Healthcare goes online. Now is the best time to invest in health-tech solutions since this niche has shown the tendency to gain bigger profits. The rapid growth in the number of people using digital medical services has widened up the market, with the Covid-19 pandemic having contributed significantly to this.
With the industry’s growth, many medical organizations are now considering the need for web and mobile telemedicine app development. Entrepreneurs are looking to start telehealth businesses for doctors and patients, which are good enough to compete with popular solutions like Doctor on Demand or MDLive.
With the latest drastic changes in the way healthcare needs to be delivered to patients in isolation due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we decided to put together a guide to telehealth, its most popular features, technologies, and procedures for building legally compliant telemedicine apps.
What Is Telehealth/Telemedicine and How Does It Work?
Telemedicine and telehealth are considered synonymous and are used interchangeably to describe the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support clinical healthcare.
Telehealth is different from telemedicine because it refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, while telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services.
In short, all telemedicine is telehealth, but not all telehealth is telemedicine. Both are part of the larger effort to expand access to care, make health management easier for patients, and improve the efficiency of the healthcare delivery network. Telemedicine can include more general medical services, such as healthcare, while telemedicine is a special type of telehealth that involves a physician providing some medical services.
The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) defines telehealth as “ the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status”. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) states, “telehealth is the use of telecommunications technologies to deliver health-related services and information that support patient care, administrative activities, and health education.”
Since its debut in the late 1950s, telemedicine has allowed patients to receive healthcare without them having to leave their homes. Patients can schedule a virtual consultation with their doctor to discuss symptoms.
With the advancement of technology, telemedicine has grown to offer services in a variety of ways. It lends itself to a broad range of applications, including tele-education, tele-consultation, tele-practice, and tele-research.
What Is the Telemedicine Market Size Prediction?
There’s a lot to be optimistic about the future of telemedicine. The sudden global outbreak of coronavirus is expected to boost telemedicine usage as these solutions help caregivers communicate effectively with their patients during the pandemic and provide better solutions to their health concerns. Owing to social distancing implemented by various countries around the world, virtual care delivery is stepping up as an effective solution for safe and better communication.
The WHO mentioned telemedicine as one of the essential services in the policy to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.
The telecom segment will show a momentous growth of 19.6% from 2020 to 2026, while the U.S. Telemedicine Market size is anticipated to reach USD 17.14 Billion by 2026.
A Look Into the Telemedicine Apps Functionality
Telehealth apps must have useful features to be relevant. To be a quality alternative to a physician visit, a telehealth app needs to have the functionality that can substitute a doctor’s in-person examination. It is crucial to develop hassle-free management of patient and doctor data via an admin panel. Let’s have a look at its most essential features.
Telemedicine App Features for Patients
When patients need to get medical consultation, it is urgent for them, and they want to get it as fast as possible. A 20-minute visit to a doctor will never take 20 minutes. In contrast, telemedicine allows reducing this time significantly and a visit will last for only 20 minutes, as no commuting to a clinic is required.
Patients can access a medical professional anywhere, anytime. Moreover, it becomes even more vital when talking about parents with small kids or older adults.
Any telemedicine app should offer the following functionality for patients:
- User profile management
- Medical records
- Appointments and calendar
- One-click virtual visit feature that doesn’t require patients to download an app to initiate a video visit
- Doctor ratings and reviews
- Online payment and billing
The patient app can also include some extra custom features like:
- Personalized dashboard
- Medication tracking
- Secure chats
- In-app calls
- Cloud data storage
- Patient’s insurance plan
Now that we covered patient app functionality, let’s proceed with the feature set that is most useful for doctors.
Telemedicine App Features for Doctors
Telehealth serves as a conduit for faster prioritization on a case-by-case basis and improves communication by collecting, storing, and using patient data for better decision-making.
It increases patients’ engagement and adds a revenue stream. Physicians can expand their practice to help more people in the world’s most secluded corners. While convenient, telemedicine can also encourage patients to seek medical attention more often. Moreover, it can reduce the number of no-shows, leading to better time management.
By introducing online practices, doctors can open time slots when available, improve work-life balance, and reduce stress.
