How to Create a Mental Health App in 2023? [Features, Roadmap, Real Cases]

2027 Updated 10.17.2022
Yuriy Matviyuk

Development Tech Lead

5/5

Table of contents

Overview of the mental health app development in 2022

Nowadays, we can’t imagine the modern world without digital technologies, and in recent years mental health app development has also contributed to the growth of mobile applications.

Did you know that searching the App Store for “depression” brings up 198 results and 239 on Google Play? Given the number of apps available, it’s safe to assume that dozens of great digital therapies exist for people with mental health issues. But according to research by clinical psychologists, this is not the case. Most apps are useless at best and harmful at worst. This is mainly due to the incorrectly organized mental health app development process.

In this article, we will try to figure out the following things:

  • The best mental health app ideas and how to come up with them.
  • What are the main stages of mental health app development?
  • Why should you think about creating a mental health app?
  • Top advantages of creating a mental health app.
  • Mental health app features to create during mental health app development.
  • How to hire the best mental health app development partner?
  • Challenges you may face during mental health app development and how to overcome them.

All the materials presented in this article are based on our long-standing experience in mental health app development. Our team has done enough research to be true experts in this field.

What is mental health app development?

Mental health app development is the creation of applications aimed at providing assistance to people suffering from psychological difficulties. Niche offers a variety of options, including assisting individuals with diseases, linking patients with therapists, and inspiring people to overcome stress, despair, bad habits, or depression.

Mental health applications assist people in enhancing their well-being. Such applications are not typically used to replace the treatment provided by a mental health expert. Instead, mental health applications offer people support between consultations or after completing therapy. They may give therapeutic activities, self-help resources, encouragement, and more.

Nearly 11% of the world’s population suffers from mental health issues. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, contributing to the growth of issues like anxiety, sadness, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The need for digital solutions for assessing, preventing, supporting, and treating mental health disorders has skyrocketed and will continue to rise.

How to come up with a mental health idea?

Due to the popularity and high demand for mental health applications, it isn’t easy to develop something new. But it is quite possible. Our team wants to share some useful tips on how to come up with mental health app ideas.

Conduct detailed market research

Start by studying the market. Find out which mental health app has already proven itself successfully and is popular with users. Analyze these applications. Highlight their strengths and weaknesses. Note what things you like about them and what you don’t. Try to use them yourself for a while.

Survey the competitors’ app target audience

Next, analyze the users of your competitors’ apps. To do this is quite simple. You can download apps from the App Store or Google Play and use them for a while. Using them, you will understand what exactly your competitors focus on, what features they give advantages to, and how they engage users.

Make user feedback research

Read app reviews and find out what people like and don’t like about apps, what they use and don’t use, what they want to improve in the app, etc. By collecting this information, you will roughly understand what application most of the audience needs and what application you can create to satisfy the request of most people.

Read the insights of analysts and opinion leaders in this field

And finally, we advise you to listen to the experts. Watch mental health opinion leaders talk or read relevant literature. This will help you streamline your knowledge in this area and understand what is now at the peak of demand and what kind of application, for example, can be created to be useful to society.

Trendy mental health app ideas to consider while creating a mental health app

To make it easier for you to come up with health app ideas, here are some popular mental health app examples:

Sleep app

Everything has been said about the importance of proper sleep for a long time, but it often becomes an unaffordable luxury in the modern pace of life. And it’s not just about rest time: the quality of sleep – from how we prepare for sleep to the moment we wake up – affects our productivity and our mood throughout the day.

Many people experience insomnia at least once in their lives. Sleep applications are a good option for those who do not want to treat their insomnia with medication. Such applications have a variety of functions. For example, applications can have a variety of sleep meditations, analyze the quality of sleep, and even use special “white noise” for gradual awakening.

Virtual therapy app

Such applications usually include programs for the therapy of various health disorders. Sometimes people suffering from mental health issues are afraid or embarrassed to contact a specialist. Therefore, virtual therapy apps are a kind of salvation for them. Also, these applications have proven to bring pretty good results.

Meditation app

Such an application is probably suitable for anyone, even mentally healthy. Meditation therapy is one of the greatest ways to clear your head and relax. Meditation has grown in popularity in the last year as people have begun to realize its effectiveness.

