How To Develop A Telemedicine Application: An Ultimate Guide To Telehealth App Development

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do all kinds of things, from ditching the office to work from home to ordering delivery and curbside pickup in lieu of a physical visit to the store or restaurant. However, one of the biggest changes triggered by COVID-19 happened in the healthcare domain, with more and more clinicians and patients going for remote consultations and skipping in-person visits.

This, in turn, led to a dramatic increase in the number of telemedicine services and patients using them. McKinsey estimates that just a year after the start of the pandemic, telemedicine has seen a 38x increase. This looks very promising not just for patients and healthcare providers who want a new, more convenient way to connect, but also for software companies who want to tap into the emerging market and take advantage of its potential. Here is your guide to building telemedicine applications.

Key Takeaways

  • The telehealth market is currently booming: the rapid increase in the number of telemedicine services happened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the industry continues to evolve on its own.
  • The three main types of telemedicine apps are synchronous, where the patient and the doctor communicate in real time, asynchronous, where the provider reviews the patient’s request and develops a treatment plan, and IoT-based, where the doctor gathers and analyzes the data provided by the patient’s wearable device.
  • The most prominent technology trends to use in the development of telehealth mobile apps or desktop solutions include Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, blockchain, and AR/VR solutions used both for treatment and for training of healthcare specialists.
  • Telemedicine solutions offer numerous benefits both to the patients and to the providers. Patients can benefit from getting the necessary care faster, getting multiple opinions, and having quick access to narrow specialists. Providers, on the other hand, can enjoy fast data access, accurate EHR, getting help with diagnostics and treatment thanks to AI, and increasing their patient reach.
  • Telemedicine apps have different sets of features for patients and providers. Patients are typically looking for doctor selection, appointment scheduling, doctor ratings, remote consultations, and safe payment gateways. For providers, the most coveted features include appointment management, EHR integration, group calls, and e-prescriptions.
  • The choice of a tech stack depends on the needs of the project and typically includes Swift, Objective-C, and Kotlin for mobile apps, React, Angular, and Vue.js for the front-end, .NET, Node.js, and Django for the back-end, and React Native or Flutter for cross-platform development.
  • If you want to build a telemedicine solution, you also need to think about monetizing it. The most popular monetization models include per-consultation payments, subscription plans, and add-supported monetization.
  • The cost of development of a telehealth mobile app can range from $40,000 for an MVP to $120,000+ if you want to create telemedicine software from scratch and include all the functionality you’ve originally envisioned the product to have.

What Is a Telemedicine Application and Why Should You Build One?

A telemedicine application is a software product designed to make healthcare more accessible to patients and easier to deliver for clinicians. A telehealth solution usually has two sides: the patient side, where the user can find a doctor, schedule an appointment, upload relevant documents, and connect to the doctor via text, voice, or video, and the caregiver side, where the doctor can review the patient’s file, confirm or cancel appointments, and refer the patient to other specialists as required by their condition.

Telehealth is by no means a new concept — the first remote consultations were done by the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute in the late 1950s. However, telemedicine as an industry has undeniably gotten an unprecedented boost in 2020 and 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the normal in-person healthcare flow. In some European countries, close to 50% of clinicians were doing consultations remotely via telemedicine in 2020, and the number is only going up from here. The past few years have seen a rapid increase in the number and size of telemedicine companies, but there is still plenty of room for new players. So if you’ve grown an interest in the business side of telehealth and consider joining this up-and-coming industry, now is the time to do it.

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“As an industry, we need to do a better job of explaining the benefits of using technology to support or enhance their lifestyle, independence, and dignity.”

Ryan Herd, Caregiving Technology Integrator, via Forbes


Types of Telemedicine Software

Being one of the most rapidly growing health tech industries, telemedicine regularly comes up with new solutions to different people’s problems. This is why we can break down the entire telemedicine system into a few popular types of medical apps for patients, healthcare providers, and anyone in between. Here are the key types of telemedicine applications we are witnessing in the global telemedicine market.

Synchronous

Synchronous telemedicine products are probably the closest thing to a traditional appointment at the doctor’s office: the patient and the provider communicate in real time. The doctor can provide consultations, review the results of tests, or even guide the patient remotely through the procedures that can be performed at home. One of the benefits of telemedicine apps employing the synchronous model is that they make medical services accessible to people who otherwise have limited access to healthcare. Synchronous communication also allows for the use of telemedicine for urgent patient care.

