear in mind that the most challenging apps to develop are those for all ages, genders, and demographics. Each category of people has different interests, mental issues, and reactions to specific app features. You need to consider dozens and even hundreds of factors affecting those completely different groups. If you are new to this sphere, it is better to choose one specific target audience, e.g., older people.
Whether your application will target seniors, adults, or teenagers will impact your choice of platforms. It certainly helps to know more about your intended patients to design relevant experiences. It is essential to fuse three aspects before creating a mental health app design:
- End-User. Understanding the target audience before developing a mental health app is necessary.
- Problem. You may ask yourself: what issues do users want to resolve?
- How to resolve customers’ mental health issues? You need to establish strong cooperation between mental health professionals and software developers.
You need to consider some more questions. Answering them would give you insights on how you can improve your product, gain a good reputation by providing top-notch services, and benefit yourself. Examine the issues below:
- What will motivate the target audience to be regular users?
- How do you convert the target audience to normal users?
- How to send notifications?
- What should be the frequency of the messages?
- How should the app take a role in the user’s routine?
- How to avoid things that annoy the user?
- Which demographic characteristics of the target audience should be considered: culture, age, economic status, background, etc.?
Does your app target a specific mental health issue?
Techniques to deal with disorders vary. Among such psychological tools and techniques, we can point up:
- Acceptance and commitment therapies;
- Mood training programs;
- Customized settings;
If a person has a severe mental disorder, then the assistance of a medical specialist is needed. There are many types of therapists available for patients. We can highlight such therapy methods which deal with mental issues:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT),
- Gestalt therapy,
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT),
- Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT),
- and Schema-focused therapy (SFT), etc.
When you build a mental illness app, you can choose a specific disorder to focus on, or you can provide help for multiple ailments and let users decide what they need help with.
Some apps help healthy people deal with everyday stress and burnout so that it doesn’t escalate into a full-blown issue like depression. So we can spotlight several kinds of mental health apps. Their classification will help you focus on the specific one which is more relevant to you.
Types of mental health apps
The first thing for a medical practice to decide when building a mental health app is what the app should focus on. This decision will affect all of the app’s logic and be critical for mental solutions development and subsequent success.
Roughly speaking, we can divide mental health apps into three categories. Mental disorder apps are tailored to the treatment of certain mental illnesses. Mental self-improvement apps are designed to improve the psychological state of mentally healthy people. Mental health apps can also be generalists dedicated to anyone with mental health needs. Let’s look at the peculiarities of apps in these three categories.
Mental disorder apps
Apps for people living with depression are built on the principle of exchanging messages or having calls with doctors. In contrast, others offer tips, self-guided mood training programs, and gamification elements.
Besides apps for depression, there are also apps tailored to treating conditions such as schizophrenia and psychoses.
However, doctors claim that apps designed for people with psychological disorders are ideally a supplement to traditional therapy; unlike apps for mentally healthy people, apps for people with psychological disorders must have doctors on board. These in-app professionals should be responsible for providing specialized support 24/7, thereby bringing maximum benefits to users.
In addition, apps for people with mental disorders often connect people sharing the same diagnosis, building communities. This connection helps users share feelings with those who will understand and support them. This system should bring together a patient’s relatives, caregivers, and doctors and ensure a secure connection with them.
Mental self-improvement apps
Mental health apps can be created for mentally healthy people wanting to monitor their mood swings, cultivate positive thinking, and break bad habits. Meditation is often at the heart of these apps. Apps for anxiety management provide other self-monitoring and self-help techniques, such as physical and mental relaxation, for those who don’t find meditation practical.
Some existing solutions for mentally healthy people also offer in-app psychologists for those who want to enlist the support of professionals to overcome mental illnesses.
Apps for mentally healthy individuals can be divided into general mental health apps, apps for addiction recovery, and stress-management apps.
General mental health apps. These apps enable users to enhance their self-awareness by controlling their moods, maintaining good habits, breaking bad ones, and cultivating positive thinking.
Apps for addiction recovery. The primary purpose of these apps is to help people beat bad habits such as drinking, smoking, and taking drugs. Additionally, these apps allow people to track how much time has passed since they started fighting a bad habit.
Stress and anxiety apps specialize in helping people struggling with stress and anxiety. Providing 24-hour anxiety toolkits and diaries enables users to track and document ideas that provoke restlessness.
General mental health apps.
Apps for all kinds of users can be tailored to mentally healthy individuals and those who suffer from severe mental disorders. Some mental health apps offer a range of services from doctors who provide scheduled care. Hundreds and even thousands of licensed therapists must be available via text, video, and voice call in those apps.
The most prevalent mental health apps and their characteristics
Let’s dive deep into the specifics of the most widespread mental health apps and how they can help customers to resolve their issues.
Anxiety, Depression & Mood Control Apps
Assessment Tests and Mood Control.
Objective: to determine whether or not an individual has symptoms of mental illness with the help of assessment tests.
- Short video calls with specialists to catch up on patients’ well-being face-to-face.
- Self-assessment features like questionnaires and journaling.
- Tools to get grounded (like meditations) to understand the initial feeling better.
Objective: save people and prevent any suicidal attempts
- Distracting tools and audio/video recordings to drag one’s attention from self-destructive thoughts.
- An emergency line for consultancy & ambulance.
- Guidelines for preventive care. Sometimes, a person suffering from such ideas can be unaware of how to behave, so it’s vital to educate friends and relatives on how they can help. You can add educational guides, hold lectures and webinars on this topic, etc.
- Tests for suicide tendencies. Such an in-app questionnaire can include previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, abuse, other mental disorders, alcohol/drug consumption, experienced traumatic events, and other health conditions.
Progress Tracking & Encouraging
Objective: to track an addicted person’s progress
- Progress bar. You can offer users or their therapists to set goals, for example, “Not to drink alcohol for a month.” And then, a patient can see the bar getting closer and closer to 100% every day.
- Day counter. It might be a good idea to place such a feature on the main screen so that patients can track their progress every day. Additionally, it might serve as a stimulator that will help not give up halfway through.
- Daily reports. Some people might feel more motivated knowing that they’ll have to fill out the info on how their recovery process is going at the end of the day.
- Create gamification features (avatars, tiers, or rewards for reaching a goal).
Relapse Prevention Tools
Objective: prevent mental illness relapse of an addicted person
- Include traditional therapy methods to help users control their mood and well-being.
- Add a lot of educational materials since awareness can help relapse situations. “ex-addicts” must understand that their nervous system, previous behavioral patterns, and hormones try to trick them into relapse. With an app, it’s easier to deliver this information, which can help them to resist temptation.
