Telemedicine implies application of information technology solutions for facilitating communications within healthcare systems via interactive means so that remote patients get instant access to medical care services.
Telemedicine apps appear to be the major supply channel of the medical enterprises that need specific telemedicine software for maintaining their level of medical care and management up to date.
As stated in Market Study on Telemedicine conducted by the European Commission, one of the kickstart accelerators of telemedicine apps development is the immense potential of the global well-being market segment.
Telemedicine Service in Numbers
According to Statista, the global telemedicine market was valued at $18 billion in 2015, and is expected to reach more than $41 billion by 2021. As the recent job postings illustrate, there is a huge demand for telemedicine service specialists, especially in the Departments of Radiology, Psychiatry, Neurology, Family Medicine, Dermatology, Pediatrics, and Allergy and Immunology.
Adoption of telehealth technologies is so wide-reaching that hospitals either actively invest into implementing them within their inpatient facilities or plan to do so in the next 18 months.
In particular, the development of mobile telemedicine apps, which are trend-setters in paving new ways of communication between a doctor and a patient, demonstrates the steady growth with the expected annual rate of 35% in the next few years.
The complex functionality neatly packed in simple mobile interface design for delivering the best consumers’ experience allowed such apps as Doctor On Demand, LiveHealth, MDLive, Lemonaid, HealthTap to enjoy leadership positions in telehealth service.
The beneficial character of telemedicine solutions is confirmed with the facts of its growing popularity among doctors and patients alike. Citing the authoritative source on telemedicine evolvement analysis: “From 2015–2018, Doximity found that the number of physicians who self-reported telemedicine as a skill doubled and continues to increase by approximately 20 percent per year. This correlates with significant growth in telemedicine patient visits, which increased annually by 261 percent between 2015 and 2017”.
Overall, in addition to opening new streamline revenue channels for businesses, telemedicine apps improve healthcare and help achieve a number of significant goals.
- With applying telemedicine apps in rural areas, people living there got access to a better level of patient experience at a lower cost.
- The other groups of patients that benefit from applying telemedicine solutions are home-bound patients and elderly people for whom reaching the inpatient facilities on frequent basis could be a challenge.
- The importance of telemedicine cannot be overrated due to considerable reducing the travel time and cost that patients would otherwise have to spend to reach health centres and wait in line.
- Speaking of financial benefits, it should be mentioned that telemedicine apps optimize service delivery making it affordable for patients.
- With telemedicine apps, service that under other conditions would require considerable time consumption is now easily accessible across any device. In general, it makes telemedicine invaluable at the stage of diagnosis and remote monitoring.
- And, finally, another reason for patients to use telemedicine is to obtain a second medical opinion by utilizing online consultancy service.
Being a relatively new trend, telemedicine grows and changes from the ‘store and forward’ model that implied collecting, storing and sending the data to specialists to ‘tracking in real-time’ model that implies the active usage of medically purposed components synced with the mobile devices.Taking into consideration the stated facts, it comes as no surprise that telemedicine app development is on radar on many businesses growth plans because it perfectly incorporates within the digital environment of healthcare systems and shows a well-positioned tendency for engaging lots of categories of service recipients:
- Patients, especially those living in rural areas
- Doctors that need to fend time mismanagement off their schedule
- Health systems providers that get the opportunity to automate admin routine and, thus, increase the patients’ intake and improve the quality of consumers’ medical care experience.
Telemedicine apps use cases
Telemedicine acts responsive upon incorporating into various healthcare settings.
For instance, it became a routine case for the following procedures:
- Virtual visits and remote follow-ups (for addressing the patients’ questions and evaluating their condition for the cases when there is no urgent need for readmission to hospital).
- Tests results discussion (updating the patient with the feedback on the tests results).
- Video conferencing within providing the real-time consultation to various categories of patients to improve the treatment accuracy. For example, in Teletherapy case study the impressive results were achieved by applying online video conferencing feature on the medical platform for children with autism.
- Cloud-Based Consultations (for example, for burn injury care via smartphone application).
- Online appointments for providing medication advice (drug interaction, medication adjustment needs).
- Prescription renewal upon refill requests.
- Consultancy service for obtaining the second opinion of the diagnosis.
- Remote hospital operations.
The cases of telemedicine apps usage range from covering managerial functions aimed at improvement of the healthcare facilities business operations to addressing the specific needs of an individual patient.