Mood tracking app

Mood tracking is a positive psychology technique that involves tracking, recording, and analyzing a user’s mood. Doctors usually recommend such apps to patients who want to improve their mental health.

Mood trackers are for busy people or those who don’t want to write down their emotions and experiences by hand. With their help, people can monitor their feelings and determine what caused negative emotions to learn how to remain emotionally stable eventually. When people understand what makes them sad or lonely, they will know how to turn the tide and make themselves happy.

Self-improvement app

These applications can be of different types (finance tracking, sports training at home, to-do list, book club, etc.). But all of them are connected by one goal – to help a person improve himself.

People love these apps because they don’t have to go to some courses and buy a lot of literature. They can quickly and easily get everything in one app.

Mental health app development from idea to launch in 8 steps

Mental health app development from idea to launch in 8 steps

Mental health app development from idea to launch in 8 steps

Now let’s look at the ideal health app development process. We have identified 8 main stages:

Stage 1: Formulate and validate your mental health app idea

First of all, you should formulate the idea of ​​your application clearly. We always advise our customers to put their ideas in just a few sentences. First, mental health app developers will be more clear about what you want to get as a result. Secondly, with a clearly formulated idea, the risk of problems during the entire process of creating a product is reduced.

Next, you need to validate your idea. How to do it? Let’s take a closer look:

  1. Describe your target audience in terms of:
    • demographics (gender and age).
    • geography (your target market).
    • the presence of a target need.
  2. Assess the market potential. Is the need “big enough” to build a business, product, or feature around it? Are there enough people in your market with a target need that comes up often enough for them to be interested?
  3. Conduct a survey among representatives of your target audience. Show respondents a description of your offer. Ask at least the following two questions:
    • How understandable is the idea of an app?
    • Will you take advantage of this offer?

Stage 2: Conduct a comprehensive market research

The next step is market research. Analyze what offers are already on the market and how popular they are. Read reviews of apps at the top of the App Store and Google Play. Make a list of apps you like and dislike. Note their pros and cons. Divide applications by subject and find out which applications are in greater demand.

Stage 3: Make a list of mental health app development requirements

When you decide on the idea of ​​​​your future application and research the market well, you can start making a list of mental health development requirements. This list should include both requirements for the future product and requirements for mental health app developers.

You need to clearly understand what you want to get as a result of cooperation with the team. The more detailed you describe your idea, the easier it will be for the team to make it a reality. Also, be sure to include design specifications and technical requirements in the list. You can read more about how to do this in our article How To Write The Design Specification? [Quick Guide]

Stage 4: Hire the best mental health app development vendor

With a health app development plan in hand, you can start looking for a health app development vendor.

Before searching, we recommend you make a list of the basic requirements for the team. List 5-7 companies that offer mental health app development services and start analyzing them. Pay special attention to the following things:

  • Portfolio. Review the team’s previous projects. If the team has already worked on mental health applications, give preference to them. By looking at the portfolio, you will understand what style the team works in, what it focuses on, and how it differs from others.
  • Reviews. Be sure to read reviews about the team. We advise you to visit Clutch.co. There you will find detailed testimonials about the team from previous clients.
  • Experience and domain expertise. Of course, you should give preference to teams that have several years of experience in application development. Also essential is the expertise in developing applications for the healthcare industry.

For more detailed info on how to find and hire a good development team, check our article How to Hire an Offshore Development Team? You can also book a call with our CEO, the product owner of Theraheal, to discuss the creation of these kinds of products in more detail.

Stage 5: Involve the necessary specialists in the field of mental health

If you want to develop a practical application, then you should involve specialized experts in your development process. We encourage you to talk to opinion leaders in the mental health field, read specialized literature and listen to speeches by famous personalities in the field of mental health treatment.

Also, for example, you can turn to psychologists and psychotherapists. Find out what problems people turn to them more often and what treatment methods are more effective. Learn about the growth of the mental health field and what topics are currently at the peak of popularity.

