In this article, we tell you why telemedicine is the future of healthcare. We also explain all you need to know about developing a telemedicine app and starting a telehealth business.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine refers to using communication tools for remote healthcare delivery. This term was first used in Australia in 1900 when a doctor used a two-way radio powered by a bicycle treadle to transmit a medical advertisement. With today’s technology, telemedicine no longer works via radio. Communication tools have become smaller and more effective than radio sets and fax machines.
Originally, telemedicine technology was used by those for whom access to a traditional hospital was a challenge — mostly people living in unstable districts and far-flung regions. But what was first used in cases of necessity has become a convenience, allowing telehealth to grow as an industry. According to Global Market Insights, in 2019, the telemedicine market was worth $45 billion and it was expected to grow almost 20% by 2026. The coronavirus outbreak might have increased that number greatly.
Today, people can buy groceries and clothes and pay bills without leaving home. Telemedicine upgrades healthcare delivery to meet the demands of modern people. Today, healthcare providers have telemedicine websites and mobile apps. This turned out to be a good thing — when a coronavirus pandemic hit us, we were at least partially ready. Read on to learn how to develop a telemedicine platform.
The benefits of telemedicine
For patients, the pros of telehealth are obvious. Think about how many times you’ve thought you’re too busy and have no time to see a doctor for something as trivial as a cough, or a bit of a stomachache. For some people, this neglect has resulted in later being shipped off in an ambulance with pneumonia or ulcer. With the help of telemedicine applications for healthcare, a lot of health problems can be avoided or dealt with on-the-go at the early stages. You just call a doctor during lunch at work, no need to go anywhere.
Telehealth is an important aide for patients suffering from chronic diseases. According to research, telemonitoring has helped bring down the mortality rate among patients with chronic heart failure.
Besides, it’s way cheaper than traditional doctor visits.
For a clinic or a hospital, offering telemedicine services is beneficial in several ways:
- A decrease in queues and hospital load due to a portion of patients consulting with doctors remotely.
- Possibly less spreading of contagious illnesses in the clinic.
- Doctors are able to work — and earn money — even when they can’t be in the clinic (this includes not only issues like a global pandemic but something as simple as a broken leg).
- An increase in the overall number of patients — people will be more willing to take care of their health if it won’t take too much time or require any extra commuting.
For healthcare businesses, telemedicine is another channel for revenue. Besides, as research shows, the quality of medical services provided using telehealth solutions is on par with that of physical visits. Over 75% of hospitals in the US were providing telehealth services of some kind by 2018, according to the American Hospital Association.
Types of telemedicine in healthcare
If you decide to make a telemedicine website or app, you need to decide what services you’re able to provide remotely. Depending on the niche your clinic works in and the permissions you have, there are different types of telehealth services you can provide.
Interactive telemedicine is the type that first comes to mind when telemedicine is mentioned. This is the type that includes phone and video calls for consultation. It’s mostly used in situations where no close contact is immediately necessary:
- Follow-up consultations after the patient is released from the hospital
- Mental therapy and neuropsychology
- Pharmaceutical advice
- Remote nursing consultations
- Monitoring post-injury rehabilitation process
An option to call a medical specialist to visit a patient at home can also be part of an interactive telehealth app.
Internet-of-Things is an industry of smart devices widely used in a number of ways, including the medical field — for remote patient monitoring. Special devices can be used for measuring heart rate, blood pressure, levels of sugar, and other clinical parameters. The obtained information can be either synced with an app automatically or added to the medical records manually by the patient, becoming available for the doctor. This allows doctors to keep track of any changes in patients suffering from chronic ailments.
In dermatology and similar fields, it’s possible to use telehealth solutions without video conferencing tools. When a worrying development can be recorded on a photo or video and sent to a doctor, it’s then possible for them to analyze it without the patient’s visit. This makes services easier to perform for doctors (as it can be done without a personal visit) and cheaper for patients.
Telemedicine in mobile apps
For many of us, a smartphone is an important part of our lifestyle and daily routine. For this reason, the mobile app market is growing and reaching more fields. Healthcare is one of the key industries for the mobile app market because people are interested in taking care of their health with more comfort and efficiency than visiting a physician in person.
