This paper discusses the importance of selecting the appropriate software development methodology for mobile health care software development projects. The agile software development methodology is presented as one of the best methodologies that has been successfully leveraged in the IT software industry for the last ten years and has gained significant popularity in mobile software development projects. Mobile health care software development projects are often called m-Health, with the "m" representing the word "mobile" (Alastair et al., 2012; Free et al., 2010, Larkin, 2011; Norris et al., 2009). There are unique challenges and specific issues that must be addressed when mobile technology is applied to health care. These unique features of m-Health and their impacts on systems analysis and design will be discussed throughout this paper to inform the reader about how this new and innovative bottom-up approaches to software development is required for m-Health projects to be successful.
m-Health has recently exploded because patients, nurses, and doctors are actively using mobile apps in their daily lives to simplify and accomplish tasks while they are on-the-go. Expectations have changed and there is an app for just about every health care clinical and administrative function (Larkin, 2011).
For example, patients with kidney stones can reduce their health risks by drinking more fluids. A popular free app was developed with a series of icons of common beverages. Users tap the icon for the particular beverage and enter the quantity. The app calculates the percentage of the daily-recommended water intake target and tracks the trends. The patient can email the trend data directly to their physician with a single touch. Most patients observed that they were typically not drinking enough fluid in an average day (Larkin, 2011) and they knew exactly what they needed to do to reach their targets by receiving continuous feedback from the app.
In November 2011 there were more than 17,000 medical applications available for download in the major app stores for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Microsoft Mobile, Blackberry, Palm, and Symbian operating systems (Larkin, 2011). This is the consumer side of the m-Health market and does not include the many mobile apps that exist or are being developed by traditional health care providers, device manufacturers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and researchers around the world.
Mobile apps for dedicated devices linked to glucometers and blood pressure cuffs are now extremely common (e.g. VerioIQ). New mobile applications that take advantage of the accelerometer and GPS capabilities of the latest smartphones detect and automatically report patient falls and help locate patients with dementia. Bluetooth enabled weighing scales and other home sensor technologies are become more prevalent for the automated home monitoring of a wide range of clinical conditions.
Applications for monitoring patients and accessing electronic records inside health care centres using smartphones and tablet devices are proliferating. All electronic medical record software vendors now offer mobile interfaces that are native mobile apps. These apps allow health care professionals to look up patient information and review charts, notes, lab results, diagnostic images, and medications directly from their mobile devices. Some apps let physicians e-prescribe, conduct scheduling, and update health records from anywhere on a secure wireless network.
Norris and colleagues (2009) developed a list of the most common m-Health solutions that will be popular in health care settings that span prevention, monitoring, treatment, and support functions:
The final trend is the empowerment of patients to view their electronic medical record (EMR) over the Internet using encrypted connections. This will naturally extend to mobile access over time.