Telemedicine is no longer a buzzword in the healthcare industry. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the telemedicine industry was booming.
The size of the global telemedicine market was anticipated to evolve at a CAGR of 16.8% and reach USD 56738.3 Million by 2023.
With healthcare organizations big and small moving quickly to adapt to changing times and incorporating telemedicine, we are currently witnessing a surge in telehealth app development.
Launching a telemedicine app has the potential to be a step forward in this industry and a revolutionary offering for many medical practitioners. Telemedicine had the potential to mitigate the challenges associated with healthcare delivery and enable easy access to healthcare facilities.
In this piece, we are going to cover everything that you need to know to build a telemedicine app. This includes
- The best approach for telemedicine app development
- Must have telemedicine app features
- Steps for building a telemedicine app
- Technical aspects of telemedicine app development
- Advanced integrations to include in the telemedicine application
- How much does it cost to develop a telemedicine app
- Who needs to be hired to create a telemedicine app?
Telemedicine App Development – The Right Approach
A feature rich telemedicine application that provides a seamless user experience for the physicians as well as the patients is the end goal when integrating telemedicine into your practice.
However, mapping out what features you need in the first version of your application is absolutely essential.
It helps to define the scope of your app, set up a development budget and timeline, hire a telemedicine app development company to maximize your chances of success by building an app that is highly scalable in nature.
Developing your application incrementally also allows for greater flexibility and ability to incorporate the feedback received in the initial versions of the app into its future iterations to ensure the best user experience.
Aim for the MVP – the Minimum Viable Product. List out all the features that you deem to be a must-have in your telemedicine app, the features that the app would cease to function without. These should be covered in the first development cycle.
Sticking to the MVP approach helps avoid scope creeps and ensures that you stick to the time and budget estimates that you had envisioned at the beginning of your project.
Once your MVP app is ready, collect the user feedback, look for ways to make the app better. Include these and the nice-to-have features that would make your telemedicine app even better in the next round of development.
Speaking of features, here are the must-have and nice-to-have features that you can think about including in your telemedicine app.
Must have features when developing a telemedicine mobile app
A classic telemedicine app development solution usually consists of three distinct but interconnected parts – doctor app, patient app, and a complex admin panel. Here are the top telemedicine app features that you should look to incorporate when aiming for telehealth app development.
A. Patient-Related Features in Telehealth App Development
1) Registration – Since telemedicine apps deal with sensitive data, they require a higher level of protection. The recommendation here would be to use two-factor authentication, which can include voice, SMS, and phone verification.
2) Patient profile – at this point, a patient is required to enter necessary healthcare records and other compulsory information. Make this procedure as easy and quick as possible. Nobody likes to fill out long forms.
3) Search – a patient can search for a healthcare specialist based on one or more criteria (proximity, doctor rating, specialization, etc.). A general advice for the first app version would be to limit search entities.
4) Calendar and Appointments – The patient should be able to look through the physicians available for telemedicine appointments and choose from the time slots available to book their appointment.
Patients need to be provided with a list of appointments based on their preferred doctor’s availability, as well as the possibility to cancel or edit them quickly.
5) Communication – the process can be carried out through video or audio conferencing for real-time consultation. For the first version in telemedicine app development, it is recommended to come up with an uncomplicated format (e.g. photo-based consultation for dermatologists).
6) Payment – telemedicine app monetization should support at least 3-4 different payment methods ( eg: payment gateways, credit and debit cards, internet banking) . The patient should also be able to track their transaction history.
7) Notifications – push notifications and relevant reminders can be embedded within the app since these features help keep track of appointments.
Once the must-have features have been integrated, you can think of adding more advanced features. The patient app can include some extra features like: personalized dashboard, medication tracking, secure chats, in-app calls, navigation, cloud data storage, patient’s insurance plan, etc.
B. Features for Doctors in Telemedicine App Development
As far as telemedicine apps for doctors are concerned, certain functionalities completely correlate with the patient app. However, there are some specific features that should be implemented in this part of a telemedicine solution.
1) Doctor profile – practitioners should fill out accurate information about their experience, specialization, education, etc. It should include the details about their educational qualifications, their license and proof of medical capabilities.
2) Scheduling and calendar – doctors should be provided with features wherein they can receive consultation requests, set their availability, approve the appointment requests and manage their appointments.