Let’s have a look at the most essential telemedicine app features for doctors and healthcare providers:
- Doctor profile
- Encryption and security protocols
- Appointment management
- Voice and video appointment
- Video or audio session recording
- Scheduling and calendar
- Clinical documentation
- Electronic medical records (EMR)
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM)
- Prescription and medication tracker
- Dashboard and analytics
- Pharmacy databases
- HIPAA compliance for secure electronic communication of healthcare transactions
- Online payment and billing
To offer something more specific, we need to understand your requirements, budget, and timeline better.
Telemedicine Platform Development Stages
The telemedicine app development process is divided into five stages – the discovery and design, development and implementation, deployment and testing, project delivery, and software support. Each step has associated processes and requires the commitment of various specialists.
Technologies Behind Telemedicine Apps
You probably wondered what it takes to get started with telehealth and what kind of equipment and technical telemedicine requirements do patients and practice need to have a successful virtual visit?
Telemedicine technology can be stripped down to basic needs: UX friendly interface, broadband connection, pure video and audio connection quality, tech support, and possibly peripheral devices and capability to record video, secure payment system, and transparent rating system. The scale of this enterprise will depend on resources and location. Many decisions will be cost- and potential user-driven, while others will be based on coding needs and documentation.
And here are some baseline tech tools you should know.
⇒ Mobile development: Kotlin, Java (Android), Swift (iOS)
⇒ Back-end development: Angular, .NET
⇒ Videoconferencing: RTMP, Twilio, WebRTC
⇒ Chat: Twilio, Socket.io
⇒ Database: MySQL
⇒ APIs and frameworks: Stripe, EC2, S3
Compliance with Healthcare Legislation
As with all healthcare technologies, telemedicine solutions must comply with all security regulations to protect patient privacy. While an application such as Skype can offer a doctor an easy way to consult a patient remotely, using it in this way is not HIPAA compliant. The technology used for telemedicine services must ensure a high-security level and prevent any breach of the patients’ data.
The telemedicine platform must be compliant, but all providers, patients, and staff using the instrument must ensure that they are HIPAA compliant. HIPAA compliance entails an organized set of safe, controlled, and documented practices within and between entities covered by insurance.
Besides, you have to comply with a set of other laws and regulations:
⇒ GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
⇒ IMLC (Interstate Medical Licensure Compact) is an agreement between 29 states, the District of Columbia and the Territory of Guam that allows licensed physicians to practice medicine across state lines within the Compact if they meet certain agreed-upon eligibility requirements.
⇒ Prescribing regulations in particular countries and states.
⇒ Telemedicine regulations in specific countries and states.
Additional reading: Guidance on HIPAA Compliant Cloud Hosting
What Are the Technology Trends in the Telehealth Industry?
Telehealth scales ways beyond smartphone-based video calls with your care provider and it is growing daily to include a variety of existing and emerging technologies.
Some of the telehealth trends that will shape the future of healthcare include:
⇒ Triage tools: Rather than Googling symptoms, triage tools will use smart symptom checking and provide evidence-based pre-diagnosis recommendations. They will exist in various forms, including major telehealth platforms, AI chatbots, and quizzes, and will be powered by both AI and machine learning.
⇒ Diagnostic tool kits: These devices help physicians provide remote guided medical exams and diagnosis to be conducted inside patient homes or convenient nearby locations. These contract-free examinations reduce exposure to viral infections, offer quicker answers to patients, and reduce costs for everyone.
⇒ Digital biomarkers: These are the types of advances that seem straight out of sci-fi. Digital biomarkers like sensors, algorithms, and other tools can be used to collect physiological and behavioural measurements, improve data collection, and eventually catch the signs of disease early.
⇒ Remote monitoring devices: Monitoring tools can do everything from report blood sugar levels to even detect whether patients have suffered a fall. They enable patients to self-manage conditions through healthcare professional assistance making them particularly valuable for chronic diseases and behavioural conditions. Keep an eye out not only for new uses for existing devices like the Apple Watch as well as emerging forms of wearable tech.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Telemedicine App?
The cost of telemedicine app development depends on its features and functionality, the development approach, and the vendor. However, you should pay attention to a few distinctive features that usually require more funding to guarantee a quality result.
If you choose to have it developed in Central and Western European countries be ready to pay around $250K for a telemedicine app like Doctor on Demand. When working with an outsourcing/offshore agency in Ukraine, you can expect to spend about $100K. If you need just a quick solution for your doctors – it can be developed in the shortest possible term and with a minimal budget. But if you are trying to build a platform to resell – it’s different. Apps with more mature functionality and greater complexity can go beyond $200K.