- Upload clinical tests (like drug or alcohol blood testing) to the app, so specialists can also access it. When there’s a specific form of accountability, addicts are less likely to experience a relapse, and doctors can react immediately.
Objective: mitigate symptoms, self-care (to the extent possible in such cases), early detection of exacerbation stages, etc.
- A mental health app for mental health issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should have a journaling feature. It’s pretty hard to track how one’s mental well-being changes during the day and how one feels. Psychiatrists can “prescribe” journaling at least three times a day or whenever someone feels like it. If a writing style, general mood of the text changes, or a person manages to explain how they think, what happened precisely, and so on, a specialist can tell that something is off. It can help a doctor determine regularities & connections, see how actions or people impact a patient’s mental state, and track the dynamics of the issue for treatment improvement.
- Include regular mood questionnaires with customized questions for each user.
Calorie Tracking & Recipes
Objective: track calories, so a patient doesn’t consume too quickly, overeat or eat too little.
- Use an API like CalorieKing so users can choose ingredients (dishes, different products, etc.), specify the weight of whatever they’re eating, and the tracker will automatically count calories and split up the dish into nutrients.
- Offer various lists with recipes. You can include such for different categories of patients: without unique demands regarding the ingredients, with diabetes, different allergies, lactose intolerance, low & high calories, and many others.
Objective: include functionality to plan meals.
- Customizable meals.
- Menus with a detailed description of each dish.
- Recipe planning.
- Notes and reminders.
- Calendar & others.
- Allow doctors to access a planner to control the process & maybe even manage it, change calories, add dishes, etc.
Objective: help people improve their personalities by themselves
- Live coaching sessions.
- Pre-recorded courses with step-by-step video guides.
- Learning material & useful links (articles, YouTube Channels, etc.).
- Goal setting.
Objective: suggest therapy for mental health disorders prevention.
- Offer pre-made goals after asking individuals to fill out questionnaires regarding their goals, set them with a coach or therapist after the session, and fully customize their daily/weekly/monthly to-do lists.
- Create a calendar for better progress visualization. Mark different results with different color, for example,
- 0-25% of the goal — red.
- 26-50% — orange.
- 51-75% — yellow.
- 76-100% — green.
Objective: offer psychical therapy for mental health disorders prevention.
- Include workouts:
- For different groups of muscles.
- Of different lengths.
- For people with different health issues (like back/knee pain, problems with the spine, etc.).
- Of various intensity & others.
- Workout’s exercise plans and monitoring
Meditation & Mindfulness
Objective: calm down the user, teach a person to be mindful
- Add meditation features to reduce stress, get grounded, understand their feelings better, and spend a couple of minutes in silence.
Is yours a standalone app?
Severe conditions require a specialist’s help, but an app can still be used as a supplement. Apps that track medications, moods, and habits can be used between therapy sessions or breaks. If developed as therapy supplements, these apps can offer therapists access to a patient’s data (with the patient consent).
On the other hand, standalone mental health apps are used independently, with or without personal therapy, and users may disclose the data in such apps at their sole discretion.
Step 2. Conduct competitor and market research
To learn how to make an app for mental health, one of the essential steps is to look at how others have succeeded and failed. It’s recommended to research the most successful apps in your niche, though it might be worth checking out several failed apps, as they might offer valuable lessons.
Competitor analysis will allow you to define the best and worst practices in your niche.
For mental health app development, it will also be helpful to look for reviews by medical professionals using such tools:
- You can filter several mental health apps using critical criteria based on the American Psychiatric Association App Evaluation Model.
- Read app reviews on PsyberGuide, a non-profit website where psychology and psychiatry specialists review and rate mental health apps based on credibility, transparency, and user experience.
Reviews on different platforms will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of popular mental health apps.
Besides competitor research, market research will help you define and better understand your target audience, define your unique value proposition, choose a monetization model, and prioritize feature development.
Step 3. Create a business plan
A business plan summarizes the research you’ve conducted to make a mental health app. Writing a proper business plan will help you get a clear picture in your head of what you want to build and how you want it to perform. Mobile app business plan creation is a large and separate topic. There are lots of guides and templates for this matter on the Internet. But we can mention the main items of this document just for you to know.
Business plan components
- Product. Here you set goals for your product and its features.
- Technology. The main issues here are: on what platforms do you want to be represented (Android, iOS, etc.), what programming language to use, and how much does it cost. Your development team can help you with that.
- Development process. You outline the main stages of the development process with an approximate daily plan here.
- Human resources. Here you briefly describe who is part of your team, its number, knowledge, and experience.
- Sales and Marketing. In this section, you define the industry, your main competitors, what, when, and how you will sell your product?
- Finances. You create your financial plan, balance, cash flow, and profit & loss reports here.
- Security & risks. In this section, you can outline the significant risks of your project and how you comply with HIPAA, GDPR, or any other relevant regulations for your product.
It’s essential to have as full a picture as possible before you start, but you’ll probably introduce changes to your business plan as you build your mental health app. This revision will reduce the number of trial-and-error mistakes, shorten the time to market, and lower the cost to develop your mental balance application. You need to take into account certain factors to create a successful app.
Key factors to consider
Integration with other services
How to consider:
Offer your users some extra services to boost your app value (e.g., partner up with clinics and pharmacies for medication delivery, free check-ups, and discounts).
Encouraging & Engaging
How to consider:
- Update and rotate content regularly to keep user retention high.
- Share user-friendly content with relevant communities
- Incorporate components that need user interaction (e.g., add gamification features) to give them a sense of togetherness and accomplishment.
Gamification features can include
- Achievements & Rewards.
- In-app currency/points that can be later exchanged for goods or merch.
- A leaderboard.
Implement such features into apps that aren’t designed for people with mental issues only, e.g., meditation apps, self-improvement apps, etc. It may not be safe for users with serious mental diseases to be triggered by gamification features. For example, people with anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, OCD, and other disorders, can become frustrated if they cannot get a sure reward, reach a level, collect points, take high places on the leaderboard, etc.
To prevent this, you can either not use such features in the first place or think them out really well so they don’t become harmful to users.
How to consider:
You can automate the workflow by:
- Registration of patients.
- Booking of appointments.
- Patients’ interviews before their meetings.
- Processing of payments.
- Daily symptom control.
- Prescription clarification. If a patient forgets about what, when, or how to do it, they can simply go on the app and double-check everything they need to.
How to consider:
The primary purpose of mental health apps is usually to calm users. Mental health episodes can be activated by triggers and irritants; therefore, when you think about making a mental health tracker app, it’s of the utmost importance to consider users’ possibly fragile states.
Key UX/UI design factors:
Usability: create an attractive design to get your users in a better mood, make them feel calm, hopeful, and optimistic, and increase their emotional response.
