The How to of Developing a Telemedicine App

telemedicine

Telemedicine apps are becoming increasingly popular and even essential in the healthcare space.

For hospitals, practices, and companies looking into telemedicine app development, knowing where to start can be complex.

How to make a telemedicine app goes beyond other app development endeavors. Developing these solutions requires special considerations in terms of design, regulations, and more.

In this article, we will look at the essentials of telehealth app development, including:

  • types of telemedicine apps;
  • the components in telemedicine apps;
  • telehealth regulations;
  • telemedicine app development costs; and,
  • the various use cases for telemedicine apps

Types of Telemedicine Apps

To begin, let’s consider the different types of telemedicine apps out there:

Video Conferencing App

This is a very common form of telemedicine app. It gives physicians the ability to provide remote diagnosis of certain conditions. It can also be used for consultation between two doctors or to provide psychotherapy sessions.

Advice App

When patients have an existing treatment plan in place, they may have ongoing questions about things such as medication management or side effects. These medical advice apps are used to provide patients with quick access to answers without overburdening doctors. Physicians are alerted to messages via text or, in the case of more serious scenarios, via voice call.

Prescription Management App

Patients with chronic conditions often need ongoing medication. Prescription management apps give doctors and patients an easy way to manage ongoing prescriptions.

Crisis Psychiatry App

In the field of mental health services, patients may on occasion require crisis intervention. Crisis psychiatry apps provide doctors and therapists with a way to deliver emergency care when these patients are in immediate danger.

Telemedicine Regulations

One of the most mission-critical issues associated with telemedicine app development is adhering to telehealth regulations.

Most countries in the developed world require some oversight of telemedicine activities; regulations, however, vary from one region to the next or one country to the next.

Anyone undertaking development of a telehealth solution should work with their developers to ensure that an app adheres to regional or federal requirements.

Telehealth regulations can involve several aspects of telemedicine, including but not limited to:

  • How appointments are conducted
  • Patient privacy
  • How Electronic Health Records (HER) are transmitted
  • How data is stored

To get a more detailed look at telehealth regulation, review this recent article on regulations across the U.S., the EU and Asia.

Telemedicine regulations must be considered in each of the telemedicine app components discussed in the next section below.

Considering patient privacy and the sanctity of patient data is of the utmost importance in all these endeavors.

The Components of Telemedicine

The components used in a telemedicine solution can vary from one app to the next and depend on the needs of the practice or medical institution. Generally, every app will contain some core components that include:

  • Video conferencing
  • Payments interface
  • Notifications
  • Registration
  • Electronic Health Record management

Let’s walk through each of these to explore what they do and how they can improve the overall functionality of a telemedicine app.

Video Conferencing

At the heart of many telemedicine solutions is high-quality video conferencing.

The quality of this component is essential for many reasons, not the least of which is that a physician must hear a patient clearly in order to provide proper medical care.

Audio glitches and dropped calls can create significant problems, especially when telehealth involves psychotherapy that requires consistent and clear communication.

When developing a telemedicine app, consider integrating the following features:

  • sharing and recording functionality
  • robust streaming software
  • user-friendly sign-on capabilities
  • Interactive Voice Response
  • Multipoint Control Units

When it comes to video conferencing solutions that can be integrated into a telemedicine app, the current marketplace of third-party video conference solutions offers an array of opportunities.

Two of the most popular out there, however, are not ideal for this use case. Both Skype and Google Meet do not have APIs; as a result, they cannot be integrated with a telehealth solution.

There are other options, however.

Zoom, one of today’s most popular video conferencing solutions, has an SDK and Rest API for easy integration into an application. It is also a widely used application, meaning that end users will feel comfortable with its UI.

One downside to Zoom?

It doesn’t offer support for Safari, meaning that integrating into a web version of an app would not be the best idea.

Cisco WebEx is a good alternative to consider and features the same support for integration as Zoom, as well as the same capabilities. Its documentation is not as thorough as Zoom’s, however, which can lead to longer backend development times.

 AWS Chime also has a lot to offer, including clear documentation, SDK for NodeJS integration, and it works with both web and mobile apps.

This approach does require more development hours overall, but ticks enough other boxes to make it worthwhile.

Patient Registration & File Management

Registering patients and managing their files is a complex and time-consuming undertaking for medical practices.

Registration, in particular, is a pain point for many patients.

Digital registration and file management within a telehealth app, therefore, can ameliorate a lot of stressors at a practice.

Including these features into a telemedicine solution can save time, reduce labor hours, and increase the quality of the patient experience overall.

EHR Integration

Electronic health records, sometimes referred to as Electronic Medical Records or EMRs, are another vital component of telemedicine apps.

EHRs are necessary so that doctors can provide quality care. They also are necessary so that patients can access biometric data, test images, and other test results on an as needed basis.

