How to Develop a Telehealth App
Covid-19 meant an increased demand for telemedicine. During lockdowns, patients relied on telemedicine to replace in-person appointments, and many organisations focused on telehealth app development. In the US alone, the adoption of telehealth apps skyrocketed from 11% in 2019 to 46% in 2020.
Market analysts reassessed their forecasts as telemedicine became more popular. Pre-Covid, US telehealth players had an estimated US$3 billion revenue. Today, experts report that by 2027, the telemedicine market will be worth US$250 billion in the US alone and US$559 billion worldwide.
Telehealth apps benefit both doctors and patients as they partly resolve the problem of long waiting times, give doctors greater control over their schedules, and make seeking medical help more flexible and affordable. Accordingly, the demand for telehealth services will only grow in the next decade.
Online consultation app concept. Source: Dribbble
Suffice it to say, creating telehealth software in 2021 can be a very profitable enterprise, both for startups and traditional medical facilities. Health isn’t a field where any corners can be cut, though, telehealth apps store patients’ sensitive data and a range of regulatory concerns mean any new apps need to perform according to local laws and best security practices.
This guide to telehealth app development is your 101 crash course to the essentials. Let’s get started with the basics:
How does telehealth work?
Telehealth is two-way, face-to-face communication that gives patients access to specialist medical care from anywhere via a device of their choice. This can involve scheduled meetings between patients and providers and provisions for on-demand visits when necessary.
In a broader context, there are three common types of telemedicine:
- Live conferencing refers to real-time video chats between doctors and patients or specialists and clients, something users have embraced eagerly. Mental health apps, such as MoodKit, are a good example of live conferencing apps that facilitate contact between provider and client.
- Store-and-forward telemedicine involves the exchange of health information between patient and provider. For example, a medical specialist sends lab results to a patient, or a patient captures a photo for dermatological analysis.
- Remote patient monitoring allows providers real-time data on a patient’s health via smart medical devices. Read our post on medical wearables, where we review the technologies that monitor human health and improve treatment outcomes for more information.
Doctor On Demand, which offers chronic care, urgent care, behavioural health, and preventive health services, is an excellent example of today’s telemedicine apps. Using this popular telehealth software, patients can book virtual appointments with certified physicians and psychologists and then rate their experience. MDLIVE, PlushCare, Teladoc are similar applications with a strong user base.
Key technologies in telehealth app development
Advanced health care apps are at the cutting edge of software development, and they prioritise safety and security as much as they do usability and access.
Health data integration
The ability to access patient data and update it after each virtual visit is crucial to a telemedicine app. You’ll need to integrate electronic health record (EHR) systems along with HealthKit or Google Fit into your application.
Electronic health records collect all data related to the patient’s condition and therefore offer a broad overview which complements virtual examinations. HealthKit or Google Fit are important tools for tracking health essentials and spotting changes in parameters.
Example of health data. Source: Apple Health App
Note that if your app deals with medical records from multiple providers, more time and effort is needed during development to unify the data.
Secure messaging is key to any telemedicine solution. There can be options for real-time chat, audio calls, and video conferences. Enabling file exchange is also a good idea.
Example of telemedicine chat. Source: Dribbble
Some providers offer application programming interfaces (APIs), such as Twilio and its alternatives, to integrate all required communication channels, but these aren’t ideal for healthcare. To make a secure chat function that’s compliant with national regulations, opt for solutions with point-to-point encryption, on-device message encryption, two-factor authentication, and other up-to-date security measures.
The Signal protocol is currently the most secure for communication. MadAppGang put it through its paces recently when we built Strongbox, a team messenger that’s based on this protocol.
Developing a voice assistant can make searching for and booking appointments much easier for users. Telehealth has a lower adoption rate among seniors, so incorporating technologies that simplify the process can mean an increased user base. Moreover, a voice assistant is indispensable for persons with certain disabilities.
There are numerous ways to implement AI in telemedicine, and many popular applications already use AI and machine learning (ML) technologies. Advanced tools offer possible prescription choices based on patient data (Lemonaid), can recommend treatment options to cancer patients (InfiniteMD), and even help identify potential illnesses (HealthTap).
AI-powered system for self-triage. Source: Medcitynews
Respondents to a 2018 Accenture survey indicated a willingness to use AI-powered services, more than half of those surveyed said they would use such tools to get information after hours, analyse medical records, seek advice on lifestyle habits and illnesses, and diagnose symptoms. As AI becomes more commonplace, so too will users’ level of comfort.
Telehealth app features
When planning your telehealth app development and selecting advanced technologies, it’s important to still remember the basics. Below is a list of core features any telehealth software solution needs.
- Search – Allows users to browse doctors’ profiles and choose a professional based on their specialisation, experience, and other parameters.