Performance: provide low latency and capability to operate in offline mode. If you’re building an online therapy solution, make sure it can scale with an increased number of users and support intense workloads.
Availability: your app should have a mobile and desktop version and run ioS and Android and other widely used operating systems and platforms.
The correct combination of UI elements:
- Minimalism and usage simplicity;
- Mild or pastel colors are preferred for healthcare apps (e.g., shades of blue, muted greens, and oranges). Never use red or black and white;
- Avoid high-contrast interfaces, sudden pop-up messages;
- The typography must be straightforward;
- Icons and images must add to the information along with aesthetics;
- The layout and buttons must prompt the user to take the necessary actions;
- Calm speech, soft relaxing melodies or sounds of nature – avoid sharp, loud sounds, especially noisy notification signals;
- Smooth, intuitive and easy navigation;
- Quick loading time and content optimized to make it load as fast as possible.
Elaborated elements, bright colors, or loud sounds can trigger disorder aggravation.
From your app’s logo through onboarding and to main screens, the design is your primary tool for establishing credibility and trust. Answers these questions to understand whether a user will like your application or not:
- How smooth is the onboarding process?
- Is it immediately apparent to users what they can do in the application?
- Does the UX follow the platform trends, simplifying user interactions?
How to consider:
Offer effective solutions to the user and healthcare backed by real-life research, credible information, knowledge base, and clinical evidence.
Consult with experienced practitioners from the start until the end of the development process. Before and after consultations with mental health specialists, you can create questionnaires that allow users to provide feedback about the severity of symptoms and offer-based evidence exercises.
How to consider:
Any given app should answer these questions to state its privacy and security matters:
- Who is the user?
- What information is collected?
- Does the app ensure a covered entity?
An app can collect and process personal data even if that data is not shared with physicians or on social media:
- An app may collect real-time location information to inform users about mental health practitioners working nearby.
- An app can use a user’s location information to deliver targeted ads.
- An app can use personal information to build an individual consumer profile.
Some apps collect medical data from the users. Further, it shares the data with research and medical teams. Such apps should adhere to set rules.
- USA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA
- European Union – General Data Protection Rules or GDPR
- United Kingdom – Data Protection Act
- Canada – Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act or PIPEDA
HIPAA regulations. The app may require real-time user location. Also, it might use some personal information. In such cases, it should adhere to the rules set by HIPAA and other such laws. However, the collected data shouldn’t be misused. However, apps designed for the personal usage of the patients do not come under HIPAA. This is because they do not share user information. If a covered entity uses an app, that app will also most likely have to comply with HIPAA regulations.
GDPR privacy standards. GDPR is a set of European Union regulations on how businesses manage personal data. Client data must be stored in anonymized form. If you are in the US and have clients in the EU, you need to comply with GDPR standards.
PIPEDA is a Canadian data privacy law that defines a relevant security framework for organizations.
Regulatory guidelines. Mental health services must be provided only by licensed therapists in order to avoid criminal and civil penalties. In-app therapists must be acquainted with federal and state laws (in the US).
Encrypting app data. Stored and shared data must be encrypted at all stages. Encryption means translating data into an unreadable form or using a secret code to provide access to this data only to those who have that code.
Passcodes, usernames, and biometrics. Login and password allow access to the client’s account. Biometrics authentication, such as facial recognition, fingerprint and iris scan, and voice scanning, is a sophisticated method to increase protection capabilities.
Security measures imply
- Multi-factor authentication (password, security token, biometric verification like fingerprints, face ID, voice recognition, one-time passcode, phone call verification, personal security questions).
- End-to-end encryption — a form of encryption where nobody except for the sender and the recipient is able to read the messages sent.
- Device fingerprinting. This feature is intended to identify a patient’s device (that includes the operating system, screen size, IP address, location, time, language, etc.). In case specific indicators suddenly change, a user gets a notification.
- Real-time fraud notifications.
Moreover, it’s essential to educate users on what they should or shouldn’t do to prevent data leaks. Awareness can be as helpful as the high level of security itself in some cases.
The developers must also understand privacy and data sharing concerns. Because a medical record or history is personal to an individual, protection, and safeguarding are imperative.
Doctor-centric Back end
How to consider:
Remember that therapists will also use a web or mobile app to interact with patients and a separate solution to review patient data, track their progress, etc. Think dashboards’ realm.
How to consider:
You need to follow the customer accordingly on all PC, tablets, smartphones, and other platforms.
How to consider:
Mental health data should flow freely from a mental well-being application to other providers’ psychiatry systems, e.g., EHR/EMR. You’ll never know what partnership opportunities will come knocking on the door unless you make patient data readily available for secure, anonymized sharing.
How to consider:
Meticulously test AI-based tools for app development to make sure they engage people to reflect on their mood and life goals. The features below should be considered to determine if AI works or not:
- Users can start conversations with the Chatbot and provide necessary inputs
- AI-aided app enables a friendly and easy-to-understand chat environment
- The app captures the user inputs and then matches that with the AI models and CBTs
- App understands the patterns of anxiety level, mood tracking, reframing thoughts, and depression
- This app offers suggestion and consultations based on widely used CBT, AI-learnings, meditation, yoga techniques
- It uses innovative AI capabilities to assist users with spiritual and medication activities
- You can get personalized suggestions toolkits (audio, video, exercises) to cope with their mental illness easily
Tone of voice
How to consider:
People seeking psychological help and acceptance get easily triggered and offended by communication ambiguities they may perceive as hostile or judgemental. Pay special attention to the tone of voice in in-app communication. All discussions in user groups should be thoroughly moderated to make them delicate and cheerful.
Emergency contact feature
How to consider:
The app you build should enable users to instantly contact their therapists and caregivers in an emergency (panic attacks, severe depression, suicidal thoughts, or nervous breakdowns). Provide appropriate contacts in the app for such situations.
How to consider:
It can be applied to filter huge amounts of data in moments to obtain treatment choices or solutions to many diseases.
How to consider:
App cloning is nothing but recreating a related app available in the market. You can analyze such a possibility bearing in mind your finances.
How to consider:
The timeline is the duration of building an application. You need to take into account when you are going to enter the market and what budget to spend.
The most reasonable thing to do is outline a few scenarios for the app development creation and monetization (pessimistic, optimistic, realistic, etc.). Such scenario planning gives you the possibility to maneuver with your resources.
Step 4. Find your team
If you’re building a mental health app from scratch, you’ll need to find several specialists. Let’s enlist professionals and describe their role in the app development project:
- Android developer (1 member). These specialists are needed to develop mental health app on Android base.