As stated earlier, it is very important that EHR/EMR data is protected within a telehealth solution.

In places such as the United States, for example, patient privacy is at the heart of much regulation established in the healthcare industry.

Given the importance of protecting patient data, many practices and healthcare enterprises may already have existing EHR Management applications in place.

Ideally, a telemedicine app will integrate with these existing solutions to provide the most streamlined answer to a telemedicine provider’s needs without introducing unnecessary complexity or new risks to patient data.

Payment Interface

Telemedicine apps also often include payment interfaces to facilitate patient billing and payment processing.

These components can include functionality for capturing and managing charges, analyzing billing, and generating billing reports. Popular, third-party payment solutions such as Stripe or PayPal can also be used to make patient bill reconciliation that much easier.

Notification Systems

Missed appointments can cause a number of difficulties for a medical practice. Patients also often need reminders of annual checkups or follow-up appointments. Telemedicine apps, therefore, often feature notification systems that help with both appointment and patient management.

Advanced Technologies Used in Telemedicine Apps

The telehealth apps of today and tomorrow will leverage advanced technologies that further enhance their performance and the user’s experience. Each of these can bring real value to a telehealth app.

AI

Artificial intelligence is at the heart of many of today’s most performant apps.

In the context of telehealth, AI can support effective chatbots. These app add-ons are increasingly popular, bringing a customer service solution to an app that would be cost-prohibitive if controlled by humans.

AI-driven chatbots in a telehealth app can answer common patient questions, help with billing issues, or even help with scheduling.

The Internet of Things

IoT, or the “Internet of Things”, is the vast network of devices out there that connect end users to the cloud.

In the context of telehealth, IoT can add integration with personal, patient devices that help monitor patient health and status.

For example, a patient might wear a fitness tracker that monitors pulse rate, which would then transmit this data back into the telehealth app for doctor assessment.

Additional IoT devices that can add increased functionality to a telehealth app include stress meters, weight scales, and even smart drug dispenser machines.

Blockchain

As stated above, patient data security is of the utmost importance in telemedicine apps.

Blockchain technology provides developers with a way to share data in an encrypted format that is secure enough to ensure the sanctity of patient data.

Big Data & Machine Learning

Large-scale medical institutions can glean a good deal of valuable information from big data seen through the lens of machine learning. By parsing scads of health data, machine learning within a telemedicine app can run the analyses needed to provide better healthcare, make more accurate diagnoses, and run more effective research programs.

Medical institutions can also use machine learning and big data to improve internal practices and make more accurate predictions about patient outcomes.

The Cost of Telemedicine App Development

How much does it cost to develop a telemedicine app?

Telemedicine app development cost will vary significantly from project to project. In a very general sense, one can assume that the development of a full-service telemedicine app will require more than 2000 hours of work from multiple development professionals.

Development of a telemedicine app will typically require the involvement of:

  • at least two front-end developer
  • at least two back-end developers
  • a UI/UX designer
  • a project manager
  • a QA engineer
  • a DevOps engineer; and,
  • a team lead

This translates into costs of around 150,000 USD. There are alternatives, however, including developing solutions that integrate with existing solutions at a practice, which can lower development/backend time and, therefore, cost.

Telehealth app development professionals can work with you to develop a solution that not only meets your needs, but also your budget.

The Many Use Cases of Telemedicine

Telemedicine app development is not just about creating a digital presence for a practice or medical service. Telemedicine apps are essential medical tools with applications in many sectors.

The “target audience” for telemedicine apps is most every segment of the population that has access to the internet.

As 2020 showed us, telemedicine and remote medical care can be essential for everyone, under certain circumstances. Beyond the strictures of a pandemic, however, there are many use cases for telemedicine.

Elder care is one prominent use case. Many elders receive home care, and given their age and condition, they can have a hard time travelling to doctor’s offices for regular check-ups. Telemedicine provides a safe and convenient alternative for these patients.

It does the same for those with disabilities. Physical disabilities that make commuting complex can make travel to a doctor’s office difficult. Some with immune disorders, too, may wish to limit their exposure to crowded spaces as much as possible, instead turning to telemedicine.

Finally, the visually impaired are a potentially significant target audience for these telehealth solutions. Addressing this space will involve careful consideration of the UX/UI.

Telemedicine app developers seeking to serve such communities fully should integrate features such as support for screen readers, adjustable font sizes, and more to make the user experience as fulfilling as possible for these users.

In Conclusion

While complex, telemedicine solutions can bring a good deal of value to a medical practice.

What’s more, they are expected by more and more patients these days, especially in the aftermath of COVID.

Fortunately, they can deliver serious ROI when done correctly and in the right partnership with a telemedicine app development company.

Medical offices using telemedicine solutions will find that they are better able to deliver patient care, manage their offices, and process billing, for one.

These solutions also provide one of the most comprehensive ways to deliver medical care and support in the digital age.