3) Communication – the doctor-patient interaction should be identical. In the first version of the app, it is better to use consultation based on photos or one-to-one audio or video consultations.
In the future development iterations, you can think of integrating group conferencing for referral visits.
4) EHR review – doctors need to be able to access patient profiles, hospital databases, preliminary-filled questionnaires, or other methods that will make it easier for them to retrieve a patient’s records.
Other useful features that the telemedicine app for doctors could include are: digital prescriptions, video or audio session recording, dashboard or analytics, pharmacy databases, specialist consultations and referrals etc.
C. Features for the Administrator in a Telehealth Application
A telemedicine admin panel enables you to manage all processes within your app. It provides you with access to your users’ profiles, necessary data, and all the tools you use to monetize your app.
These features should definitely be present in your admin panel:
1) Personal profiles – Each administrator needs a profile in the admin panel. This will let you see who made changes, and create different levels of access to protect data and keep control over particular features.
2) Doctor Profile Management – An admin should be able to view and manage doctors’ profiles right in the admin panel of the app.
This includes everything right from having access to all of a doctor’s previous activity, deleting an account if a doctor violates policies, and editing information in a doctor’s profile at the request of a support center.
3) Patient Profile Management – Just like in the case of doctors, an admin also needs to be given control to view and edit the information in patient profiles. This includes: having access to their medical information, payment history, activity, etc.
4) Analytics – With analytics inside the admin panel, one can know at all times what’s going on within the app from both the technical and marketing standpoints – right from keeping track of how many people have downloaded the app to how many have signed up for the service.
5) Notification Management – With this feature, push notifications can easily be sent to both patients and doctors to inform them about upcoming appointments, updates to policies, special offers, etc.
Users can also be grouped according to their activities, demographics, or other parameters to send targeted notifications.
6) Integration with EHR Systems – Integrate the app’s admin panel with an electronic health records system. This will enable admins to view the latest updates to a patient’s health records in case there are any questions or concerns.
Steps for Telemedicine Application Development
1. Choosing platform of development
Are you focusing on a web-based telemedicine platform or are you looking to develop a telemedicine mobile application?
If you are focusing on mobile development, do you plan to go the native route (two sets of code written for Android and iOS platforms) or cross-platform development (shared codebase that can be deployed across both these platforms?
Choosing the platform for your app is going to be the first step in telemedicine app development. The choice depends on your requirements as well as availability of budget and time.
You can also start with one platform and move on to others as you continue to scale.
2. UX/UI design
User experience and user interface design are important aspects of developing your app that need to be mapped out before you start with the actual development. To provide an exceptional experience, the designer should consider:
1) Efficient onboarding – Great user onboarding not only furthers down abandonment rates but can also aid in boosting long-term success metrics like user lifetime value and user retention.
Not all users of the telemedicine app may be tech savvy so designing an onboarding process that walks the users through the features and functionalities of the app adds to the user experience.
2) Usability – Usability encompasses the layout of design, information, content, and other elements that allow users to achieve their goals within the app.
Help your users by telling them which icons can be tapped, selected, or swiped. Always make sure that you remain even with gestures throughout the app to enhance usability.
3) Reducing the Search Effort – Help your users find what they need swiftly to drive conversion rates and satisfy their needs. There are ample search approaches you can integrate into your app such as keyword search and barcode scanning.
4) Limiting User Input – This is the data users are required to enter, such as their credit card and billing information, during registration or checkout for example. User input should always be minimal on mobile devices as users may get frustrated with the smaller screen size.
5) Offering Assistance – Offer your users assistance within the app by providing different support options. Users will often search for help in the toolbar or tab bar of an app.
Offer multiple ways for users to receive support, including self-serve FAQs and live support through click-to-call buttons, or live chats.
6) Personalization – Personalization helps provide a more unique and relevant experience to the user. Whenever possible, personalize the UX by leveraging user data to display relevant content and material in the app.
The more aligned the experience is with a user’s needs and preferences, the more likely they are to continue to use the application. Including the user’s name on the screen and in messaging is an easy and effective way to personalize.
Everything right from the logic, navigation, and the layout of your telemedicine app should be created in accordance with user needs.
3. App Development and Quality Assurance
Healthcare software development is tricky because of the need for greater compliance to regulations and telemedicine app development is no exception.