Stage 6: Start creating a mental health app with UI/UX design

Before creating UI/UX design, you should decide on a list of basic features. We do not recommend overloading the application with complex functionality. Create a clear information architecture so that all content in the application is structured and organized. After that, you can start the UI/UX design process.

At the UI design stage, you need to create a design system or UI kit that will contain all the visual elements of your application (icons, buttons, input fields, fonts, colors, etc.). Our team divides the UX design process into the following stages:

  • Wireframing. First, we create a low-detailed wireframe – this is a rough sketch of the application screens. It shows how everything in the application will work. To create a highly detailed wireframe, you need a detailed layout of the screens and explanations for each element.
  • Prototyping. At this stage we create an interactive model of a future product. Unlike wireframes, it is clickable. The prototype shows not only how the final product will look but also how it will work. The prototype is needed to test the product’s functionality and fix bugs before moving the project to the development stage.
  • Testing. Testing is usually carried out by our team using our in-house laboratory. We use UX Eye Tracker, that allows exploring each user behavior during interaction with the product. Only 1% of companies use this method.

Stage 7: Mental health app development process

Mental health app development process entails the diligent work of high-skilled mental health app developers. Depending on the project size and functional complexity, we assign (2+ developers) to implement the server side of the application, APIs, and business logic and transform UI design into a functioning user side.

At Northell, we use Agile methodology to make the health app development process flexible to changing client needs and requirements and, at the same time, meet strict deadlines. We develop and test all features gradually. This approach helps us deploy the product faster and reduce development costs. In fact, the mental health app development process includes the following processes:

  • Business analysis. During business analysis, our experts compare user expectations with your business goals. We study the future audience of the application, its preferences and desires. At this stage, our task is to study your product requirements to create a product you are expecting to receive.
  • Technical documentation. This step is devoted to creating technical documentation in which all the requirements for the future product are written (both technical and design requirements).
  • Front-end development (client-side). Developers at this stage write code for the external part of the product, namely for its interface. The design created in advance by the design team is taken as a basis.
  • Back-end development (servicer-side). Here developers write the code for the back end of the product. Generally speaking, a backend is a software and hardware complex that allows the product and the server to work correctly. Developers create the right scheme for the product work, namely, receiving and processing data from the user, processing data on the server and receiving a response from the server and converting information into a readable form.

Stage 8: Test, deploy and maintain your mental health app

During the testing phase, our team recommends checking functional requirements, spotting defects, verifying application security, and testing for regulatory compliance like HIPAA.

Once the testing stage is over, the development team gradually deploys the product to the focus group (e.g., a group of patients with mental health disorders) and all project stakeholders for testing and acquiring feedback.

During deployment, we achieve honest feedback and keep improving the mental health app accordingly if needed. Mental health application requires ongoing attention and support. Therefore, we encourage you to continue working with the mental health app development vendor.

At Northell, we offer continuous post-release support in fixing revealed bugs, performing regular mental health app security audits (e.g., PHI security, HIPAA compliance, etc.), rolling out new features, improving performance, and upgrading the application.

Northell experience in mental health app development

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Northell experience in mental health app development

Northell has long-standing experience in creating products for the healthcare industry. Recently, we have made a big focus on mental health app development. Knowing how important the topic of mental health is today, we have collected all our knowledge and expertise in this area and developed the Theraheal project.

Theraheal is an AI-powered wellbeing application that helps improve mental, emotional, and physical health.

While working on the Theraheal project, we faced the following challenges:

  • Functionality. We had to figure out such app functionality so that users stay longer than 3 months (as is known, mental health applications have a very low LTV).
  • User-friendly interface. We had to develop a maximally convenient workout interface so that users can train in live mode.
  • Interface design. We needed to create a calm interface design that would not evoke unnecessary emotions.

Based on core requirements and the product main idea, we developed the following features:

  • Assessment test. In order to make the application more personalized, users are invited to take a free test for mental health self-assessment.
  • AI-powered treatment plan. Using AI technology and test results, the application creates an individual treatment plan for each user.
  • Dashboard with podcasts and workouts. Each user has access to a user-friendly dashboard with detailed information about their scheduled workouts and other activities.
  • Mental health journal. This kind of mood tracker allows users to record and control changes in their user’s emotions and moods at any time.
  • Clear-cut exercises. Users have direct access to an unlimited number of workouts to improve their well-being and mood.

