During the pandemic, the telehealth market gained popularity and got a good chance for rapid growth. Experts report that it was estimated at $40.205 million in 2020, and now we have the opportunity to see it increase to $431.823 million. According to the industry report, 90% of owners have already implemented such technologies within their organizations. If you plan to start a telehealth business, then now it’s high time to take the first steps. From this article, you will learn the features of related software and how you can create and run it.
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What Is the Meaning of Telemedicine App Development, and Who Benefits from It?
The answer looks like this: it’s a field of IT associated with creating mobile solutions for online communication between medical workers and patients. Actually, this is the meaning of telemedicine.
As a rule, it implies 2 types of interactions:
- Doctor-patient: sending research results and conclusions, providing online consultations to make diagnoses, prescribing or adjusting treatment, and remote biomonitoring.
- Doctor-doctor: exchange of data, knowledge, and experience with colleagues from other regions, conferences on emergency issues, broadcasting of operations in real-time, training, and more.
The benefits are clear for service providers of all profiles and scales, from state hospitals at the regional level to small centers with narrow specializations, such as endocrinology. By introducing telemedicine applications, your healthcare institution becomes independent of external factors and serves patients around the clock, at any distance, and in the most convenient way.
We can divide remote communication modes into the following groups:
- Video conference. Communication in an interactive format using audiovisual technologies. It helps examine patients, take an anamnesis, make a diagnosis or confirm it, monitor during rehabilitation, and provide psychotherapeutic support.
- Consultation. Text, audio, or asynchronous video recorded in advance are used for communication. It helps with the appointment of examinations and treatment, advice on taking medications, or control after leaving the inpatient department.
- Issuance of prescriptions. The doctor prepares prescriptions electronically and sends them to the patient. It helps with prescribing drugs issued for treatment at home, for example, in self-isolation.
- RPM. The devices continuously collect data on the state of the person and automatically transmit them to specialists. For example, a monitor that tracks blood pressure. It helps with checking the course of the disease, reducing the risk of exacerbations, warning about the need to take medication, and responding to life-threatening situations.
The following platforms are known on the market: SimplePractice, Healow, Teladoc, Sydney Care, Doximity, MDLIVE, Talkspace, Amwell, Doctor On Demand, etc. They have existed for many years and continue to gain popularity, including under the influence of the pandemic.
The Healthcare Coalition reports that 50% of physicians who used such technologies during the pandemic experienced increased productivity. They have become more efficient in serving people from cities, suburbs, and rural areas. It ensured timely assistance and increased security. In addition, doctors began to receive more job satisfaction and improved their financial situations.
No wonder telehealth app development services are in such high demand. For you, it is an opportunity to solve many problems: centralize data in EHR, optimize the schedule, and automate administrative routine, improving the quality of service.
Let’s imagine that you ask experts to develop a functional telemedicine app. What stages does your idea have to go through to turn into a full-fledged product? And how will you participate in it?
1. Business analysis and study of requirements
An analyst involved in the project collects and systematizes data about:
- competitors (characteristics of similar products);
- consumers (gender, age, location, values, etc.);
- user problems (tasks that the product must solve);
- industry regulations (HIPAA, HITECH, etc.) and standards;
- basic features that the product must obtain.
Based on your tasks, assemble a team of specialists with relevant skills. It’s necessary to highlight prioritized features to delve into your project deeper, synchronize understanding of the product within the team, and lay the foundation for the first version.
There are features a telehealth app must have, and the task of the development company’s specialists is to highlight them. Note that your app will have different interfaces depending on who uses it: professionals or consumers. So, it’s necessary to adapt to the requirements of both parties.
Required functionality for the consumer (patient):
- Registration: creating an account for storing data (including medical history) for secure access to them.
- Booking appointments: View doctor profiles and quickly book appointments as scheduled.
- Multi-format: communication in a convenient video, audio, or chat mode.
- Storage: entering data on health and history of interactions in the database and the possibility to send it to people from your network.
- GEO: indicate your location and track medical facilities nearby.
- Payments: payment immediately after the meeting (credit card, debit card).
- Rating system: the possibility to evaluate the professionalism of a specialist and study reviews of other people.
Required functionality for the professional (doctor):
- Account: registration on the platform, indicating specialty, experience, and work directions.
- Schedule: planning online appointments according to current requests.
- Medical base: quick access to data (EHR) for collecting anamnesis and prescribing the correct treatment.
- Prescriptions: Deliver prescriptions digitally and connect to local pharmacy databases to check availability.
- Multi-format: same as for patients. Maintaining communication in a suitable format.
- Recording: Save video/audio reception to your device for detailed study.
- Payments: automatic sending of invoices and receipts after the transaction.
