Healthcare

Telemedicine App Development Guide: Benefits, Features & Cost

26 May 2021 • 12 min read
Telemedicine App Development Guide: Benefits, Features & Cost
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Slava Ivanov
Slava Ivanov
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Slava Vaniukov
Written by Slava Vaniukov
Co-Founder and CEO at Softermii
Bringing Telemedicine to the Next Level with Medrealtime
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The healthcare business is being virtualized on every level from consumer to provider and telemedicine as a whole is experiencing a huge boom right now.

We've talked about reasons to develop a telemedicine platform in 2021 and how the market is predicted to grow exponentially to reach $175 billion in 2026.

This post covers the benefits and opportunities of entering the telehealth product race right now, an overview of the niches in telehealth, as well as what costs the telemedicine software development process entails. We will also share Softermii's field experience you may find valuable.

INTRODUCTION TO TELEHEALTH SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

The Health Resources and Services Administration defines telehealth as "the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration." In practice, it means services video medical consultations, remote monitoring, telehealth nursing, remote physical and psychological therapy.

This practice can be facilitated through such technologies as video conferencing and text chat, streaming media, electronic prescriptions and health records, the Internet of things, among others.

For patients, this means better access to healthcare since they are not limited to their geography in choosing a vendor. For healthcare providers, this means better care and prevention strategies. For telemedicine app developers and businesses in this space, it means a widely distributed service within the fastest-growing industries right now.

THE BENEFITS OF TELEHEALTH IN MEDICINE FOR PATIENTS

These days, there is still a swath of the population who have never tried telehealth options as a part of their healthcare. According to a recent survey, only 41% of Americans are telehealth users, citing convenience and the ability to speak to the provider of their choice the top two reasons why. So what benefits are there to attract a new customer?

Making Healthcare More Accessible

Telehealth erases the physical barriers for patients and healthcare providers. From the most sophisticated, cutting-edge level, where robotic technology and telepresence are used to facilitate surgery remotely, to something as simple as a breathing exercise app, the industry is able to make healthcare accessible to more people. Going even further, technological solutions to healthcare education have the capacity to inform people on best personal practices.

Reducing the Cost Of Medical Services

In general, telehealth is considerably more cost-efficient for the producer and cost-efficient to the patient. In fact, since the medical insurance industry has realized how popular telemedicine options are during the COVID-19 crisis of 2020, many are offering telehealth packages now, bringing more services to the consumer at reduced cost.

Enhancing the Efficacy Of Healthcare

Studies have shown that at least 60% of patients are not forthcoming with their doctors. And bad data can lead to bad decisions. Continuous monitoring from health devices will lead to better healthcare by reducing the doctor's reliance on patient reporting. And by monitoring the administration of medicines and tracking their efficacy in real time, doctors can make more precise, personalized decisions for each patient.

Better Prevention

As it is now, healthcare is focused nearly solely on treatment of existing medical conditions. But there is a whole lifetime of activity that comes before the sickness occurs in any given patient. Telehealth, through education and remote monitoring, encourages everyone to make better personal health decisions and provides better preventative strategies than in-person treatment can.

OPPORTUNITIES YOU CAN BENEFIT FROM

If you want to make a telemedicine app, you'll want to know what's in it for you. Businesses looking to develop totally new telemedicine solutions or add a virtual branch to their existing practice have a range of opportunities they can take advantage of.

Better Security

When security is baked into a product from the ground up, it tends to be less of a target than a hospital with an arcane system that hasn't seen an update since Windows XP. It's true that IT in healthcare is making strides in accomplishing new levels of security, but think of it this way: while each individual system has one or several ways to break in, several interconnected systems will multiply that number of risk factors.

Flexibility for Staff

Doctors are famously overworked. These days, most doctors spend around 30% of their time actually treating patients. The rest of their 40-50 hour workweek is spent on managing their hospital's part in the healthcare bureaucracy, meticulously documenting everything said and done for insurance and legal purposes. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Doctors working outside the traditional hospital setting can benefit from technological solutions — call recording and transcription, automatic billing, eRx, and EHR can reduce the administrative burden and allow them to focus on treatment. And when neither party has to commute 90 minutes both ways for a 15 minute meeting, the satisfaction for both can only grow.

Accessibility for Patients

If you live in the middle of nowhere, your doctor is most likely miles away and it's way more likely you're getting substandard care. And who wants to commute all that time just for a quick screening and a talk about your diet?

Telehealth practitioners have gotten waivers for cross-border practice in the US, with some states simplifying the procedure to get a permanent license once the Covid-19 crisis is over. This will make healthcare more accessible to the patient than ever before, and therefore broaden your target audience to a national (and perhaps global) level.

TYPES OF TELEMEDICINE APPLICATIONS

Different telemedicine software features are present in each separate offering on the market, and most can be divided into a specific category based on what featureset they present.

Urgent care in telehealth

On-demand Urgent Care

Urgent care is one of the best candidates for digitalization. About 20% of urgent care currently provided in a hospital setting can be conducted digitally, according to data from McKinsey.

