Mental Health App Development
A Complete Overview
Drawing on 34 years of experience in software development, ScienceSoft builds high-quality HIPAA-compliant mental health apps featuring virtual care, self-assessment, prescription and medication management, goal setting, therapy progress monitoring, crisis intervention, and more.
Mental Health Apps: The Essence
Mental health app development aims to create accessible, reliable applications that allow mental health patients to get remote professional help and monitor their condition in a guided mode.
- Key steps: business analysis, architecture design, project planning, UX and UI design, coding, testing, launch, maintenance, and evolution.
- Team: project manager, business analyst, software architect, UX and UI designers, DevOps engineer, mobile and backend mental health app developers, QA engineer, regulatory consultant, cybersecurity specialist.
- Costs: from $150,000 (for a robust application with back end) to $800,000+ (for a sophisticated solution with complex back end and advanced functionality).
The Mental Health App Market
The global mental health app market reached $5.2 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15.9% from 2023 to 2030. The increased use of mental health apps to improve treatment outcomes and patient lifestyle is among the key factors contributing to the market expansion.
Core Features of a Successful Mental Health App
Since 2005, ScienceSoft has delivered over 100 effective healthcare applications. In our mental health software development projects, we pay special attention to the market demand and our clients' business goals to create user-centric apps that continue to bring value in the long run. Below, our consultants list the core mental health app features most commonly requested by end users and our clients in the healthcare industry.
Self-help and condition management
- Condition assessment based on surveys and questionnaires.
- Trackers of stress levels, activity, diet, sleep patterns; a happiness score.
- Textual or audiovisual journaling for keeping records of feelings and thoughts.
- Symptom and trigger checkers.
- Calendars to follow the treatment plan.
- Medication intake tracker with regular reminders.
- In-app learning and self-help materials (e.g., breathing exercises, yoga workouts) or mindfulness tools (e.g., drawing tools for art therapy) that can be navigated via voice commands.
- Matching new patients with behavioral specialists based on the symptoms, preferences, etc.
- Online pre-visit mental health questionnaires and follow-up surveys.
- Virtual waiting rooms.
- Pre-scheduled and ad hoc audiovisual consultations with psychotherapists.
- Instant text and voice messaging (e.g., to inform doctors about medication side effects).
- In-app document sharing.
- Reminders of scheduled sessions.
- Condition-specific online assessment checklists (e.g., for patients with bulimia nervosa).
- Creation of custom and template-based treatment plans (e.g., personalized CBT-based insomnia treatment plan).
- Online medication prescription and refill.
Personalization and motivation
- Profile personalization (e.g., adding demographic information, preferred activities, treatment history).
- UI design based on color therapy principles.
- Accessibility features (e.g., colorblind mode, text-to-speech for patients struggling to read due to PTSD, ADHD, or ADD).
- Goal setting to monitor improvements (with reminders).
- In-app points and social rewards for successful treatment adherence.
- Gamification features (e.g., achievements, profile badges, quizzes).
- Group therapy sessions under a behavioral specialist's guidance.
- Guided drop-in online meditation sessions, workouts, etc.
- Peer-to-peer support via moderated forums, community dashboards, or group chats.
- Mood and achievement sharing via posts on integrated social networks.
Urgent care and crisis intervention
- Panic buttons.
- Real-time location sharing with pre-selected caregivers or family members.
- Remote patient monitoring: using sensor-equipped devices, e.g., wearables, to monitor user vitals, movement patterns, or vocal tone changes to timely detect and react to a crisis state (e.g., a psychotic episode).
Analytics and advanced functionality
- Dashboards to monitor patient condition over time.
- AI-based detection of symptom patterns (e.g., anxiety due to lack of sleep) and personalized mood prediction.
- Mental health app operational analytics: daily and monthly active users, average app session length, the most visited screens, and knowledge base articles/videos, etc.
- AI-powered chatbots providing user assistance (e.g., to book a session with a therapist) and self-education materials.
- Virtual reality tools to treat PTSD, anxiety, and phobias through exposure therapy.
Payment and billing
- User invoicing (for patients).
- Patient eligibility check and insurance verification (for medical specialists).
- Automated health insurance claims.
- Access to EOB.
- Connected payment gateways for patients to instantly pay for mental health services not covered by insurance.
- Support for multiple payment methods (bank transfer, card, web/mobile wallet, etc.).
- Subscription management (e.g., if it is a stress or panic attack relief app).
- Identity management and multi-factor authentication.
- End-to-end data encryption.
- HIPAA, HITECH, GDPR, and FDA/CE compliance.
- User consent collection.
Sample Architecture of a Mental Health App
ScienceSoft's experts share an example of microservices-based architecture and outline its key building blocks.
Microservices-based architecture is a good choice for complex mental health applications. Each service runs independently, so it's easy to deploy, scale, and maintain them separately. Also, if one microservice fails, this does not affect the other services.
Mental Health App Development Roadmap
During our 18 years in healthcare IT, ScienceSoft has realized over 350 diverse initiatives. Though each project is unique, it's still possible to define common steps and sample timelines. The roadmap we share below will help you better envisage your mental health app project.