Hiring an in-house team is a resource intensive activity and partnering with experienced developers amplifies your chances of success.
An experienced development team that specializes in healthcare niche and has rich experience in telemedicine app development is already aware of the intricacies it involves.
It ensures robust development and rigorous testing so that it meets the legal and regulatory requirements.
Quality assurance and testing are crucial phases of the software development life cycle. The telehealth software needs to undergo rigorous testing during each sprint, user acceptance testing and regression testing before the final deployment.
It also needs to undergo stress testing to ensure that it will be able to handle a huge inflow of users onboarding and function optimally.
4. Deployment and maintenance of the telemedicine app
Developing software is seldom a one-time activity. Even after it’s deployment, the software requires updates and maintenance from time to time. The maintenance phase needs to be taken into consideration right from the start.
User feedback collected post the deployment of the app is done, can be incorporated in the maintenance stage to ensure that the telemedicine app developed matches perfectly with your practice’s workflow and results in a seamless user experience.
Technical Considerations for Telemedicine App Development
1. Data Security and Encryption
The security of healthcare data is of paramount importance when developing a telemedicine app. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) policies make the whole process all the more demanding since these policies abide by stringent rules and have huge repercussions in case of negligence and violations.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule sets standards for protection of individuals’ medical records in healthcare systems including telemedicine, which makes compliance to HIPAA security rules a prime concern among app developers.
When developing telemedicine apps, it is crucial to understand what different types of information comes under HIPAA.
The very first thing an app developer needs to decide is if your telemedicine app is going to collect, store or transmit protected health information (PHI) which is regulated by HIPAA rules.
PHI accounts for any information in a medical record that can be used to trace an individual including: medical records, billing information, health insurance information, or any individually identifiable health information.
Telehealth providers that are going to deal with PHI necessarily need to be HIPAA compliant, even if they simply plan on interacting or exchanging information with covered entities.
On the other hand, if a telehealth provider is getting an application developed to track, manage or store information that doesn’t come under the PHI category, or isn’t going to share the information with a covered entity, the company doesn’t have to be HIPAA compliant.
To make your telemedicine app HIPAA compliant, you need to follow these four rules:
1) Privacy rule
2) Security rule
3) Enforcement rule
4) Breach notification rule
The main rule for any developer who works on telemedicine applications happens to be the security rule, which describes physical and technical safeguards that need to be taken into account.
To create a secure app that’s fully HIPAA compliant, using reliable providers, a set of technical tools like libraries and third-party services isn’t enough.
You need not only to encrypt the data in the software you develop but also make sure that it can’t be accessed if the server or device is physically compromised. Provide highly encrypted and secure video conferencing and communication services.
Remember to assess how much information you actually need for your app to operate and bring value to your users.
HIPAA compliant apps don’t collect any information that isn’t necessary; if yours does, you’ll be spending resources on protecting the information you don’t actually need.
2. Back-end Infrastructure
The most vital components of your telemedicine app – the back end – is responsible for your app’s security, speed, payments, and all other features inside it. It also gives you control over all the processes inside your app.
Backend infrastructure usually consists of technologies, a software architecture, and third-party components.
Because telemedicine is based on video conferencing and chats, it’s critical you choose the right network type, codecs, transmission protocols, databases, bandwidth, and more.
Third-party libraries for features like payments also demand attention. Your web developers should thoroughly examine the documentation and ensure the solutions they opt for, are compatible and secure with your complete infrastructure.
One important tip here would be to try and use Backend-as-a-Service that’s already HIPAA compliant. It’s an excellent option for MVP: a HIPAA compliant backend for healthcare companies allows you to test your service often and save time on development.
When it comes to servers, you can choose either a dedicated server or a cloud server. A dedicated server is a separate physical machine that you rent. A cloud server is a virtual server that consists of virtual storage on different physical servers.
Choosing HIPAA compliant hosting servers is advisable for telemedicine since you’ll be able to scale your storage quickly, and they’re just easier to set up. For highly sensitive information, you can have an additional dedicated server or buy your own hardware.
3. UI/UX Implementation
One of the biggest technical challenges for your software engineering team is going to be that of achieving great UI/UX implementation, as one part of the app will be for doctors and the other for patients, like we’ve discussed earlier.
They will have divergent technical feasibilities, functionality, and user interfaces.