Developing a custom telemedicine app in this niche would include video and audio calling capabilities, calendar and schedule management features, staff management tools, as well as EHR support and basic document management.

Planned care telemedicine application

Planned Care

Planned care is an umbrella term for any healthcare that's not conducted in an emergency room. Such care that does not involve a physical examination or tests can also be virtualized. Since at this time it's only possible to administer some elements of a physical examination remotely, virtual planned care is envisioned as a tool for following up with the doctor after an in-person visit.

An application like this would include secure video and audio calling capability, as well as text chat, among other patient-facing features, like test result monitoring, scheduling, et al.

Mental health telemedicine application

Mental Health

Telepsychiatry platform development is gaining speed as people around the world are becoming more comfortable conducting everyday activities in a video chat setting. Moreover, bringing mental health services to the patient's home may improve results by improving their feeling of safety and security. Telepsychiatry was proven to be effective when treating PTSD, ADHD, and depression.

This is another telehealth application where video and audio chatting capabilities are essential, along with eRx support. Integrations with other tech and wearables are not required, on the other hand.

Self-care in telemedicine application

Self-care Tech

Wellness is a booming industry, and it intersects quite well with the goals of telemedicine. There are already tons of apps in this space, but few involve professional support for users. It is true, however, that telehealth as a support system for independent self-care has shown efficacy in managing long-term conditions like heart failure and stroke, respiratory diseases, as well as others.

If you want to develop a telemedicine platform dedicated to self-care, you will need to think about integrating other digital products (like wearables), plus communications options that are not limited to video and audio chat. Systems of notifications and education options are also a must.

TELEMEDICINE APP FEATURES FOR PATIENTS

Below you will find a list of features to consider when building your custom telemedicine platform.

Registration

If you're thinking this is a simple feature, don't be deceived. Registration of patients for telemedicine must comply with EHR integration standards (not to mention a host of other regulations), support document uploads, all while ensuring data security. Additionally, third-party integrations such as Facebook, mobile carriers, and email service providers should be considered.

It is crucial to include data privacy and other policy agreements accessible on the first screen.

Home Page

This is the screen that users see once they've completed the registration process, as well as every time they open the app. Its contents will depend entirely on what your app is designed to do.

Personal Profile

Patients should be able to set up their personal preferences, location, and the ability to enable syncing with existing hospital records. This will allow patients to schedule personalized appointments and for doctors to gather critical information prior to the meeting.

Video Calls

The key feature of most telemedicine products is video chat. Moreover, HQ video and audio are a must — not in the least because doctors use visual cues to determine their diagnosis.

Want to hear about how we implement efficient and secure video chat with our proprietary VidRTC engine? Contact us here.

Text Messaging

Some issues are too minor to discuss through a video call. Instead, they can be discussed through text messages. Through this mode of communication, patients should also be able to share multimedia with their doctors.

Scheduling

Certain telemedicine solutions will rely on calendars and scheduling features. Patients should be able to see a doctor’s available time slots, their scheduled appointments, and have the option to reschedule their appointments. Once the doctor approves the requested appointment, the patient should receive a notification of confirmation. Google Calendar integration is a must, as well.

Notifications

Along with calendar notifications, custom notifications can be used to remind users of crucial information, such as monthly or annual visits, prescription renewals, and doctor requests.

Reviews

Patients should have the ability to review their appointments. By collecting feedback, doctors can track their performance and make necessary adjustments. Additionally, it will allow patients to make more informed choices about the specialists they're talking to.

TELEMEDICINE APP FEATURES FOR DOCTORS

Doctor’s Profile

Doctors have to provide their qualifications and credentials, such as education, internships, work experience, and certifications. Their profiles should also include internal information, such as ratings, shifts, and important hospital notifications.

Electronic Health Records

When doctors get notified about an appointment, they should be granted access to the patient’s medical file. This is absolutely necessary in order to provide an accurate consultation and diagnosis. The telemedicine solution can be further enriched with additional features such as the patient’s treatment history, graphs with treatment dynamics, and eRx.

Video And Text Communication

Doctors, like patients, will also need video and text connectivity. Keep in mind that doctors may need to contact patients after an appointment for follow-ups or results. Thus, text messages are critical because they enable the doctor to communicate directly and immediately with the patient without the need for another appointment.

Internal Data Exchange

Physicians may need to exchange data and prescriptions between departments. For example, a doctor may transfer their patient to a specialist. In order to do this, there will need to be a seamless exchange of internal information.

WHAT IS USUALLY INCLUDED IN TELEMEDICINE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT COST?

There is no one number to speak of when it comes to telemedicine app development cost, since there are so many variables in this equation. The chief factor among these is whether you will go for remote telemedicine software development services or use an in-house team. But beyond that, any development process will be unique, save for the general outline. 