- Defining the goals and conceptualizing the app.
- Analyzing the market, audience, and competitors in the relevant mental health care niche.
- Assessing the feasibility of implementing the planned digital mental health intervention.
- Listing and prioritizing the app features.
- Identifying compliance requirements for the app (e.g., with HIPAA, HITECH, FDA, FTC, NCPDP, OCR, CFR 42 Part 2, GDPR, EU MDR).
- Determining the types of personal data that will be collected, processed, and transferred by the app.
- Modeling consent to process a data subject's information.
- Planning data access control, data archival and clearing mechanisms, encryption for at-rest and in-transit data.
- Helping decide on the data retention period.
- Creating detailed Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) to identify potential privacy issues.
- Defining the required integrations.
- Creating a business case, estimating the development cost and ROI.
Some mental health apps collect data for personal use only. If your app is no different, it is not subject to HIPAA compliance. But if your app gathers patient data and shares it with healthcare providers, insurance companies, business associates, or any other entity, you must comply with HIPAA.
Requirements engineering and software architecture design
- Determining functional and non-functional requirements for the app.
- Creating compliance specification with references to pertinent clauses of standards and regulations (HIPAA, CFR 42 Part 2, etc.).
- Translating regulatory compliance requirements into mental health software requirements.
- Deciding on the resilient software architecture.
- Designing the needed integrations.
- Selecting a secure technology stack to support compliance with the necessary regulations and standards.
The visual accessibility of mental health apps makes a big difference for people who have vision impairments (e.g., blurred vision) caused by severe anxiety or depression. To enhance the app's visual accessibility, you may consider having your application integrated with assistive technologies like a screen reader or screen magnification software. Users may also benefit from the mental health app being integrated with alternative input tools such as speech input software or single switch entry devices.
- Selecting a project management approach (e.g., Scrum, Kanban).
- Deciding on the project timeline, milestones, resources, and budget.
- Defining tangible KPIs (e.g., user engagement metrics, such as daily active users, retention rate, and session lengths) for project health and progress assessment.
- Evaluating the project risks, conducting Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) of the app, analyzing PHI breach risks, and drawing up a risk mitigation plan.
- Hiring or outsourcing the needed IT resources.
UX and UI design
- Creating user personas and user scenarios (e.g., attending group therapy sessions).
- Visualizing the app's core functionality via UI prototyping.
- Mapping convenient user journeys and building UX wireframes.
- UX testing.
- Designing the visual interface of mental health software in accordance with the defined visual accessibility requirements.
Iterative development and testing
- Designing a secure development infrastructure compliant with HIPAA, GDPR, etc.
- Setting up the environments for development and delivery automation (e.g., container orchestration, CI/CD).
- Developing the app's front end and back end, following the OWASP guidelines on secure coding.
- Implementing security features (e.g., encryption of PHI at rest and in transit, role-specific access control, multi-factor authentication).
- Establishing PHI backup mechanisms, PHI breach detection, and breach notification processes.
- Integrating the mental health app with the required devices, third-party apps, payment gateways, etc.
- Conducting QA in parallel with the development.
- Carrying out code review, compliance checks, static and dynamic application security testing, pentesting; resolving the detected vulnerabilities.
At ScienceSoft, we often offer MVP (minimum viable product) development as the first step. It helps to quickly validate the software idea, launch the product on the market, get early user feedback, and confidently evolve the product further.
Pre-launch activities and release
- Revising the project documentation for consistency and certification compliance, e.g., with ISO 13485 and IEC 82304-1:2016.
- Conducting a HIPAA compliance assessment or GDPR compliance audit (if necessary).
- Obtaining approval from FDA.
- Carrying out the final review of security controls in the mental health software infrastructure and preparing an incident response plan.
- Rolling out the app's pilot version to the focus group to get feedback and introduce improvements, if needed.
- Launching the application.
If your mental health app has SaMD features, an additional step must be taken during the pre-launch phase: submitting the rolled-out pilot to the regulators. If they respond positively, the app can go to the market. Also, if your app introduces new treatments, clinical trials should be conducted first.
Maintenance and evolution
- Implementing updates for full compatibility with new OS versions, managing user issues, optimizing cloud resource consumption, performing security audits, and more.
- Adding new mental health app features and integrations, adjusting UX and UI as needed.
- Planning software migration to a HIPAA-compliant cloud (e.g., AWS, Azure).
- Re-designing the app architecture for PHI protection improvement.
Consider Professional Services for Mental Health App Development
In medical IT since 2005, ScienceSoft knows how to develop highly efficient and compliant mental health applications for convenient and safe care delivery.
Our Customers Say
We are thankful for the meticulous and value-driven approach of ScienceSoft’s team. They created comprehensive project documentation, feature lists, and worked out thorough recommendations to help us improve the stability and performance of our solution. ScienceSoft’s project manager, business analyst, QA and software engineers were always friendly and ready to answer our questions or solve any ad-hoc issues. ScienceSoft proved to be a reliable vendor with a solid healthcare background, and we recommend them to everyone looking for a telehealth software development partner.