Asynchronous

Asynchronous telemedicine, also known as store-and-forward health services, do not require the patient and the healthcare provider to exchange information in real time. This technology allows the patient to upload test results, photos, and even videos, along with the description of the problem, and the doctor to review the documents and provide recommendations whenever they have the time, while the patient can also access the recommendations at any convenient time. One of the main benefits of store-and-forward telemedicine applications is that the same data can be accessed by multiple healthcare providers to ensure more comprehensive care.

IoT-Based

The Internet of Things technology is one of the most popular ones among telemedicine app developers, and for good reason. It can significantly speed up the process of exchanging information between the patient and the provider. Using all kinds of IoT healthcare devices — blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, glucose meters — the patient can add them to the application manually or have them sync automatically for the health practitioner to monitor the results in real time and get a more complete picture of the patient’s health status.

Before you decide to build a telemedicine platform, you need to know where the telemedicine market stands in terms of popular solutions and what they do. Here are the most popular telemedicine solutions available right now.

Doctor On Demand

Doctor On Demand is a service that offers remote consultations with over 1,400 physicians all across the United States. Patients can connect to doctors via text or video. One of the standout features of Doctors On Demand is its prescription service and the interactive built-in map where the patient can locate the nearest pharmacy

MDLive

Unlike many telemedicine services that are better suited for planned visits, MDLive is tailored to provide urgent consultations. It’s often covered by insurance in the US and is the preferred alternative to in-person primary care for numerous patients. In addition to urgent consultations, MDLive also provides mental health care.

HealthTap

HealthTap is a comprehensive telemedicine solution available on all common platforms. It offers same-day or same-week consultations with a wide range of healthcare specialists. HealthTap charges patients by consultation, as well as provides a subscription model, which allows patients to chat with their physicians following a consultation.

TelaDoc Health

TelaDoc is one of the biggest players in the telemedicine industry with several solutions for different platforms. It offers primary care, mental health services, and prescriptions. TelaDoc is covered by many insurances and can forward the patient’s file to their primary physician with the consent of the patient.

BetterHelp

BetterHelp is a telehealth service that focuses exclusively on mental health. It employs thousands of therapists who specialize, among other things, in teen and couple counseling. Patients can choose the right therapist using filters and reviews, and the right communication model among text chat, asynchronous messaging, and video consultations.

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Telemedicine services are getting not only more functional and all-encompassing, but also more technologically advanced. In addition to regularly rolling out new features, telemedicine application development also makes use of popular and up-and-coming technologies. Here are the technologies you may consider using in your telehealth mobile app:

  • Big data. The digitalization of healthcare is all about big amounts of data, and there are hardly any better ways to handle it than the big data technology. Using big data, an application can store, manage, and provide instant access to all kinds of patient information, while cloud storage ensures constant availability and better security of the files.
  • AI. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have countless uses in telemedicine and are probably more widespread in the industry than you think. From writing fully functional chatbots that can substitute an in-person consultation when no doctor is available to tools that quickly analyze data from different sources, such as the list of symptoms and test results, to providing an accurate diagnosis in little time, AI is a vital technology for the telemedicine industry.
  • Blockchain. Healthcare applications exchange sensitive data all the time, both between the patient and the doctor and between the data storage facility — for example, a hospital — and the end user — for example, a doctor or a patient. The blockchain technology helps decentralize data, making it harder for third parties to gain unauthorized access, and therefore preventing sensitive information from getting stolen and misused.
  • AR and VR. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have long become much more than purely entertainment technologies. Both of these technologies have been actively employed in training clinicians, including achieving better hand-eye coordination in surgeons. AR and VR are also widely used in telemedicine — for example, in neuropsychology and psychotherapy as additional tools, as well as in diagnostic departments.

Benefits of Developing a Telemedicine Solution

Thousands of people in the healthcare and software development domains ask themselves: “Should I create a telehealth app?” Sure, the statistics look promising, and telemedicine is guaranteed to become an even bigger presence in our lives in the upcoming years. But is building a telemedicine app from scratch worth it? Here at QArea, we are convinced that it definitely is. Here are the biggest benefits of telehealth software development for healthcare providers and patients.