If you are in a rush and the solution you are looking for should be ready for “yesterday”, it is possible to release the first version for one platform (iOS, Android, or Web) with the essential functionality and continue adding new features after that. It is standard practice, and it often works that way.
However, for more detailed communication, please refer to our contact form and reach out to our business analysts for a free consultation about the cost. Contact Us.
Popular Examples of Telemedicine Applications
Some healthcare providers have long been connected to the network, entrepreneurs realized all the benefits of remote healthcare services for both doctors and patients. Here are 4 examples of successful and popular teledoctor applications that you can download for analysis:
What is MDLive? MDLIVE is a US-based telemedicine provider founded in 2009.
⇒ MDLIVE offers behavioral health appointments with licensed therapists and board-certified psychiatrists as well as dermatology services. Connect to medical and pediatric doctors and access behavioral health therapy services and psychiatry whenever you need it.
⇒ MDLIVE offers fast, easy, convenient access to a doctor for non-emergency issues when your primary care physician isn’t available. Average wait times are under 15 minutes to consult with a state-licensed and board-certified physician.
⇒ MDLIVE has two National Committee for Quality Assurance certifications and is accredited by the American Telemedicine Association.
iPhone rating: 4.7 stars
Android rating: 3.3 stars
Cost: The average service price is around $40 – $50 per digital doctor consultation.
What is Teladoc? Teladoc is a telemedicine app available in the US only. It was founded in 2002 and it’s currently the largest provider of telehealth services.
⇒ Apart from video/audio calls and text chat, Teladoc allows users to add family members to their accounts. This way, users can schedule visits for every family member from a single account.
⇒ Patients can also choose the nearest pharmacy. When they get a prescription, it’ll be automatically sent to this pharmacy. At the end of the visit, customers get the doctor’s medical opinion, invoice, and prescription. Teladoc doesn’t have a fixed price plan. The cost varies depending on the type of visit and the patient’s health plan.
Revenue: $605,5 million.
What is Amwell? Amwell is a close rival of Teladoc. It connects healthcare providers, patients, and insurers in the US and globally.
⇒ Amwell offers a full set of healthcare technologies used in telemedicine, combining pediatrics, telepsychiatry, urgent care, chronic disease management, and more.
⇒ This solution allows customers to browse through the profiles of all physicians in particular organizations. It also provides some additional telemedicine app features like the support of users who are trying to quit smoking and breastfeeding support.
iPhone rating: 4.7 stars
Android rating: 4.3 stars
Cost: Because of the variety of services, Amwell doesn’t have a unified price. Each service costs differently, so it’s better to see prices on Amwell’s official page.
Revenue: $75 million.
Doctor on Demand
What is Doctor on Demand? A Doctor on demand is an American company that serves in each state. The main idea of the company is to provide healthcare anytime and anywhere.
⇒ It is free to sign up and a user will see the cost of a visit before it starts, so there won’t be any surprise bills after the visit.
⇒ Also, Doctor on Demand provides corporate health programs, so employees can receive help anytime.
⇒ The app also provides help to those who don’t have insurance.
iPhone rating: 4.9 stars
Android rating: 4.7 stars
Cost: One video call with a doctor costs $75, the cost for video chat with a therapist starts from $129, and an initial visit to a psychiatrist is $299. The app also provides help to those who don’t have insurance.
These apps are gaining traction in popularity and success – they are convenient, fast, available on-demand, and cost-effective. Why not become part of this successful industry?
Is It the Right Time to Set up a Telemedicine Business
Nowadays, there are many opportunities to monetize telehealth and telemedicine apps because of high demand. But before you start, you need to learn about reimbursement rules and regulations in your state, know your state’s laws around e-prescribing, and familiarize yourself with whether your country has a parity law covering telemedicine. All these will give you valuable insight into how your telehealth program will work and how you can improve it.
To make your telehealth successful, you must select a reliable technology partner. And, there is no better time like the present.
DevCom has relevant experience in healthcare application development. Moreover, we have HIPAA experts in our team. They will be able to provide analysis, technical recommendations, and estimate for your telemedicine app. Then, we will have a clear picture of the system features and its development & implementation stages.
Written by: Liza Hazevych, Marketing Manager at DevCom.