Telemedicine Application Features
As a rule, telemedicine apps are presented with the following components: doctor app, patient app, and admin panel.
Overall, service offerings that provide communications between a doctor and patient greatly vary and may include meetings streamlining, 24/7 access to certified specialists, consultancy on various health-related issues, etc.
For better understanding the core functionality of telemedicine apps, let’s explore in depth those options of telemedicine software that address the specific users’ needs.
Telemedicine apps for patients are marked with features that enable:
- Identity authentication
- Browsing doctors
- Viewing doctors’ credentials
- Choosing a doctor
- Scheduling appointments
- Video/Audio online consultation
- Access to Profile and History
- Payment (as in most cases telemedicine is covered by insurance, the option of adding insurance provider details comes handy)
Extra features that the telemedicine app for patients could include:
- Reviews for facilitating the optimal choice
- In-app chat (with or without webcam support)
- Geolocation for providing the relevant data
- Cloud storage for keeping track of visits and communication backup
Telemedicine apps for doctors are marked with features that enable:
- Creating profile
- Scheduling/Rescheduling appointments
- Video/Audio online consultation
- Sharing prescription
- Getting feedback
- Answering queries
- Charging and collecting payment upon remote visit completion.
Other useful features for telemedicine app for doctors could include:
- Expanding medical prescription database (with the function of adding detailed descriptions)
- Analytics dashboard
- Video session recording
Admin panel is marked with features that enable:
- Doctor management
- Patient management
- Reporting and Analytics to forecast and adjust the digital strategies
- Appointment management for workflow flexibility, reducing doctors’ overload and increasing patients’ convenience
- Notification management for up-to-date communications.
- Integration with electronic health record software (EHR) for seamless scheduling
Challenges in Telemedicine App Development
As stated in telehealth history research: “...what really brought a stream of progress and innovation to the field was NASA's funding of telemedicine projects throughout the 1960's and 1970's. As NASA tried to solve the complex problem of providing healthcare to astronauts in space, it also funded telemedicine projects around the country and even across the world”.
It means that history of telemedicine apps dates back to 1960’s, and it could be expected that benefits of apps usage considerably outweigh minor challenges that developers could face. Indeed, the idea of telehealth is appreciated both by patients and doctors.
But despite the rich history and healthcare executives’ encouragement to incorporate telemedicine apps in the medical facilities, it does not completely remove challenges of implementation because most often issues with telemedicine apps development pertain to complex technicalities that can be resolved with choosing the reliable custom software development provider.
Challenge #1: UI/UX
Creating the innovative software in telemedicine requires a unified solution for different platforms as one component of the app will be addressing the patients’ needs while the other component will be doctors’ domain.
Why it’s important: Compatibility of two functionality sets, which will progress naturally, must become a major goal at the stage of planning the apps interface.
Challenge #2 : Back-end infrastructure
Another challenge when developing the telemedicine app pertains to backend integration that would enable mediating the data exchange between patients’ and doctors’ apps components.
Why it’s important: Integrating two complex systems is crucial as it allows to send or receive information instantly.
Challenge #3: Compliance
The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule sets standards of protection for individuals’ medical records in healthcare systems including telemedicine, which makes compliance to HIPAA security rule a question of high priority for apps developers.
Why it’s important: Within the communication between the apps, due to the potential breaches of security and sensitive character of the exchanged data, there must be applied the most secure data exchange protocols with strict observance of all the HIPAA requirements.
Challenge #4: Reimbursement
Implementing telemedicine apps results in ‘switching on’ the numerous legalities. Mostly, users are provided with some reimbursement for telehealth encounters but its coverage differs depending on laws and regulations of the states.
Why it’s important: Thus, some legislative initiatives are still in progress so physicians and patients can participate in virtual encounters but must be aware of complex legal system behind the apps usage.
Delivering health care through telemedicine apps is a trend on the rise due to various factors in favor of embracing technologies for opening new opportunities that telemedicine apps users welcome, and telemedicine growth statistics confirms it.
Besides benefits that doctors and health administrators get from telemedicine apps, telehealth service proves to be a patients’ best option as it enables hassle-free scheduling appointments, providing frequent consultations, meeting a doctor in the comfort of home, and cutting down considerable amounts of money and time on transporting and waiting, which makes telemedicine apps development a promising sector on the healthcare software market.