- iOS developer (1 member). These professionals are for developing mental health app on iOS system.
- Backend developer (1 member). The server-side specialists develop the backend section.
- UI/UX designer (1 member). Designers visualize the project by making prototypes, creating flow in the app, finalizing the project design, etc.
- Quality assurance specialists (2-3 members). Quality Assurance Managers test the lines of code to ensure that the parts of the project align with the technical documentation and that they work correctly.
- Project manager (1 member). The project manager is responsible for running the project daily, including ensuring that it stays within budget, is done on time, and is done within the scope laid out.
- Marketing specialist (1 member). Marketing specialists analyze the mental health apps market, give recommendations on how to promote your product to increase your sales.
- Business Analyst (1 member). The business analyst will bridge the gap between IT and the business by using data analytics to find solutions that will fit both your mental health business and your potential clients.
- System Architect (1 member). The system architect will write the technical documentation for the project data after receiving and analyzing data from the project manager and the business analyst.
The quality and price of each specialist may vary depending on forms of cooperation with them, their region, knowledge, and experience. You can find separate freelancers or hire a full-stack team from a mobile app development company. However, remember that medical apps are tricky in ways that involve more than just technical expertise. There are legal pitfalls unique to mobile apps in the healthcare sector, recommendations from health specialists, and requirements from health authorities regarding app functionality. That is why we recommend hiring specialists with experience in health app development.
Step 5. Build an MVP for Mental Health App
Launching a minimum viable product (MVP) for mental health application allows you to pursue the following objectives:
- Save costs,
- Acquire your first users,
- Test the application on users who aren’t developers,
- Earn early revenue,
- Enhance brand recognition before the full launch.
An MVP is cheaper and faster to build, being an abridged version of an application. Launching your app with a promise to expand and upgrade it can help you generate some revenue and build brand recognition online. This revenue can further develop, and online appreciation can translate to offline clients if you have your practice.
However, the MVP’s most significant benefit is getting honest feedback from users interested in the app. Feedback is even more critical when creating an app to help those with mental illnesses. For people who come to your app to feel calmer, a disruptive UX or laggy performance will be even more of an issue than it might be for the average user in other types of apps.
Let’s outline the main stages of creating an MVP. They can be described as follows:
- UI/UX design. Before app development, you need to create a design, form a list of the app’s features, and start prototyping.
- App development. According to technical tasks, the development team begins the coding process.
- App testing. After the development starts, the app testing process. You should do different kinds of tests before deployment.
- Deployment. When the MVP is ready, you can share it.
- Ongoing support. Gather users’ feedback and communicate with your customers.
- Maintenance. Constantly improve, update, and enhance your project.
The main elements of the building MVP process are prototyping, coding, and testing. We explain each of them below as a succession of steps and solutions variants.
1. List possible features and run rapid prototyping
When it comes to custom developing an app, having a list of features and testing them with a prototype allows you to verify your design ideas and ensure that the product will work as intended.
Enlist the mental health app features.
Before creating a prototype, you need to outline all characteristics you want to include in your app. Then remove those you think are not obligatory to develop at the MVP stage.
Ideally, it is good to make the sign-up process easy and short. However, it is necessary to get vital information such as full name, contact number, and email in wellness apps.
When you analyze how to develop a mental health app, it is better to find a balance between security and ease.
It’s essential to carefully walk your users through the app, explaining the functionality briefly but clearly. You might want to consider adding a bit of emotion and care through animated “assistants,” and you can hire a specialist to write your instructions to take into account your users’ specific needs.
Survey for patients
This entry survey is used to collect basic information concerning the user through questions. This information includes their age, location, gender, family status, current mental health conditions, physical state (e.g., disorders, allergies, intolerances, chronic illnesses), etc. This information can help the application match the client with the most relevant therapist. Some apps give an entry assessment test that helps users identify the cognitive issues, mainly if they have never been diagnosed before.
Survey for therapists
This survey verifies that the therapist is certified to work with patients. These can include asking for clinical permits, state permits, etc. They also give any necessary information about the counselor.
Each application should provide a personal experience for the user. A user profile with all the details helps to personalize the app. Add your preferences, set time for your activity, and more with the user profile.
Moreover, it would be great to personalize their profile by adding a photo, age, and gender.
Additionally, you can ask other questions or add extra features depending on the type of your product. For example, if doctors have to advise patience in your app, you might need a file uploading option to attach blood tests or other reports from specialists.
To manage a patient’s treatment process fully, doctors need access to an extended patient profile with their medical history, current diagnosis, prescriptions, test results, and so on. We’d recommend making three lists of patients for their most effective support:
- New ones (who haven’t had their first appointment yet, for example).
- Current ones.
- “Closed” ones (stopped working with them as of now).
It’s a good idea to customize these lists so each specialist can manage them according to their cases/preferences. You might as well consider allowing them to create an unlimited number of patient lists.
To make it easier for users to choose specialists and for doctors to work with patients that meet their competencies, you can add doctor profiles. A mental health tracker app should allow doctors to create a profile with information about them.
That can include
- Contact details.
- Rating & reviews.
- Price (per hour, for example).
- Available hours for appointments & others.
Calendars and checklists
For users, a calendar and a list may help manage their lives in order. As an extra, you can add a reward system for accomplishing tasks. In this way, users will feel inspired to do a little more the next day and even more the day after, keeping the process they continue to improve.
For doctors to conveniently manage their workload and timetable, you can add a scheduling tool to your app. One of the most widespread ways to enable this feature is by integrating a functional calendar with features to manage appointments, leave notes, etc.
Additionally, you can incorporate this feature with 3rd-Party Platforms already part of your processes. For example, you may automatically transfer data of new users to a CRM you use or link a video call in Google Meets or Zoom.
User techniques and therapists match
The entry survey and assessment data are used to reach the patient to a therapist. After selecting a user’s medical data, a mental health app can practice an algorithm to match clients with therapists. Based on the information provided by a person, therapists match automatically or via another specialist who asks questions about mental health.
In the US, counselors practice in the states where they are licensed. So you need to develop an algorithm that matches therapists and users from the same states only. The apps typically match users to a new counselor for free if they are unsatisfied with the one they get.
Every therapist and doctor has different rates and prices. So allow the doctors to showcase their plans for the patients.
Therapists use this space to record their patients’ goals and track their progress in real-time.
Patients can use this space to manage their therapy sessions, e.g., pause accounts for some time or put unfinished sessions on hold.
This allows the therapist to manage their caseloads and even determine how many clients they are willing to work with.
Dashboards are usually available on the provider’s website and tailored for therapists. They receive information from customers in the form of reports. The dashboard helps providers to manage and check patients’ progress.