Todd Nilson, MD, HealthPoint Plus
Why Your Mental Health App is Destined to Succeed with ScienceSoft
- Since 2005 in mobile app development and healthcare IT, 100+ successful healthcare IT projects.
- Professionals with 7–20 years of experience, including project managers, healthcare software architects, data scientists, cybersecurity specialists, and regulatory consultants.
- Vast expertise in AR/VR, AI/ML, big data, IoT.
- Strong Lean, Agile, and DevOps cultures.
- Research-based UX/UI design made to be convenient for medical staff and patients.
- Proficiency in healthcare standards (e.g., HL7, ICD-10, LOINC, CPT, XDS/XDS-I, FHIR, DICOM).
- Experience in developing software compliant with SAMHSA guidelines, HIPAA, HITECH, FDA, FTC, NCPDP, OCR, CFR 42 Part 2, GDPR, EU MDR, etc.
- Mature quality management system backed by ISO 13485 and ISO 9001 certifications.
- ISO 27001 certification to guarantee full security of our customers' data.
ScienceSoft Is a Leader in Healthcare IT Services Market in 2022 SPARK Matrix
ScienceSoft is featured as a leading healthcare IT services provider, along with Athena Health and Oracle Cerner. This achievement is a result of 18 years of tireless pursuit of technological innovation, made possible by ScienceSoft’s passionate team of healthcare IT experts who always strive to make a difference for patients and caregivers alike.
iOS Telemedicine App for Mental Health
- A HIPAA-compliant, fully functional MVP developed and launched within 4 months.
- Core functionality: appointment scheduling, patient-therapist communication, condition self-management, in-app payments.
Tech stack: PHP, WebRTC, WebSocket, iOS, MongoDB, MySQL.
Key Roles on Our Mental Health App Development Teams
The project team composition varies depending on the service option and its scope. Below, ScienceSoft presents the most common roles.
Plans the mental health app project; ensures solution delivery in accordance with the project objectives, time frames, and budget; mitigates risks; reports to the stakeholders.
Healthcare IT consultant
Helps analyze the mental health niche the app will address, define compliance and registration requirements and translate them into the app’s requirements, outline functionality and integrations.
Designs the optimal mental health app architecture and integrations with other software or third-party services (e.g., EHR, practice management system, billing software); selects a fitting technology stack.
Identifies user personas and scenarios; designs end-to-end journeys of app users (i.e., patients and behavioral specialists); creates UX wireframes and prototypes; tests mental health app accessibility and usability.
Creates an intuitive, soothing, chromotherapy-based visual interface; turns UX wireframes into UI design.
Sets up and maintains mental health software development infrastructure; builds CI/CD pipelines to automate deployment; chooses and configures security, performance, and availability monitoring tools.
Creates the sleek GUI elements; fixes the bugs reported by QA engineers.
Builds the server side of the mental health app with a focus on security and regulatory compliance; creates the business logic; eliminates the bugs reported by the QA engineer.
Devises a test strategy and a test plan; creates test cases and scenarios; introduces test automation; reports bugs and validates their fixes.
Gives recommendations on the architecture components of the mental health software, secure techs, and development process to ensure the app's compliance with the necessary regulations, e.g., HIPAA, HITECH, GDPR.
Verifies app requirements, architecture, and code from the cybersecurity perspective; assesses healthcare data privacy and security risks.
Creates and validates the data sets for machine learning algorithms; designs, trains, and tunes ML models.
*For AI/ML-powered apps
Key Sourcing Models for Mental Health App Development
In-house app development
- Full control over the project.
- Potential lack of technical experts with required skills and low in-house team scalability.
- Responsibility for project management.
Turn to ScienceSoft for expert help with market analysis, project planning, tech stack selection, and more.
- Prompt access to highly qualified talents.
- High team scalability and cost-effective resource allocation.
- The need to efficiently manage remote talents and ensure smooth communication.
Turn to ScienceSoft if you need technical experts skilled in healthcare IT to augment your development team.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Mental Health App?
The cost of mental health app development may vary from $150,000 to $800,000+, depending on the solution's functionality and complexity, the number of integrations, and the required team composition.
For a complex mental health app having back end and covering several aspects, from daily self-care to virtual appointments (integrated with EHR).
For an advanced solution having robust back end and featuring patient engagement, chronic disease management, SaMD functionality, digital therapeutics, and all the required integrations (e.g., EHR, wearables, or medical devices).
Get to Know the Cost of Your Mental Health App
Relying on the experience gathered in over 100 healthcare IT projects, we will help you calculate the cost and ROI of your mental health app.
ScienceSoft is an international IT consulting and software development company headquartered in McKinney, TX. We have 18 years of experience delivering highly reliable and efficient healthcare solutions. In our projects, we use a mature quality management system supported by ISO 13485 and ISO 9001 certifications as well as a robust ISO 27001-certified security management system.