Did you know that out of 165,000 healthcare apps on the Apple store, only 5% see any significant number of downloads?

In today’s health conscious world, and as a specialist digital content agency, we see there are apps for just about everything. Apps to help you lose weight, put on muscle, track your run, improve your memory, monitor your heartbeat, help you get pregnant… I’ve got a couple myself (not the pregnancy one).

Yes, some are useful. Groundbreaking even. Take for example Headspace, an app that has made meditation and mindfulness training accessible to the masses, or Sprout Pregnancy, one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 Apps of the Year.

But for every one of these apps there are a hundred similar apps that don’t offer anything new. Indeed, according to Google, 25% of downloaded apps are never used. Often, this is because healthcare companies rush into releasing an app simply because everyone else is doing it. They produce something, anything, to join the market. The app does nothing, says nothing, and offers nothing. And achieves nothing.

So if your company is itching to create a healthcare app, hang fire. Here are a few questions to ask yourself – and a handy flow chart – to make sure your app leads the pack, not falls into obscurity.

Will your app solve a problem?

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised by how many apps look pretty but don’t fulfil any purpose. So before you launch into design and build, ask yourself is there a need for your app. A Dutch healthcare app company called Siilo, for example, have recently launched an amazingly useful app. It acts as a secure messenger for under-pressure physicians. They can exchange info on challenging cases, seek advice from peers and even manage workflow. Problem identified, problem solved; brilliant.

Does it already exist?

Awkward. Does the app you’re planning to launch already exist? Do your homework. Hunt through the app stores and if one does exist, download it and test it. Maybe you can add something new and original to yours to make it stand out. Check how popular the other app is, too. If the download numbers and reviews are bad, here’s your chance to nip in with something similar, but much, much better. All is fair in love and war – and apps.

Does it need to be an app?

Well, does it? Could it be a website, and perform more successfully when optimised for mobile? Does the functionality you need from it work best as an app? Does it benefit by being on a mobile device? Does it need to work offline? Does it need access to things like GPS or a camera? The answers will point you in the right direction.

How will I get my app out there?

It may not be as easy as simply popping it on an app store. Perhaps your app won’t meet the strict terms and conditions some app stores enforce (gambling apps aren’t allowed on Android, for example). Or perhaps you want your app to be a little more exclusive than the ‘mass promotion’ of an app store. If so, think about the right methods of distribution. Also bear in mind industry guidelines and privacy concerns, especially if your app will be used by people within the NHS.

We asked ourselves these same questions while developing our app for the Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families. This organisation improves the lives of children and young adults through supporting and promoting strong mental health. As their specialist digital content agency, they asked us to create a digital experience to help students aged 11-14 who have emotional well-being problems.

ReZone was born. This iOS and Android app literally helps students to ‘ReZone’ if they’re experiencing anger, stress or disruptive behaviour in the classroom. Through a series of cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, the app acts as a haven where they can collect their thoughts, relax and regroup. Features include a ‘stress bucket’ where they can manage anxiety, and a Chill Out area where breathing exercises help students regain composure.

The upfront research we carried out made sure that there was a need for the app. More importantly, we ensured that it did something positive.

Do you have the resources to do it right?

While the cost of developing apps isn’t as high as it used to be, it’s still an investment. In time, money and resource. Are you ready to put in the effort of making something that’s not just ‘technically wonderful’, but ‘user experience wonderful’ too?