It’s also vital to provide specialists with different metrics to manage, track, and optimize various aspects of their services. The dashboard shows analytical reports of user-collected information. The therapist can plan the sessions accordingly. They look through this information together with the client.
Dashboard analytics can include
- The daily/weekly/monthly number of patients.
- The total number of patients.
- New patients (requests).
- The total revenue (or the total over a certain period).
- The income from each patient.
- Satisfaction rate & others.
There are two ways how you can develop a dashboard for specialists:
- You create a separate solution for doctors.
- You build two versions of an app, and when signing up, a user can choose if they’re a doctor or a patient.
The development process will be different for the two options. However, all features apply to either.
Another crucial point that mental health app developers must keep in mind is emergency calls or messages. Especially we talk about users who have anxiety, panic attacks, or similar issues. It would be great if you provided them with an option to send emergency messages to their caregivers with one click.
Enable communication through text/audio/video/messaging and chats or in-app messaging features. It’s reasonable to allow patients & doctors to share files like lab results, documents, photos, etc., within the app. For a more convenient user experience, you can integrate the chat with users’ cameras so they can make photos/videos directly in the app. This feature helps the users to talk to therapists in privacy. Chats are usually for those patients who can’t speak out loud. Technically, the feature is the same for patients. However, doctors might need a more extended and structured version since they’ll have many chats active simultaneously.
As with patient profiles, conversations can be separated into several new, current, and not active screens. Additionally, a chat should be accessible in real-time during sessions.
Furthermore, many healthcare apps use a chatbot that asks users about their symptoms and concerns so doctors can dedicate more time to understanding the problem deeper. Additionally, you might add a bar for notes so that doctors can mark important information during calls. Then, these notes can be transferred to patients’ profiles (on the doctor’s version of the app).
Audio and video call
So patients & specialists can rewatch their sessions.
Notifications and Reminders
Some people have to take medicine at particular times throughout the day.
A set of reminders with alerts can give the notifications by helping them to take medication at the correct time.
Reports offer tailored suggestions (go for a walk, encourage self-monitoring, etc.). But don’t put many notices because they annoy users.
A characteristic for marking down triggering conditions can help users examine them and devise a set of proper responses. Users can then discuss these conditions with a therapist and find out the best ways of dealing with them.
Journaling helps people distribute their thoughts and understand what’s inside. As everyone is not comfortable physically writing down their thoughts and feelings, a journaling feature in your app could be a mobile and secure solution.
The sleep tracker analysis feature can help those working on their sleeping habits. It is designed for manual information or connected with a sleep examination device. These features allow users to insight into their sleep method and help them manage stability and potency throughout the day.
A mental health mobile app can enable users to share, for example, their moods or examination results with family and friends or on social media or with care providers, or with third-party healthcare providers. It can also enable users to export data or send it by email and other formats.
Sharing activities and moods to messenger apps or social networks gives a sense of belonging to the user. It also enables other people to show their concern and offer help to the user.
Like-minded communities (support groups)
Dealing with something is more comfortable when others around you are also dealing with it. Include a community feature in your application, offer text or video chats, let people share development and set goals, etc.
Communicating in a confidential setting is safe. Mental health professionals monitor these groups.
People like to explore mood patterns and handle stress for stress management. Besides, patients suffering from mental disorders want to track symptoms and progress. Thus, the self-monitoring feature helps patients note their actions, thoughts, and feelings.
Carefulness is a great way to change everyday life. Breathing techniques, guided and unguided meditation, prayers, and positive affirmations are just a few features you might include in the app.
Small interactive games improve cognitive skills and help patients relax. Mental care turns fun with the gamification element. But consider restraints of this feature that we noted above.
Apart from providing users with mood analysis, achievements sharing, or getting professional support, it is a great idea to give users information on various topics, from specific illnesses to well-being.
Affirmative statements and motivating quotes can boost a person’s confidence and help them battle their anxiety and depression.
It is an essential feature for people who have bipolar disorder, mood disorders, and depression. It allows users to keep track of their moods, which helps them gain a certain control over their conditions and sometimes helps them address mood-altering triggers.
Advanced visualization techniques offer users a visual method to improve their confidence and morale while keeping them relaxed and calm. Paintbrush functionality with different colors for mental activities can be one of such methods.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
AI and ML can make your mental health app more appealing to users since it can offer activities and content customized to users’ habits and preferences. AI can also enhance the app response using its learning model. But consider the AI limitations that we mentioned above.
AI conversational tools
Advanced conversational AI tools help users counter anxiety, stress, and various mental disorders in the most human way. However, bear in mind the AI constraints mentioned before.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
Several well-built CBT and DBT methods can help users avail better mental health treatment.
On-Demand Video/Audio Content
During mental health app development, consider that you might want to add on-demand content. It can be a great idea to offer on-demand videos or audios for situations when there’s no need to have an appointment with a specialist or call for urgent mental help, yet, a patient still can’t cope with it independently.
For example, you can add therapeutic videos/audio recordings for anxiety cases. Another use case can be if a patient has a panic attack, people who are currently near them or the patient themselves (if they’re able to) can play a recording with instructions on how to cope.
Such can also include recordings for
- Relaxing & stress-release,
- Mitigating symptoms or preventing exacerbation stages (depends on the type of your app),
- Daily positive affirmations to set the mood for the day & others.
Allow users to favorite features or content they often use — having access to them from the profile, or home screen will shorten the user journey and improve the user experience.
This is how many of these apps monetize their applications and pay counselors. Users choose the subscription that fits their needs and can cancel at any time or ask for refunds in line with the terms of service. Some subscriptions unlock extra features, e.g., video conferencing.
If you want to measure certain physical indicators like heart rate and daily activities (steps, running) and put that into users’ medical profiles, you can offer them to connect their Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices with your app.
To enable such, you’ll need an API like HealthKit from Apple, including transferring data from fitness apps and devices. At Stormotion, we’ve enabled data transactions from cadence and heart rate sensors right into the Platoon Fit app, a fitness project emphasizing health monitoring gadgets.
Many mental health services opt for mobile apps since they offer a wide variety of third-party integrations.
To add or change content and moderate activities, you’ll need an admin panel. It’s usually in the form of a simple web page.
Mental health functionality might also become part of an app tailored to dealing with other health issues, as there’s a connection between behavioral and physical health.
Create a prototype
Creating a prototype first not only helps you save 10x the cost as compared to jumping directly into development but can also significantly reduce how long it takes to build your app. There is a set of tools to shape the app concept before you plunge into the development of mental health apps. Those instruments we can describe below.
Management and Design
Design and management must be done in a few steps:
- Project Requirements
The reason to use: The entire assortment of tools and apps in the G-Suite is helpful for mental health app development. It helps sort the documents, create presentations, and list the steps.