As a result, our team managed to create a practical application for people who want to change their lives for the better and enhance their mental health. Thanks to the latest technologies, such as AI, we have made the user experience as personalized and smooth as possible.

If you are interested in learning more materials about healthcare product development, we suggest you check out our following articles:

The main reasons for creating a mental health app

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million individuals in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders.

According to the same source, 75 % of people with mental problems go untreated in developing countries. This demonstrates the need for easily available and effective therapy.

Growing demand

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of many. Many people have faced despair, depression and isolation. People who lost their jobs came face to face with serious mental illness. Many people began to feel lonely and sad for weeks without leaving their homes.

For 2 years now, the whole world has been fighting a pandemic. Therefore, the demand for mental health applications is growing at the speed of light. These applications turned out to be a breath of fresh air for people from all over the world, and their popularity and the demand for them is only increasing every day.

Diverse niche without strong competition

The mental health app niche is quite diverse, and as long as you don’t face a lot of competition. As we wrote earlier, there are a lot of mental health app ideas. You can succeed even if you try to make your application better than your competitor’s. After all, today, many applications on the market are not as effective as they would seem and require improvements.

Top benefits of mental health app development for users

Top benefits of mental health app development for users

Top benefits of mental health app development for users

The development of mental health apps is a win-win situation for both businesses and users. Here are some advantages for current and future audiences:

Convenient type of therapy

Mental health applications provide flexibility and may save lives during quarantine or when visits are problematic. The usage of apps restricts or even excludes anybody other than the user from the therapeutic process.

Affordable mental health treatment

The majority of mental health applications are free or low-cost. Online treatment sessions are likely to be less expensive than in-person therapy appointments, and there is no need to travel.

High level of anonymity

Users of mental health apps may be sure that any health information revealed during treatment sessions is legally secured.

Top benefits of mental health app development for business

Top benefits of mental health app development for business

Top benefits of mental health app development for business

Consider the advantages while addressing how to develop a mental health app. The benefits for businesses and healthcare providers are both substantial:

Additional value to patients

Customer expectations increase in lockstep with technical innovation. Mobile applications are usually a great way to satisfy these expectations. By embracing mobile, you can make your services and products more accessible and easier to use.

Direct communication with customers

Improved direct connection with customers is one of the reasons your organization needs a mental health app. By offering fast access to a variety of information at the push of a button, mental health mobile application development has allowed clear and direct contact between consumers and businesses.

Improve data management

Healthcare institutions handle large volumes of personal data every day. As a consequence, appropriate planning is essential. Healthcare applications linked with EHR automatically collect essential patient data from system-connected devices or wearables. This enables healthcare professionals to build a thorough patient profile while staying HIPAA compliant.

Enhance brand identity

You may use an application to demonstrate to your customers why they should trust you by exhibiting what your brand stands for. In the same way that providing fridge magnets, calendars, and other miscellaneous souvenirs with your business logo historically worked as both marketing and assistance, mobile applications build your brand and educate your clients.

Earn additional revenue

A mental health app allows doctors to augment their income by offering after-hours treatments. It gives more capacity to check on patients than face-to-face visits in the office. You may devote more time to practical work when you utilize remote apps. Because most paperwork will be done automatically, you will not have to fill out numerous internal forms and documentation.

Must-have mental health app features (Based on our Experience)

Cognitive behavioral and acceptance and commitment treatments, mood training programs, customizable settings, and forums are just a few of the mental health app features and tools that may be used in current mental health applications.

We identified 6 important mental health app features for a high-quality, feature-rich mental health solution. Some of these functionalities or all of them may be included in a mental health app for healthy people and individuals suffering from mental diseases.

Onboarding

Onboarding is one of the essential mental health app features of any mobile application. This is a kind of instruction for using the application. This feature will help users get started with the application faster.

Self-monitoring tools

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Northell experience in mental health app development

This feature with special trackers allows you to fix and control mood patterns and the general state of mental health.

Learning materials

In order for users to replenish their knowledge in the field of mental health, you can add learning materials to the application that will always be in the public domain.