According to one recent research by Accenture, healthcare providers with apps are failing to engage consumers through mobile means for two reasons: poor user experience and poor functionality.
Without in-depth understanding of your target users’ psychological underpinnings or in-app behavior patterns, you won’t be able to forge a service that exceeds expectations and satisfies a central goal.
Advanced Integrations in Telehealth App Development
The future of telemedicine technology is boundless. Tech innovations like artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, AR/VR, smart devices etc. combined with telemedicine can give it an edge in the days to come.
Here are a few ways in which telemedicine app development can leverage advanced technology
1. AI-powered chatbots
With much research underway in the field of AI chatbots in the context of telemedicine, days when the primary patient interactions will be done through artificial intelligence and followed by specialist referrals as a result of that conversation, are not far.
AI chatbots can answer the frequently asked questions and fill up the gaps where healthcare providers are not available. By automating routine processes, artificial intelligence can smoothen the doctor’s workflow and improve efficiency.
2. Remote Patient Monitoring
RPM is establishing itself as a distinct niche of telemedicine that can let physicians monitor patients remotely post their discharge and reduce the instances of hospital readmission.
With connected devices recording and transmitting the patient’s vitals to the doctor, it can result in data-driven care that improves the overall health outcomes.
3. Internet of Medical Things
Connected devices such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, wearable devices are a treasure trove of patient data.
Combining IoMT with big data analytics can help physicians detect trends in data and adjust their treatment plans accordingly. Smart pill dispensers can automate prescribing and improve efficiencies as well.
While cryptocurrency might be the most popular example of blockchain technology, it also has great potential in the healthcare industry as well.
By providing a secure ledger to store historical transactions and conversation history from the telemedicine platform, blockchain technology can provide the much needed additional layer of security.
How Much Does It Cost To Develop A Telemedicine App?
The answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as the previous ones. There are a number of factors that affect the telemedicine app development costs.
- Features and complexity of the app
- Timeline of development
- APIs and other software integrations required
- Skills and experience of the development team
- Geographical location where the app is being developed, etc
Depending on the type of telemedicine app being developed, the features and complexity, the development cost of a telemedicine app may range from $40,000 – $200,00.
- Store and forward telemedicine applications – $40,000- $70,000
- Real time/Interactive telemedicine application development – $75,000 – $175,000+
- Remote patient monitoring telemedicine applications – $65,000 – $150,000+
Simple vs Complex Telehealth App Development
A basic telemedicine app that consists of a provider app, a patient app and an admin panel takes about 3 to 6 months to develop and deploy. Depending on the size and expertise of the team working on developing the app, the cost of developing a basic telemedicine app that offers real-time audio/video consultations between patients and providers can range anywhere between $40,000- $85,000.
A feature-rich telemedicine app that requires multiple API integrations, has more complex functionalities, and integrates with other software solutions such as EHR/EMR, appointment scheduling or billing software can take anywhere between 8-18 months to develop.
The costs associated with developing a complex telemedicine app can range from $150,000 to $350,000 depending on the features that need to be developed and app complexity.
Another option is for medical practices to white label a telemedicine application instead of developing it ground up if it is solely for internal use.
MVP Development vs Fully Loaded Telemedicine App Development
The cost of telemedicine app development also depends on whether you choose to develop an MVP or go for a full feature loaded product development. Taking an MVP-first approach allows for scalable development to take place while avoiding scope keep, thus keeping the development costs in check.
By developing a minimum viable product, healthcare organizations can also incorporate the end-user feedback and develop a telemedicine app that better meets the user requirement.
Developing a full-feature telemedicine software is comparatively a costlier affair because the scope of the project becomes much larger.
Native vs Cross Platform Telemedicine App Development
Native app development involves development of two distinct apps for iOS as well and Android platform. The development team’s efforts required double up, effectively doubling up the costs as well. In case of cross-platform app development, there is a shared code base which is deployed simultaneously across the iOS as well the Android framework.
While native apps give an enhanced user experience, cross platform app development helps keep the development costs in check. Additionally, the costs of developing an telemedicine app for Android is a little higher than iOS because it requires testing to be done on more devices to ensure that the app functions seamlessly and provides an enhanced user experience.