Technology: Balsamiq Wireframes
The reason to use: Prototyping helps simulate the actual functioning of the application. With a prototype creating a life-like version of the final solution is possible without coding.
The reason to use: Creating a mental health app design provides insights into engagement and interaction. It helps structure the application as per the user’s eye movement, appeal, and intuitiveness.
2. Code the solution for patients and doctors
Once you’re done with prototyping, you are ready to proceed to the coding phase. This part will take the bulk of development time. We recommend following the Agile principles and going through interim tests with each iteration. Follow these tips to guarantee a timely delivery:
- It is crucial to be regulation-compliant.
Use third-party HIPAA or any other regulation-compliant audio/video calling Software Development Kits (SDKs) to build a telemedicine therapy app.
- Use off-the-shelf elements.
Use other off-the-shelf components, like a chat, to expedite delivery.
- Save developers’ time.
Setup the DevOps pipeline to free developers from spending time on non-essential tasks.
- Establish compliance security and data encryption.
Follow cybersecurity best practices for HIPAA compliance. To ensure the safety of confidential and sensitive information, it is advisable to encrypt text messages and videos on both endpoints.
- Therapist validation.
To adhere to federal and state regulations about where therapists can offer their services, you need to develop a way of validating the licenses of the therapists hired.
The app’s architecture needs to handle hundreds of actions done by thousands of users regardless of location. An application with video conferencing capabilities functionality, for example, may require heavier loads on the servers compared to chat-based apps.
- Unique session I.D. per call and token per participant.
Session IDs are necessary to initiate calls. Participant tokens will be unique to the session IDs and enable users to join the calls. The session IDs can also help prevent double-booking in the calendar if a calendar function exists.
- Use a list of the most relevant and practical development tools.
The coding instruments for the mental health app development can be shown below.
Coding should be done gradually according to several steps:
Why does it matter. Without hosting, you cannot deploy your application on any app store.
- Jitsi (for Streaming)
- MySQL (Database)
- LoadNinja (Testing)
Why does it matter. Choosing the right service for each of these functions is essential for accurate and optimal performance.
Furthermore, understand how to create an architecture of mental health apps for manual scaling.
Technology: Laravel PHP
Why does it matter. The backend structure of the application ensures effective uptime, speed, performance, and usability.
Why does it matter. The front-end development of the mental health app creates the interface and works on engagement.
- Mobile App
Technology: React Native
Why does it matter. It’s a user-friendly solution for doctors and patients.
- Payment Gateway: Platform-specific SDK
- Geolocation: Google Maps or Core Location API
- Social Sign-Ups: OpenID or SAML
- Push Notifications: Firebase Cloud Messaging
Why does it matter. Third-party integrations enlarge users’ abilities.
Technologies and platforms to use for development
You need to learn more about the latest technologies used to power the best-of-breed software in the mental health segment. Below is a typical tech stack for building mental and emotional health apps. The tech stack creates an ecosystem allowing several technologies to run one application. Some technologies include
- Angular for the front-end;
- Daily.co for secured video calls;
- Ionic for developing a hybrid mobile app;
- Node.js for the backend;
- S3 Bucket for developing the messaging feature from scratch;
- MongoDB for a secured database;
- Redis for sessions queues;
- Pusher to send push notifications without sensitive data;
- Kafka for exchanging messages between microservices.
Let’s explore what technologies and platforms for mental health app development are preferred for the most effective coding results.
Platforms and technologies
- Programming language. iOS Platform: Swift 5 or Objective-C. Android Platform: Kotlin or Java
- Target Operating system. iOS Platform: iOS 12+, tvOS 12+, watch OS 4.0+. Android Platform: Android 10 or above. Minimum supported OS: Android 5 (Lollipop)
- IDE. iOS Platform: AppCode or Xcode 11+. Android Platform: Android Studio
- SDK. iOS Platform: Cocoa touch, iOS SDK. Android Platform: Latest Android SDK
- Database. iOS Platform: MySQL or PostgreSQL. Android Platform: MongoDB, or MySQL
- Web server. iOS Platform: Nginx or Apache. Android Platform: Apache or Nginx
- Cloud storage. iOS Platform: Amazon services S3, EC2, Rackspace, or Heroku. Android Platform: Amazon services S3, EC2, Rackspace, or Heroku
- Social media. iOS Platform: Twitter SDK, Facebook SDK, Instagram SDK, or Google+ SDK. Android Platform: Facebook SDK, Google Play service, Instagram or Twitter Core SDK
- AI/ML tools. iOS Platform: Amazon Machine Learning, Pytorch. Android Platform: Microsoft CNTK, Google ML Kit
- Chat. iOS Platform: ActionCable WebSockets or SwitActionCable WebSocket. Android Platform: Recycler View
- Push Notification. iOS Platform: User Notifications Framework. Android Platform: Firebase Cloud Messages
- Analytics Module. iOS Platform: Analytics SDK. Android Platform: Fabric Firebase Analytics
- Payment Gateways. iOS Platform: PayPal, Braintree, Stripe. Android Platform: PayPal, Braintree, Stripe
- Other tools. iOS Platform: Twilio, Google Analytics, Google Maps, Optimizely, or ElasticSearch. Android Platform: Twilio, Google Analytics, Google Maps, Optimizely, or ElasticSearch
Cost of Mental Health App Development
Our business valuation begins with two critical things: idea feasibility and its cost. Because if we know both the things, then we are halfway through with our clients.
A feasibility study and cost help decide whether to take the next step or not. Cost estimation further depends on the features and functions added in the mental health app development. We can calculate the cost based on the number of hours the mental health app designers and developers will need.
What Affects Mental Health App Development Costs
Even a more or less accurate calculation of the costs is quite a challenge since each case is unique, and second of all, you never know what unexpected expenses can pop up during the process.
Factors that affect health app development costs:
- Scope. The audience and topics you want to address will determine the scope of your app. For example, an app targeting users with social anxiety and connecting them with doctors in a particular metropolitan area will have a narrower range than an app for patients with major depression and all types of anxiety disorders, matching them with therapists across the country.
- Application type. Platforms for teletherapy are more complex than apps for self-care that require no patient-doctor interaction. Hence, more time and effort will be needed to build them, and the price will differ accordingly.
- App platform. The most used platforms in the world are Android and IOS. The cost of app development determines the platform you choose. You can choose to develop for one platform first and add the second when your first app becomes successful and starts bringing in ROI. A project manager can suggest the best option after thorough research.
- Cross-platform availability. A cross-platform app, working on a wide range of devices and operating systems, will cost more than an app only for IOS or Android.