Telemedicine has been one of the healthcare technology trends since 2018. Custom telemedicine platform development is profitable today and will continue to be profitable tomorrow because many people are interested in accessible healthcare. Consultation apps include doctor and patient profiles, chat functionality, and the possibility to hold both audio and video calls. And integrating a payment gateway allows patients to pay for a doctor’s services without leaving the app.
A payment system allows patients to pay for a doctor’s services without leaving the app. You can read more about in-app payment systems in our article How to Make Secure Online Payments in Your App.
How can you develop a telemedicine platform?
Telemedicine app development requires great responsibility because a telemedicine app directly influences people’s health. Are you wondering how to make a telemedicine app with video call, audio call, chat, photo-based, and real-time consultations? There are several important stages of developing this kind of app.
Evaluate your idea
To create a useful application that will meet demand, developers should be well-informed. Evaluating your idea correctly can help you to understand app functionality and market conditions. An app should always be based on a good idea. To confirm that your idea is viable, you must be able to answer why you want to develop an app and why you specifically want to develop a telemedicine app. Here are some steps to successfully evaluate your idea.
- Conduct business analysis
- Research the market and your competitors
- Define a unique value proposition
- Create a prototype, conduct testing, and get feedback
- Research marketing channels
This stage allows you to determine the demand for your app and define your buyer persona, which will define your target audience. Business analysis should be the basis of your strategy. Your audience has problems, and your product solves those problems. Understanding who your customer is will also help you to promote your app effectively after launch.
Market and competitor research
This is the stage when you discover market leaders — your potential competitors. Research their strengths and weaknesses, ratings, and user reviews. This will help you understand the ability of your app to compete. When researching market leaders, pay attention to their prices, platforms, and differences between their apps and your idea.
Unique value proposition
Copies hardly ever leave the original behind. This is why your app must offer unique features to have an advantage over its competitors. When developing a telehealth app for consulting with a doctor, pay attention to these potential unique features:
- High-quality chat
It’s important for a telemedicine app to have efficient chat functionality. An application for communicating with people must include a quality tool for communication. Seamless chat functionality helps doctors work with patients efficiently.
- Doctor and patient information
People like to know who they're consulting with, and people don’t trust doctors just because they’re called doctors. A telemedicine app can show information about qualifications, rates, number of previous patients, and patient reviews. Doctors can see a patient’s electronic health record to understand their problems and quickly find solutions.
Prototyping, testing, and getting feedback
You should develop a low-fidelity prototype (LFP) to understand your app’s wireframes, the cause and effect relationships between buttons and windows, and search details that need to be changed or removed. An LFP helps you to understand how the app works and what benefit it brings. Then you must develop a UX design, and when it’s completed, you can start with the high-fidelity prototype stage. This stage allows you to test your app and get feedback from your audience.
Research marketing channels
This stage holds a lot of importance for post-launch development. How can you make your audience know about your app and want to use it? This question is the main reason why you need to research marketing channels.
You need to know what social networks your audience uses, what information they search for online, and what days of the week and what times of the day they prefer using a smartphone and surfing the internet. Promote your app on channels where your target audience is concentrated to make the most profit.
Know the law
According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine development is transforming the healthcare industry. There are many US laws that have been written to further the telemedicine industry. For example, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) opens up possibilities to develop, improve, update, and expand telemedicine apps and implement this technology in clinical organizations and societies, patient advocacy organizations, educational institutions, and independent research organizations.
According to Zion Market Research, global telemedicine market revenue will grow to 38 billion USD by 2022. For reference, revenue was only 18 billion USD in 2016. To be a part of the telehealth market and build a quality telemedicine app that will achieve success, you should research trends in telemedicine health management and try to address them in your product. Trends always change, and developers should constantly monitor these changes to make their apps stay relevant.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a trend in all industries because this technology allows developers to add new features and improve existing features. Telemedicine uses natural language processing, speech recognition technology, chatbots, and machine learning platforms. These technologies help developers to create chatbots that can learn and can substitute for a real doctor when a patient needs emergency help and there are no doctors online. Read our article on how to use AI in mobile apps for more on this topic.
