Telemedicine Platform For Your Practice: What You Need To Know

The global healthcare crisis arising as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has put telemedicine in the mainstream right now.

Leading healthcare organizations are resorting to telemedicine platforms for ensuring that the patients receive the right treatment without exposing them to the virus.

With virtual visits, the burden on the already strained healthcare system is being mitigated letting the healthcare providers focus on advanced cases that require more attention.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the the irrefutable proof that your practice now needs to harness the power of telemedicine more than ever.

Several aspects need to be considered before you can zero in on the approach you would take when building a telemedicine platform or an app for your practice.

We put together a detailed guide from the several years that we’ve been assisting medical practitioners build healthcare and telemedicine apps and the questions we get asked repeatedly. 

But, before that, a quick run-through of the benefits telemedicine offers for your clinical practice, if you’re still sitting on the fence about it. 

Why should you build a telemedicine platform for your practice

A well executed telemedicine app releases you from the shackles of being stuck in a specific location and allows you to broaden the reach of your practice.

Scaling your clinical practice via telemedicine makes you accessible to a wider range of patients, helping you grow your revenues while impacting more lives. 

62.6% of patients and 59% of clinicians have reported no difference in the quality of visits between telemedicine and in-person visits. In fact, telemedicine has proven itself to be a vital tool for patient re-engagement through automated reminders and remote patient monitoring. 

It offers flexibility to both you as well as your patients allowing for optimum utilization of resources, thus improving the overall efficiency of healthcare delivery. 

Building and Launching a telemedicine platform 

In our 9+ years of experience working with healthcare companies and private practitioners, we come across some common questions and challenges our clients usually face.

If you too are looking to build a telemedicine platform or an application for your practice, here is everything you need to know before getting started. 

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Should I open my platform for other practitioners or launch it solely for my own practice?

Deciding the scale of operations for your telemedicine platform is crucial.

It all boils down to the purpose behind building the telemedicine platform. Is it intended to add flexibility and convenience for you and your patients or do you want to target the community at large and by having your peers signing up as well?

The scale of operations you decide on dictate the complexity of features to be incorporated and the level of interoperability that would be required. When you open the platform for other practitioners, you need to ensure compatibility with a variety of EHRs as well for processing and storage of data. 

The marketing and promotion costs also rise up when you want other practitioners to adopt your platform over the other options available.

Contrary to this, when you build for your own practice, you can completely customize it based on your needs and as per your patient’s requirements. 

What’s better: custom building the telemedicine platform or an off-the-shelf solution?

According to the Physician’s Foundation, 40 percent of doctors aren’t satisfied with the solution that they use and would like better customization of features based on their needs. 

With custom telemedicine platform, the ownership is in your hands and not the vendor’s. This makes it possible to have a platform that is tailored to meet your specific needs. 

You don’t have to rely on the vendors for the incorporation of features you want. It also ensures that you can design the workflows according to your practice and don’t have to stick to cookie-cutter templates that exist in the market. 

With the telemedicine landscape rapidly advancing, having a custom telemedicine platform also ensures that you can keep up with innovations such as artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of medical things to deliver an enhanced patient experience. 

How to decide the features to be included in the first version/MVP of the telemedicine platform?

It’s natural to think of telemedicine in the form of a doctor patient video conferencing solution. However, based on their use-cases, telemedicine platforms can be broadly divided into three types

  • Remote patient monitoring platforms– include data storage and transfer protocols in place for sharing and storing the data collected by connected devices. 
  • Store-and-forward telemedicine platforms (asynchronous telemedicine): needs secure patient data transfer channels in place. 
  • Real-time telemedicine platforms (synchronous telemedicine): needs to have a number of features like patient profile creation, storage of EMRs, calling and messaging functionality, and payment processing etc. 

Taking the startup MVP approach when building your telemedicine platform prevents you from diving headlong in the deep end of the pool. The MVP is the minimum viable product that meets the needs of the end-users. 

Your telemedicine platform does not need fancy bells and whistles right from day one. You don’t want to end up with an over-inflated product full of features that aren’t of much value. 

Start with the core, must-have feature that is the backbone of your telemedicine platform and build iteratively post-launch.

This allows you to incorporate the vital user feedback into your platform and pivot accordingly. It is also a cost-effective alternative that lets you validate your telemedicine platform and ensure that it has the best chances of success. 

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What needs to be done to ensure regulatory compliance?

Any virtual care platform that deals with personally-identifying patient education needs to comply with the data security and regulatory laws such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act), HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act), GDPR (General data protection regulation) etc. 

In the US, the regulatory and compliance norms for telemedicine also vary from one state to another so it is best to do the research and get legal counsel so that you err on the side of caution. 

Hiring a telemedicine app development company such as Arkenea that is well versed with HIPAA and HITECH compliance and has experience building telemedicine platforms is going to be your best shot. 

How much time would it take for the initial launch?

The time to market your telemedicine platform directly correlates to its complexity and number of features that need to be incorporated within the it.

The timeline for developing and launching a basic telemedicine platform can take up anywhere between 5-8 months. Adding advanced features would result in the timeline getting longer. 

App development can be divided into four distinct phases;

  • Business Analysis
  • Design
  • Development and Testing
  • Deployment, Support and Maintenance

Following the MVP startup approach can significantly accelerate the development time while bringing down the costs and laying down a solid foundation for your telemedicine platform.

The actual development needs to be preceded by a thorough business analysis to validate the need for your platform, conduct a competitor analysis, decide on the technology stack that your application will run on, and shortlist the features to be included in the first version of your platform. 

The analysis phase is a crucial step in the development process and can take up to two months to be completed. 

Once you have a clear picture of the platform that is to be developed and preferably a prototype as well, the design phase begins. Designing the UI/UX and finalizing the flow can take anywhere between one to two months. 

Once the design phase concludes, it is time for converting the design mockups and wireframes into lines of code and commence the development phase. 

Following Agile practices ensures that the frontend, backend development and testing take place simultaneously bringing down the timeline. However, you can easily expect the development and deployment to last for at least two-three months.  

What would be the cost of building a telemedicine platform for my practice?

The development cost when launching a telemedicine app directly relates to the level of complexity and number of features to be included within the application. 

A basic telemedicine platform with a doctor’s portal, a patient’s portal and an admin panel can range anywhere between $50,000 to $100,000. A minimum viable telemedicine app may have the following feature list:

On the doctor’s portal

  • Doctor profile
  • Availability slots
  • Accept/Cancel/Reschedule appointment
  • Connect with EMR/EHR
  • Video conferencing/messaging

On the patient’s portal

  • Patient profile
  • Patient intake form
  • Request/Cancel/Reschedule appointment
  • Payment

There is an entire range of features that can be incorporated in the future iterations of the platform which will add up to the development costs. 

Parting Words

The future of telemedicine is very bright. The application of technology in the field of healthcare is just skimming the surface and has boundless opportunities waiting to be unearthed. 

The benefits that telemedicine brings in the lives of the patients, as well as the healthcare providers, would likely see it disrupting the traditional model of healthcare delivery soon. 

A custom developed telemedicine platform can give your practice the cutting edge of excellence it needs to have a competitive advantage in the healthcare industry. 

Got more questions before commencing the work on a telemedicine app for your practice? Contact us for a free consultation and we can have our experts to brainstorm ideas right alongside you. 

Vinati Kamani
 

Dr Vinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and its application across industries for Arkenea. She is an avid reader and self proclaimed bibliophile. When Vinati is not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found travelling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.