- The number of applications. As the number of programs increases, the development cost also increases, and vice versa. It entirely depends on the app developing company on how many programs they want to build, whether single or multiple.
- App complexity. The basic variant of a mobile app costs you so little compared to the high-end solution. So, decide according to your budget, the number & complexity of app features, and their functionalities for each program.
- Technologies you use for the development. More complex and time-consuming technologies cost more than simple ones.
- Third-party integrations. They will require extra expense if you want or need any.
- The hourly rate of your development team. You need to balance between quality, which is usually associated with higher rates, and your budget.
- The number of hours spent developing the app. The fewer hours spent on your app, the better for your budget.
- Human resources. Do you outsource or use your own human resources?
- Quality of development and marketing process. Quality mostly depends on your team (their region, location, cultural differences, attitude to work, knowledge, experience, and other aspects). As for the marketing process, you can handle marketing yourself, hire a third-party marketing specialist, or entrust marketing to your development company if they offer such a service.
- Collaboration model. There are different types of pricing regarding specific agreements with your team. One of the most influential models is the “Time and Materials model.” Under this model, you pay for the hours spent creating your mobile application. This model is adaptable, enabling you to make modifications to your app. You can choose what tasks your developers should do and what features to avoid to manage the cost of the development of mental health services.
You can set a maximum and a minimum number of hours or days to develop a specific application. For instance, we can take an AI-based mental health app. You can see the approximate number of days to build different features and separate apps below:
- Settings, User profile, Motivational Quotes – 2-5 days;
- Meditation, Push Notifications, Journaling, Medication reminders, In-app Human Assistance, Trigger checkers, Community features, Favorites, Admin panel, Share Activities, Conversational Tools – 5-10 days;
- App Onboarding, Sleep tracker, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Therapists Dashboard, Visualization Techniques – 10-20 days;
- Mood tracker – 20-30 days;
- Gamification, AI & ML – 20-40 days
We must state that this table will fetch only an estimated number of time to develop an app. As we said before, the actual cost could be higher or lower, depending on the features and technology used to create the solution. This estimate does not cover other expenses and efforts, such as time spent on communication, project preparation, release activities, project promotion, and several other activities, which can certainly influence the project cost.
You can estimate the cost of developing a mobile app. But no professional development company can provide you with an exact quote before discussing the details. Owners often forget to include the back end into the cost equation. You will need a database and probably some admin area to manage contents. So whoever is working on your quote, include this into their price.
After providing your team necessary details, you can calculate approximate development expenses. A simple formula can calculate the cost of app development:
Cost of App development = (Features x Time) x Hourly rate
In a nutshell, a beta version of a self-help app (self-monitoring, mood tracking app) will cost you around $40,000, while the price for more complex solutions starts at approximately $60,000. We are talking about MVPs here. Therefore, a simpler self-assessment app can be built in two to five months (depending on the assessment complexity) and will cost way less.
A complex app with multiple features may cost from $100,000 to $200,000, and its development may last for more than six months.
However, the ultimate price will be easier to calculate after the solution has passed its product discovery stage and all the development guidelines and requirements are mapped out.
3. Test your app
Testing can’t be overlooked, especially when talking about apps for issues as sensitive as mental health. Test the user experience, user interface, content — everything. Proper testing will result in fewer bugs and changes, shorten the development time and cost, and greatly improve your reputation as a service provider. Testing is an iterative process. After developing each application feature or updating the existing ones, follows the required testing procedures. It is an intrinsic part of the development process. This procedure is essential to identify bugs, glitches, and other errors.
However, you need to test everything before releasing the solution. You’d need to go through such things as:
- Functional testing. It’s a type of software testing that validates the software system against the functional requirements/specifications. The purpose of functional tests is to test each function of the software application by providing appropriate input and verifying the output against the applicable requirements. This kind of testing mainly involves black box testing, and it is not concerned about the application’s source code. Functional testing checks the User Interface, APIs, Database, Security, Client/Server communication, and other functionality of the Application Under Test. The testing can be done either manually or using automation.
- Performance testing. It is a software testing process used for testing the speed (determines whether the application responds quickly), response time, stability (determines if the application is stable under varying loads), reliability, scalability (determines maximum user load the software application can handle), and resource usage of a software application under a particular workload. The primary purpose of performance testing is to identify and eliminate the performance bottlenecks in the software application. It is a subset of performance engineering known as “Perf Testing.”
- Unit testing. A unit test is testing a unit – the smallest piece of code that can be logically isolated in a system. In most programming languages, that is a function, a subroutine, a method, or a property. The isolated part of the definition is essential.
- Stress testing. It is a type of software testing that verifies the stability & reliability of software applications. Stress testing measures software’s robustness and error handling capabilities under burdensome load conditions and ensures that software doesn’t crash under crunch situations. It tests beyond expected operating points and evaluates how the software works under extreme conditions.
- Usability testing. It is also known as User Experience (UX) Testing. This kind of testing method measures how easy and user-friendly a software application is. A small set of target end-users use software applications to expose usability defects. Usability testing mainly focuses on users’ ease of using the application, the flexibility of the application to handle controls, and the application’s ability to meet its objectives. This testing is recommended during the initial design phase of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC), which gives more visibility into the users’ expectations.
- Interface testing. It is a software testing type that verifies whether the communication between two different software systems is done correctly. A connection that integrates two components is called an interface. This interface in a computer world could be anything like APIs, web services, etc. Testing of these connecting services or interfaces is referred to as Interface Testing. An interface is a software that consists of sets of commands, messages, and other attributes that enable communication between a device and a user.
- In our case, interface testing checks the connection between the web server and the app server.
- Security testing. It is a software testing type that uncovers vulnerabilities, threats, and risks in a software application and prevents malicious attacks from intruders. The purpose of security tests is to identify all possible loopholes and weaknesses of the software system, resulting in a loss of information, revenue, and reputation at the hands of the employees or outsiders of the organization.
Note that usability testing of mental health apps is much more essential than other apps. Some mental disorders interfere with people’s ability to concentrate. Evaluate your app’s user acceptance through formal beta testing and subsequent studies.
- Compatibility testing. It is a software testing type that checks whether your software can run on different hardware, operating systems, applications, network environments, or mobile devices.
10 Takeaways from Negative Reviews on Mental Health Apps
If you want to learn how to create a user-friendly mental health app that leaves your competitors behind, take note of these reviews left by frustrated customers.
- Check all login options. While social logins like Facebook or Twitter may work fine, some new options like Apple ID may prevent users from logging into the app.
- Think through each user experience element: If the user doesn’t know why she earns points, there’s no reason to keep them.