Meditation programs

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Northell experience in mental health app development

Chat

Chat is necessary so that users can communicate with their therapists, for example, or share results and successes in the field of improving mental health among themselves.

Notifications

Notifications will help improve the user experience in many ways. Users will be able to set the reminders they need (for example, do not forget about breathing practice today) and never miss important rituals.

Dashboard

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Northell experience in mental health app development

Dashboard is a basic feature of any mental health application that shows, for example, the main mental health indicators for a certain period of time.

Standards and regulations for mental health app development

When creating a mental health app, it is critical to developing solutions that completely comply with all healthcare industry regulations, standards, and best security practices. You can assure strong product security and the protection of sensitive patient information and clinical data in this manner. We want to go through the standards and regulations we follow during mental health app development:

Personal user privacy standards

To the list of crucial personal health information privacy standards, our team includes:

  • GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation standards cover high data protection rules and the implementation of all security protocols to protect client personal data from being stolen, collected and used for products introduced in the European Union.
  • HIPAA – For healthcare products and services created for the US market, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act standards include privacy and security, enforcement, and breach notification restrictions.
  • HITECH – The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act also applies to healthcare and medical products and services in the United States, with a greater emphasis on the data security of EHR systems.
  • PIPEDA – The regulations apply to any medical items sold in Canada that keep and handle personal data.
  • FDA – This advice establishes the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) broad principles for preserving public health and is applicable to all medical device organizations in particular.

Healthcare standards and certifications

To the list of essential healthcare standards and certifications, our team includes:

  • HL7 – Internationally recognized standards for the exchange of clinical and administrative data across software programs.
  • CDA – CDA is one of the HL7 standards developed to standardize the structure and assure semantic compatibility of medical systems when sharing medical information and/or medical documents.
  • DICOM – Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) is a non-proprietary communication protocol, digital imaging format, and file structure for biomedical imaging and image-related data.
  • ISO 9001 – This accreditation includes precise standards for a quality management system that will improve the capacity to provide patient-centered care.
  • ISO 13485:2016 – This certification outlines the standards for a medical device and associated service quality management system.
  • SOC2 – A set of compliance requirements that all technological service providers that handle or keep client data in the cloud must follow.

Top health security standards and norms by Northell

The best practices we use to guarantee secure medical data include:

  • End-to-end encryption of data.
  • To access sensitive user information, we use multi-factor authentication.
  • To send data via a secure HTTP protocol and protect patients’ ePHI, we use SSL and AES-256 encryption.
  • An expiry policy that specifies the time limit for a login retry request.
  • Trusted data center for storing sensitive patient information in a secure AWS data center with many layers of data encryption.
  • WebRTC technology protects media streams.
  • Backup mechanism that runs automatically to avoid data loss and corruption.

What technologies to choose for mental health app development?

What technologies to choose for mental health app development?

What technologies to choose for mental health app development?

Here is an in-depth look at the latest technology advancements in mental health app development:

Artificial intelligence

It’s fair to presume that AI will have a role in any breakthrough technology by 2022. Indeed, according to an Accenture analysis, healthcare ranks higher than other sectors in terms of artificial intelligence utilization. Patient data is collected via mental health applications and monitoring devices. Additionally, AI can process and evaluate data to provide actionable next actions.

Artificial intelligence is now assisting medical personnel in better handling massive amounts of medical data. AI will likely assist mental health applications in identifying people in the future based on their prior medical data and current symptoms.

Machine learning

The expanding number of machine learning applications in healthcare enables us to see a future where data, analysis, and innovation work together to aid countless people without their ever recognizing it.

Soon, it will be common to see ML-based apps incorporated with real-time patient data from various healthcare systems across numerous nations, enhancing the effectiveness of previously inaccessible treatment alternatives.

Blockchain

Blockchain is a special method of storing data that is almost hard to hack or modify. This technique has already been utilized by a number of sectors, including healthcare.

According to one research, blockchain applications in the healthcare business are predicted to be worth more than $5.5 million by 2026.

Blockchain may help keep medical data private and make sharing it safe, which is a huge benefit for the healthcare business.