Telemedicine apps collect lots of information, and big data makes it possible to use electronic health record (EHR) technology. This technology allows a program to gather and analyze a user’s health data and transform it into a readable form. EHR technology also helps doctors to receive more information about patient health and make more accurate diagnoses. Additionally, electronic records prevent loss of health data because cloud storage is more secure than paper records.
The blockchain is the next trend in telemedicine because data security is important in the telemedicine industry since health data is constantly moving between patients and doctors. Data decentralization helps to decrease the chances of unauthorized alteration of patient information. Using blockchain technology allows your application to prevent stealing of users’ health data.
Telemedicine is one of the fastest-evolving healthcare fields. This field has huge demand today. For this reason, there are many possibilities to get investment and add more functionality to your product. The United States government has passed laws to aid the development of telemedicine apps, and private investors are interested in supporting developers in the healthcare field.
A look into functionality
Telehealth apps must have useful features to be relevant. To be a quality alternative to a physician visit, a telemedicine app needs to have functionality that can substitute a doctor’s in-person examination. Let’s have a look at the most important features of a telemedicine app.
Patients often don’t know enough about medications prescribed by a doctor. It’s uncomfortable to visit your doctor again to ask questions. On the other hand, if you have a telemedicine app you can find an available doctor, send a photo of your medication, and receive an answer to your question.
Renewing a prescription is a constant problem for people who suffer from chronic ailments. Indeed, it’s a constant reason for visiting a doctor’s office and waiting in line. With telemedicine, you can renew a prescription simply by connecting with a doctor via an app, receive a new prescription, and buy your medications the same day.
Doctors that specialize in skin diseases admit that they can make a diagnosis with only a few seconds of visual contact. For this reason, photo-based consultations can be very useful in telemedicine apps. A patient can take a picture of an affected region and send it to a doctor.
Online consultations is the main feature of telemedicine apps. There are many ways to conduct real-time consultations including by chat, video call, and audio call. A patient can choose symptoms and choose a doctor based on their preferences. The doctor and patient can then choose an appointment time to start a consultation via audio or video call.
How much does it cost to develop a telemedicine app?
For our assessment, we’re assuming that we’re developing an app for choosing and consulting a doctor via chat, audio, and video call. There are three stages for which we will estimate development costs.
Business analysis and design
The business analysis and design stage is necessary because it identifies a direction for further telehealth app development. Business analysts should research features of your app that meet demand, the markets of your competitors, available vectors of development, and needs of your target audience. A designer needs to design the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). This costs about $5,000 to $8,000 per month and lasts for one to two months.
Development and support
The main cost of developing your app will be telemedicine software development and support. To create a massive telemedicine consultation app, you should develop at least this minimum set of features.
Users need to be able to:
- Manage profiles
- Book and manage appointments
- Make payments
- View transactions and manage wallets
- Message with healthcare providers
- Take part in calls
- Contact the system administrator
Doctors should be able to:
- Manage profiles
- Manage appointments
- Buy access to features
- View system transactions and manage their personal wallets
- Initiate and take part in calls and messaging with patients
- Contact the system administrator
Building an app with all these features takes about 4.5 to 6.5 months and costs $75,000 and up for a complete package of iOS, Android, and web apps.
Marketing is an after-launch stage that involves promoting your app via inbound and outbound strategies. Market channel research can help you to make your marketing more effective. Marketing costs in the neighborhood of $3,000 per month after launch.
Is it time to set up a telemedicine business?
The telemedicine app industry is evolving. There are many opportunities to monetize telehealth and telemedicine apps because of large demand. According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than half of US hospitals are already implementing telemedicine technology in their work processes.
It’s time to enter the market with a fresh telemedicine app. But before diving in, you should understand that business is a dangerous path with hidden rocks and reefs. You don’t need to move blindly by trial and error, though. Contact us to take the first step toward your telehealth business and dive into development of a telemedicine system.