- Find the balance between upselling a subscription and offering value to users.
- Make sure the design is stellar.
- Onboarding does matter.
- Check that security is not standing in the way of simplicity.
- Be clear about the pricing policy and then provide 5-star customer support.
- Weed out bugs, obviously.
- Make sure the product supports the latest mobile OSs and all screen sizes.
- Include new stuff for long-time users to keep them engaged.
We recommend using different web browsers, operating systems, and mobile platforms for testing:
- Mozilla Firefox
- Google Chrome
- Internet Explorer
- Windows 7, 8, and 10
- Mac (Latest Version)
- Android – Top three latest versions
- iPhone – iPhone 8.0 and above
Step 6. Monitor, analyze, and adjust performance
Whether you decide to release an MVP or a complete product, the launch is just the beginning of your app’s journey, and there’s a lot of work ahead.
Constant updates and improvements are a must for a mobile app to stay relevant. And to create updates that work well for your audience, you’ll need to know what it is that keeps users returning or pushes them away. Now it’s time to track the app performance with the in-app analytics tools you implemented during development, address user concerns and requests, and keep the application updated.
By monitoring users’ engagement metrics, you’ll be able to make better decisions about prioritizing the mental health app features, changes, and sales strategies.
You alter your preliminary business plan according to your customers’ and team’s suggestions. Actual parameters and performance indicators allow you to see a clear picture. If expected app success hasn’t happened, you need to analyze why to rework your plans and define the following actions according to these numbers. Everything should be improved from product and development to finance and marketing. Your financial, marketing, and other reports must reflect these changes.
Establish revision periods for the adjustment process. For instance, week, month, quarter, half of a year, or annual period. Then you can systematically improve your product to remove different glitches, bugs, and inconveniences for customers beforehand.
Motivate your teammates for constant improvements in their work. Create an inspiring working atmosphere. Then your staff would eliminate any issues and suggest solutions for the most significant work of your app.
Step 7. Launch your marketing campaign(s)
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of marketing for app performance. Even if your mental health app is one of a kind — maybe it uses an innovative approach or offers a unique combination of features — to attract users, you’ll need to market it wisely.
There are several ways to market your mental health mobile app:
- Social media advertising
- App store optimization
- Content marketing on your company’s blog and on third-party platforms
- Press coverage in relevant publications
- Hiring influencers to advertise your app
- Noticeable presence on social media and mental health forums
Depending on your target audience’s behavior and expectations, your marketing team will help you choose an appropriate strategy and marketing channels for the best exposure.
How do mental health apps make money?
Continuous development, maintenance, marketing, and support all cost money. There are several ways to make this money:
- From your related business activities;
- Government funding;
- Funding from professional investors;
- ROI from the app itself.
These are the monetization options you can choose from for a mobile app:
- Ads. In-app ads can either be a full-screen banner or merely a widget. The widget can be either in the sidebars or footers.
- Subscriptions. One can access the full content of a given app with a subscription model. They can be either at a monthly or yearly subscription.
- In-app purchases. Most of the apps have in-app purchases. It includes paid or free purchases.
- Freemium. Most content in the mental health apps is free.
- Paid downloads. Mental health apps can be made available for sale. The average rate accounts for $3.03.
- External links. Apps can provide links to products and related services. It can be in a book, a podcast, or an MP3 file.
Ads are not recommended for monetization, considering the specifics of mental health apps. They’ll disrupt the experience and might agitate users.
In-app purchases can also be annoying for users if there’s a lot of content and everything needs to be purchased separately.
Paid downloads are a valid option if your business is directly involved in providing mental health therapy and you already have a reputation and ways to gain app users from among your clients.
The two most-used monetization models, however, are subscriptions and freemium.
Subscription-based apps typically come with a trial period during which users have access to all content. With popular mental health apps, the trial period is up to two weeks.
The freemium model is where some content is free, and access to the full scope of content is paid by either a subscription or a one-time purchase.
Freemium remains one of the most popular revenue models with both entrepreneurs and customers, as it allows engaging different user sectors at once. As a rule, the freemium app provides a limited range of features for free, though if a user wants more functions or content available, they must buy it via in-app purchase. The freemium strategy also may grant a free version with all functionality available during the limited trial period, and after it finishes, customers should pay to get the app permanently.
Subscriptions offer a more minor but continuous flow of money, whereas one-time purchases provide more money at once but not overtime. Your business model will dictate what monetization model is best.
Step 8. Analyze if your mental health app is profitable
It’s a great idea to build a mental illness app to help people in need. However, unless we’re talking about nonprofit-owned social apps financially backed by governments, an app needs a return on investment to keep afloat.
How to develop a mental health app that’s profitable?
One way is to use unit economics to drive profit-aimed changes.
Unit economics is a tool that helps you calculate the value that a single “unit” — any quantifiable item — has for a business. A single user/customer is considered a unit in terms of mobile apps. This unit’s value can be found by dividing your customer’s lifetime value (LTV) by the customer acquisition cost (CAC).
E = LTV / CAC
CAC = Cost of acquisition campaign / Number of customers acquired from the campaign
LTV = Average conversion cost * Average number of conversions * Average customer lifetime with the app
You’re doing well if your app’s CAC is less than its LTV. If CAC is above LTV, it means you need to change something. With the help of unit economics, you can, at the early stages:
- assess your mental health app’s potential sustainability,
- forecast your app’s profits,
- optimize the prices of paid in-app content,
- determine optimal promotional strategies for the best profits.
Step 9. Continue to improve your app
Without upgrades and updates — and without following innovations and trends — any app will sooner or later sink into oblivion. That’s why it’s important not to abandon your mental health app after launch but to continuously monitor its performance, make data-based changes, and introduce updates to keep users engaged.
Supplying relevant and reliable information is a must for mental wellness apps, as even minor flaws may put a patient’s health in danger. Unfortunately, many apps that help with mental health provide outdated recommendations, inaccurate treatment guidelines, etc. Business owners must constantly keep content up-to-date, ensuring customers receive qualified help to avoid it.
Whatever app you choose to develop, the essential thing is to analyze the current market situation, your resources and possibilities, and your unique selling proposition (USP). Depending on the type of your app, it should be comfortable for the end-users, medical specialists, caregivers, patients’ relatives or friends, and medical organizations. Mental health apps must be secure and comply with relevant regulations. They also should be cost-effective and profitable.
To realize your desire for assistance in resolving mental health issues by developing an appropriate app, you need to communicate with experienced professionals. Consider the pros and cons of different developers and think about Empeek as your trusted partner. We have been successfully creating healthcare apps, including mental health ones, for several years.
Maybe you have extra questions? Book a call with us here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to create an outstanding mental health app.