Data Science

According to one research, each human body generates 2 gigabytes of data every day. This information covers brain activity, stress level, heart rate, sugar level, and many other things. To deal with such a large amount of various data, we now have more sophisticated tools, one of which is Data Science. It aids in the monitoring of patients’ health by using collected data.

It is now feasible to identify illness signs at an early stage because of the application of Data Science in healthcare. Doctors can also monitor patients’ status from distant places thanks to the development of different modern instruments and technology.

Top ways to hire mental health app developers

When looking for good mental health app developers, we recommend that you look at the following places:

Northell

Northell team can provide your company with exceptional and high-quality mental health app development services. 80% of mental health app developers in our team are middle and senior-level specialists. We use advanced and modern technologies and best practices to develop mental health applications. Our approach to application development allows us to create products that fully meet the requirements and needs of our customers.

Social networks

You can find a team or individual mental health app developers on social networks like LinkedIn for your project. You will be able to chat and speak with team representatives and analyze their profiles.

Freelance websites

Freelancer sites host a large number of both beginner freelancers and more experienced experts. However, here you are likely to spend more time finding the specialist or team you need.

Partners

Chat with your partners and colleagues. Perhaps they have had experience working with a good team, and they can advise you.

More information about how to hire mental health app developers you can find here:

The main challenges you may face during creating a mental health app

Like any other process of creating new products, creating a mental health app, you will face certain challenges. Let’s look at them in more detail:

Security issues

When creating a mental health app, don’t forget about security. Patients’ data is susceptible, so you should create a mental health app according to all the standards and regulations we detailed above. Your product will be more credible if you adhere to all safety standards.

Feature prioritization

In order to create a highly functional application, you should prioritize features. You should not immediately take on the development of all features. We advise you to develop gradually. So the work on the project will be planned and well organized.

UX and value delivery

In order for users to stay with you for a long time, you need to ensure your application has a strong UX. With a well-built UX, it will be easier for you to deliver the value of your product to users. Apps with good UX allow users to easily and quickly use the product’s main functionality and achieve their goals in a few clicks.

Qualified development team

An experienced and knowledgeable team is already half the battle. We recommend that you be very areful when choosing and hiring a team for your project.

If you have a specific idea that you want to turn into reality, the Northell design and development team is here to help. In our team, 80% of mental health app developers are middle and senior-level specialists. Contact us, and our team will be happy to discuss your project!

Northell tips for successful mental health app development

For your mental health app development process to be successful, our team has prepared some tips for you. Let’s take a look at them:

Think ahead about your monetization strategy

Launching mental health apps allow a variety of income strategies, the most common of which are:

  • Freemium. In general, the freemium offers a limited set of capabilities for free, but if a user wants additional functionalities or material, they must pay for it through an in-app purchase.
  • Subscriptions. The subscription revenue model entails making frequent payments to have access to regularly refilled material such as manuals, videos, and podcasts.
  • In-app ads. You may also make money by selling advertising banners or widgets. However, you must exercise caution with this choice due to its specialized audience and purpose.

Study in detail the target audience of your application

For your application to be in demand and popular, you need to study users in detail before starting development. You need to know what the audience needs, what they like, what they lack, and so on.

Choose the right tech stack

The choice of the technical stack is extremely important for mental health app development. Here is a little tip from our team for choosing the right technologies to develop a perfectly working application

How much does mental health app development cost?

The mental health application cost depends on mental health application type, functionality scope, complexity, and location of your development team.

At Northell, we divide the development process into four major phases where our customers most often need professional help. In the picture below, you can look at rough costs based on the project stage and team location.

Rough project costs

Rough project costs

The total mental health app cost may start at $35,000.

How long does mental health app development last?

For more information on project timelines, below you can see Northell’s timeline calculations based on project size and stage.

Our work estimate

Our work estimate

Mental health app development: A few last words

Mental health app development is a rather complex and challenging process. However, if you take into account all the nuances and use the tips described in this article, you can come up with great mental health app ideas, organize the right approach to development and create a really worthwhile application.

And if you need a reliable and experienced partner, we will help you! Contact us today, and we will answer all your questions and help build an outstanding solution.

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