Choosing tech stack
The choice between programming languages for telemedicine software development depends on which platform it is intended for (iOS or Android). In the first case, use Swift, and in the second, you can select Kotlin or Java. For the back-end, choose Java, Python, or Ruby. When it comes to a cross-platform solution, experts prefer frameworks such as Flutter and React Native.
Technical stack for introducing key features and a complete working environment:
- Video broadcasting to provide interactive conferences: WebRTC, RTMP, Twilio.
- Chat communications: Socket.io, Twilio.
- Database management: MySQL, MongoDB, Postgres, Hbase.
- Interaction with other programs (API): Stripe, EC2, S3, Firebase Cloud Messaging.
- Work in the cloud: AWS, Google Cloud.
Industry products based on advanced technologies are in high demand. To make the app more functional, it makes sense to introduce AI into it (for speech recognition and conversations with a chatbot), big data (for working in EHR), blockchain (for improving security, encryption), IoT (for surveillance). Rest assured, every telemedicine app developer knows what tools and technologies are best to implement and in what cases.
Planning Information Architecture and Navigation
The structure of your solution determines how convenient and easy the access to the content will be. A system architect works on it based on the specifics of the project. Often templates are used for this. For example, Hub & Spoke is suitable for software solutions for iPhone, and Nested Doll is good for Android. Specialists specify what elements the product should consist of and how the user will work with them.
Creating UI / UX Design
Users who download your product are loyal by default. They have already completed the target action and, if the app solves their problems, they will use it regularly. However, if at least one section seems inconvenient, they will delete the app and never return. This is where mobile apps differ from websites.
At this stage of telehealth app development, you experience great responsibility. Your hired employees must build a user-friendly ecosystem with perfect UX:
- Writing use cases, user scenarios, and customer journey maps.
- Drawing flowcharts to visualize scenarios.
- Creation of low-detail layouts with priority and arrangement of interface elements on the screen.
- Creating high-level prototypes and discussing them within the team and with you.
- Creation of detailed clickable prototypes with the necessary dynamics, animation, and micro-interactions for further testing.
- Test interactive prototypes to discover the optimal user journey.
- Handing over prototypes to designers to refine micro-interactions and styling.
- Approval of the design by both parties and transfer to the developers.
Industry-specific features of the product must be considered when designing. Here and in the subsequent stages, the participation of your company as a customer comes down to making changes and approving the results of the work.
Front-End and Back-end
Back-end means working on the part that transfers data between the user or resources:
- Designing and creating a deployed server architecture: databases, caching, authorization methods, etc.
- Defining server-side logic functionality through APIs.
- Creation of an administrative panel with functionality adapted to your needs.
- Implementation of metrics for evaluating the growth of users, activity, and attendance of the project as a whole and its sections.
Along with telehealth app development, you need a service for the comprehensive identification of problems in the system. Next, we’ll consider what work should be performed.
Deployment & Support
Before proceeding to deployment, specialists pay attention to certification. The product must be adapted to the industry standards and laws of a particular territory. So, in the USA, HIPAA conditions must be met, and in Europe, you have to follow 2002/58/EC/IEC (electronic data privacy), 62304 1995/46/EC (data protection), and GDPR.
When everything is ready, the mobile app is published in Google Play, App Store, and Microsoft Store. However, the work does not end there: the team monitors how the solution operates and responds to feedback. They help to eliminate errors, if any. Support may last for the period of pilot deployment (while the focus group checks the program) or for the long term.
A Few Words About the Search for Developers
We talked about what stages an idea must go through to turn into reality. But how much will it cost? It is not difficult to calculate the price of work on a project if you know the approximate terms and the rate of an IT company. Consider an example: business analysis can take about 100 hours, UI/UX design between 450 and 650 hours, testing 640 hours, back-end and front-end 2300 and 940 hours, process management 250 hours. Add up all the time costs (in this case, 5330 hours) and multiply them by the hourly rate.
However, it’s not so simple: the cost depends on the scale of work, the complexity of the functionality, the specifics of the tech stack, advanced technologies you introduce (such as AI and blockchain), and the need for additional integrations. The location of the developer company also plays an important role.
Eastern Europe offers the best price/quality ratio and a wide pool of talent. Ukraine ranks first in offshore development: the cost varies from $19 to $50 per hour. In the US and Canada, this figure can reach $77 and $65 per hour, respectively.
Telemedicine business opens up wide opportunities for service, and research confirms this. SingleCare for January 2021 reported that almost 70% of patients chose such technologies to fight against common diseases and 44% for chronic ones. In addition, 65% prefer to be monitored remotely after hospitalization, and about 35% prefer to undergo examinations in this way. Overall, 78% said they were satisfied with the experience. So, by starting a telehealth business, you will get optimal conditions for scaling and a positive impact on your budget.