- Reviews – With the opportunity to review each virtual visit, patients boost the in-app community and help others make the most of their consultations.
- Payments – As any telemedicine app offers certain services, users should have several convenient payment methods to choose from. Consider integrating the popular payment gateways in your target location such as PayPal, Braintree, and others.
- Access to EHR – Patient medical history is key to diagnosis and decision-making. Doctors and verified clinicians should be granted access to EHR to improve the quality of both communication and treatment.
- Prescriptions – If a telemedicine app focuses on prescriptions, there should be a specific section for doctors to complete any required forms. Since there are many dedicated pill-reminder applications already, you can integrate an existing app into your telehealth service or develop a separate in-app prescription schedule. The Australian government, for instance, implemented electronic prescriptions in recent years, before that, scripts were handled solely on paper. Luckily, today’s integrated telehealth offerings unify the online prescribing system.
- Dashboard – Presents the app’s main functions: scheduled appointments, search section, and personal settings. It’s important to make the dashboard user-friendly and design it in a way that makes it accessible. Big buttons, calm colours, and unified fonts are among little elements that speak to the quality of a telehealth app.
- User identity system – Data should be stored separately from personally identifying information so that in case of leakage, data cannot be attributed to any individuals. The user identification system must implement the latest security measures such as two-factor authentication, suspicious activity protection (for example, log-ins from another country), and email notifications for log-ins from unknown devices. As an example, at MadAppGang we are developing an open-source user identity system called Identifo.
- Profile – Both doctors and patients should be able to manage their profiles, albeit with different fields to complete. Doctors should detail their education, professional experience, and areas of competence and specialism. Patients should report any known existing conditions and provide basic health parameters. Personal profiles should be secured with two-factor authentication and all sensitive data should be stored according to current security regulations. For more details on medical app security, check out our post on healthcare app compliance.
- Calendar – Since telemedicine promotes faster and more convenient communication, users should have a calendar to see and manage their virtual appointments.
- Video chat – Provide a seamless video messaging experience with texts, audio calls, and file exchange if needed.
- Notifications – Not only does this feature remind users about upcoming calls or virtual appointments, but it also enables you to promote new services and products.
Keep this list in mind when discussing your telemedicine app with developers. It’ll help you explain your vision of the project, and ensure that all the key bases are covered.
But before you get started with the nitty-gritty of telehealth app development, you’ll need to turn your attention to a few financial matters, such as covering the cost of healthcare app development and the best monetization strategy for your particular telehealth niche.
Business models for telemedicine apps
Telehealth apps generally operate on a commission basis and charge providers a percentage of the fee for each virtual visit conducted on the platform, others charge per minute of communication. In addition, many have yearly and monthly membership plans for both doctors and patients, which often vary in cost depending on the number of completed consultations.
Doctor on Demand charges a 25% fee on each paid consultation, and offers its service to businesses. For example, companies can use Doctor on Demand software and pay a set fee per employee per month. MDLIVE also has a per-visit rate ($75) and a software package for businesses. Teladoc utilises another pricing model and charges subscription fees to insurers ($0.45 per member per month) and per-visit fees for patients ($45). Many similar apps offer different prices for first and subsequent visits, for instance, $99 and $69 respectively in PlushCare.
Example of pricing in ZocDoc telehealth app
There are interesting cases showing how companies can increase their value with the help of patient-generated data. The Australian remote monitoring tool ResMed, which analyses sleep patterns, offered premium subscriptions in return for user data. Based on these subscriptions and the sleep reports generated, the company collected lots of valuable information for further scientific research and the improvement of the app’s AI algorithms.
Telemedicine applications can also provide an option where, for an additional fee, healthcare listings are highlighted and can attract more patients. Or, they can partner with relevant services for in-app advertising. After all, each industry segment can be a source of revenue for doctor-on-demand apps, including patients, providers, insurers, and enterprises.
Let’s build a flawless telehealth app together
The demand for telemedicine is increasing rapidly. It’s a fast, convenient, and affordable way to get medical advice and its advances mean accessible care for everyone, even amid the pandemic. The healthcare industry is changing and you can benefit from it too. Building any type of telemedicine software is a solid business idea if it’s executed properly.
Hire the right team of professionals with relevant experience to develop your telehealth app and you stand a good chance of breaking into the market. As an added bonus, not only can you help thousands of people worldwide, but it’s a profitable niche.
As a full-cycle software development company with experience in the field, MadAppGang is the right team to have on your side. We build full-featured and secure telehealth solutions that people trust and use.
Think about how your product should look, what level of scalability you need, and the features you want to integrate. Then get in touch with us. We’ll help you choose the right technologies and tools, and build you a telehealth app that will win people’s hearts and, by extension, the market.