Discovery

All the groundwork related to creating an application in the healthcare space goes on in the very first phase, called the Discovery stage. The scope of work includes market research and creating a go-to-market plan, figuring out the infrastructure and choosing the architecture for the application. This is also the part of the process where telemedicine app design takes place — the wireframing of the entire MVP. All the work done in this stage is necessarily concurrent because of how each part influences the others.

The Discovery stage of product development will involve, at a minimum, a Business Analyst, a Designer, and an Architect. Depending on the scope and depth of their work, it may take from weeks to months to complete.

This work can be done in as little as two weeks and can potentially go on for months, if not years. We've developed a fair few telemedical applications, so why not get in touch with us and let us help?

MVP Production

Once everything is squared away on the business end, development can begin. Depending on the scope of the project, you'll need one or several of each: a Project Manager, Tech Architect, Developers, Quality Assurance Engineers, and Designers on your team.

As all first versions, MVPs are there to test the concept and whether the idea can find footing in the market.

The length of this stage depends on the depth of groundwork done in Discovery, typically more than two months. It's important to remember that from a business perspective, making it exist and putting it out there is much more important than making it perfect. Therefore, MVPs are notoriously buggy and lacking in features. Which brings us to the next phase:

Support

After launch, work on support and further development begins. The QA team works through existing bugs, while BAs work on the flow of the product and figure out the next steps. At this stage, the developer team is sometimes smaller than the original developer team, but their work on the app continues in a similar vein, same as designers.

This stage of development is continuous and goes on as long as the product exist, so no real timeline or cost can be

For more information on the step-by-step of developing a telehealth product, the cost of developing an MVP and adding new features to it, check out our guide.

BEST TECH STACK FOR TELEHEALTH APP DEVELOPMENT

Now that we've seen how to make a telemedicine app, let's look at what technologies are best used to get to that goal.

In a nutshell, the base of a mobile telehealth platform is usually native Android, iOS. Telemedicine web apps are preferably built on React Native and Nodes programming languages with the integration of WebRTC technology.

But that's just the foundation — there is more tech to consider when developing a healthcare app.

 
WebRTC

WebRTC is a technology enabling web and mobile applications. It provides real-time communication via simple application programming interfaces. WebRTC helps users connect directly into the user experience you create. Implementing it in application development allows deploying text chats, secure voice exchange, screen sharing, live videos, and store-and-forward data transfer.

EHR

They are often built on Rails, GraphQL, et al. They make information available instantly and secure information to be accessed only by authorized users. There are already several existing options on the market that you can integrate with.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

IVR is an automated telephony system technology, like a chatbot that talks. It works in a way that enables computers to interact with humans through an IVR script, with the use of voice and DTMF tones.

HealthKit Integration 

Google Fit is a health-tracking platform developed by Google for the Android operating system (and recently available on iOS devices too). Apple HealthKit is developed for iOS and consists of HealthKit, CareKit and Research Kit that form the ecosystem. There are also numerous other devices and ecosystems your product can hook up to.

Chatbots

Programmable conversation bots can look as simple as interactive intake forms or as complex as diagnostic tools, checking if patients experience one symptom or another. There are also a number of existing systems that you can integrate into your product.

Source: Zellow.com
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TIPS AND CHALLENGES TO WATCH OUT FOR WHILE BUILDING A TELEHEALTH APP

We've got some experience developing and launching healthcare products and want to share the biggest three of the common pitfalls we see in the process of providing telehealth app development services.

Pay special attention to the UX

UX design for telehealth applications is absolutely crucial. Since the mission of telehealth is to make better healthcare more widely available, your app shouldn't get in the way of it. Keep simplicity and ease of use as your biggest goals.

Poor usability of telehealth software reduces the chances that this platform can be successful even if it’s a revolutionary idea in medicine.

Hire a cybersecurity specialist

Look at this list of the biggest security breaches in history. See how many of the companies are in the healthcare industry? And the reasons for the breach — "hacked" and "poor security" are the top two options. As a healthcare business, the last place you want to be is that list. Hiring a cybersecurity expert will help you solve this issue before it occurs.

Listen to users

Too many businesses fail because the decision makers are too mired in all the spreadsheets and analysts pulling them in different directions to listen to common sense. And your users are willing to give it for free — so make sure you listen and make sure they know you're listening. By the way, if your business model differentiates "users" and "service providers", listen to your doctors, too.

SOFTERMII'S CEO TAKEAWAY

There is no denying we are living in a time of digital transformation and that the healthcare industry is at the forefront of it. Analysis of this industry varies, but the main takeaway is nearly unanimous: telehealth has gone from "future goal" to "mainstream" in less than a year. There is a time in the not-too-distant-future where medicine and telemedicine may be indistinguishable from one another.

And we know this from experience: in the past, we've lended our hand to creating several telemedicine platforms like MedRealTime and a HIPAA-compliant Video app. For a business looking to develop a telemedicine app, what will make or break this project is a partner with expertise who can get them a secure and modern solution fast.

Want to start a new telehealth software development project to become the next Teladoc? We can help. Get in touch with us here.

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