Impact of the development team on pricing
The size of the team you hire will contribute directly to the costs incurred in telemedicine app development. Its not just the size of the team that contributes to the cost. Experience and expertise of the development team also matters.
Partnering with a development team that is highly experienced in the healthcare niche will enhance the quality of the telemedicine app developed and ensure that the regulatory requirements are met. However, quality comes at a price and partnering with experienced software developers comes with a price tag of its own.
Additionally, if you choose to integrate cutting edge technologies like big data analytics, artificial intelligence and/or internet of medical things within your app, the costs associated will automatically increase.
No two telemedicine apps are alike. A minor variation in the requirements can have a huge impact on the cost of development. The best way to accurately estimate the cost of development is to get in touch with the telemedicine app development company that you are considering partnering with and get a quote on the basis of your project requirements.
Challenges Of Telemedicine App Development
1. Healthcare UI/UX implementation
Your telemedicine app needs to deliver a seamless user experience across different platforms such as desktop, tablet or laptop. The mobile app needs to provide just as good as an experience as the desktop version which makes designing of UI/UX of the telemedicine app a challenge.
On top of that, the design elements and components that should be visible on the provider telemedicine app would be entirely different than those on the patient app. So the interface has to be designed in such a way that it shows different features for patients and doctors.
Here’ show a team of telemedicine app developers would deal with this challenge
- Develop two distinct version of the telemedicine app – one for the patients and one for the healthcare providers
- Develop an interface that works for both the patients and providers and has the set of features and functionalities that the target audience needs.
As the user base increases, the telehealth app needs to scale to accommodate them without compromising on the experience the target audience has. Telemedicine software development needs to be undertaken with scalability on the agenda.
Here are a few steps that telemedicine software developers can undertake to ensure that the telehealth app is scalable.
- Developing an autoscale feature within the mobile app that allows for scaling the server resources as the demand increases.
- Server cloning of the application. This creates a server cluster with the same codebase, allowing for the application to scale.
3. Integration and Interoperability
Backend integration ensures secure data transfer from the patient’s end to the doctor’s end. Interoperability ensures that the data in the telehealth app can also be utilized for other healthcare software that your practice may already be employing such as EHR software or appointment scheduling software. Both these pose significant challenge to developing a telemedicine app.
Here is how your telemedicine software development partner should be looking to solve them.
- Interoperability focus when developing telehealth software right from discovery stage is crucial for developing a software that integrates with existing systems in your practice.
- Well organized API integration documentation to assist in integrating third party services within your telemedicine platform.
4. Compliance and Data Security
HIPAA compliance and data security remain one of the biggest challenges for telemedicine apps. Partnering with experienced healthcare software developers who are well versed with the legal, compliance and regulatory landscape is your best bet when custom developing a telemedicine software. Here is how you can ensure that the app developed remains compliant to HIPAA and other regulatory laws.
- User access controls, monitoring and audit trails need to be in place to ensure adherence to HIPAA privacy and security rule.
- Use of HIPAA compliant cloud service providers for data storage and signing of business associate agreement (BAA) with all the involved parties to ensure compliance.
Who Needs To Be Hired to Develop a Telemedicine App?
Vetting and selecting the development team to partner with for developing your telemedicine app is a very important step in your development journey. The level of success it achieves is directly correlated to the development team that you choose.
So who should you hire to create your telemedicine app? Should you consider an in-house development team or should you look for experts in the healthcare development space instead?
Hiring your own development team gives you a better control over the project but investing so much time and efforts in the hiring and onboarding the team without in-house technical expertise is a resource intensive activity.
There is also greater risk involved in case thorough vetting doesn’t happen prior to hiring.
On the contrary, partnering with seasoned and experienced telemedicine app developers reduces the inherent risk involved. Since they already have experience in developing similar projects in the past, they are well versed in the requirements for creating a telemedicine app.
Here are some things to keep in mind before choosing the development team for your telemedicine app
- Range of experience in developing telemedicine platforms
- Samples of previous projects in the development portfolio
- Experience in building secure HIPAA compliant telehealth software
- Excellent experience of UX/UI requirements to provide a good user experience to providers and patients
- Ability to integrate the telemedicine software with any existing medical software that you might be using.
- Post-deployment support and maintenance services offered
If you have your requirements spelled out and would like to estimate how much it would cost to develop a telemedicine app for your practice, get in touch for a free consultation with us today.