For Healthcare Companies

  • Faster access to data. The doctor can review the patient’s file before the appointment or shortly after it’s start, allowing to do more in less time and serve more patients in one day.
  • Full medical history. An app for doctors displays all the information about the patient that is relevant to the case, including tests, other doctors’ reports, and other documents stored in one convenient place.
  • Wider reach. With remote healthcare, hospitals and individual practitioners can reach patients outside of their geographical zone: international reach is a big part of the telemedicine application ‘s appeal for healthcare companies.

For Patients

  • Sped up care. Both a telehealth app and a web solution allow the patients to get a consultation with a doctor within hours, if not minutes. This is not usually the case with physical hospitals, where one can wait for weeks for an appointment.
  • Access to niche specialists. When the patient lives in a location where only general practitioners and similar broad-spectrum doctors are available, being able to consult a niche specialist can often become a life-saving feature.
  • Multiple opinions available. With all the health information stored in one app, a patient can consult multiple health practitioners to get different opinions and, therefore, a more precise diagnosis and recommendations.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that there is a need to rethink how we approach healthcare, but it has also shown us that when presented with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, there is a propensity to overcome it by adapting. The COVID-19 pandemic has also made patients more aware of the possibilities of digital health and telemedicine. As a result of the increase in telemedicine from the pandemic, physicians have realized that technology can be a great ally in times of great need. It gives physicians more time to focus on the delivery of care. 

Pradeep Goel, CEO of Solve.Care, via Finyear


Every Telemedicine App Feature to Consider

The goal of our telemedicine app development guide is to give you some practical knowledge on how to develop a telehealth app that genuinely helps both the doctor and the patient. Here are the must-have and the nice-to-have features to include in your telemedicine app development solution.

For Doctors

  • Appointment management. With this feature, the doctor or their assistant can instantly see the calendar for each work day and the available time slots. This feature also allows to select availability hours for patients to see, as well as add, modify, and delete appointments with patients.
  • EHR integration. If your future telehealth application will operate as part of a larger healthcare service — for example, a hospital that will now provide remote consultations — then fast and secure synchronization with the organization’s EHR (Electronic Health Records) system is a must for quality treatment.
  • Group calls. This is one of the nice-to-have features that may not be present on the MVP development stage but can significantly improve the UX for both the patient and doctor. With the help of group calls, the doctor can discuss complex cases with other specialists, which results in accurate diagnoses and care.
  • Chatbot. When a mobile telehealth app is equipped with a functional chatbot, it can save a lot of time for the doctor or the nurse on everyday tasks, such as making and canceling appointments, getting the test results, and rating the customer experience after a visit.
  • E-prescriptions. Electronic prescriptions are another time-saving feature that benefits both the patient and the doctor and further helps adopt remote healthcare as the most modern and practical option compared to in-patient appointments.

For Patients

  • Registration & data sharing. This is the feature you definitely need for an MVP of a telemedicine solution, as the user needs to be authorized in the app before they can have a consultation. After registration, the user can be prompted to complete a questionnaire about their personal and health data, or upload health records and test results.
  • Communication features. The two of the most popular communication features of a telemedicine product are live text chat and video chat. For an asynchronous communication app — for example, when the patient’s health condition is not urgent, there needs to be an option to exchange messages whenever it’s convenient for both parties.
  • Doctor selection & scheduling. When a patient wants to book an appointment, they should be able to see the list of all available doctors of the required specialty. There should be options to group and sort the doctors by location, rating, and availability. The patient should also be able to see the upcoming schedule of the selected doctor.
  • Doctor rating.  After the appointment, the patient should be asked to select a rating for the doctor and possibly share more about their experience in a review. The ratings and reviews should also be available for other registered patients to see.
  • Safe payments. In the majority of cases, the consultations are going to be paid, and the payment needs to be made before or immediately after the consultation. This is why a safe payment gateway is one of the must-have features of a telehealth app. Many companies prefer to use the API technology for payment functionality.

Tech Stack for Telehealth App Development: What to Use to Develop a Telemedicine App

The technology stack you use in your telehealth app development process affects pretty much every aspect of the project, from the available functionality and choice of a development partner to the cost of the product and the time it takes to complete the project. This is why choosing the tech stack for telehealth app development is not a decision that should be taken lightly, and you cannot simply go with the most popular technologies or the ones your team is familiar with either.

One of the factors that will influence your choice the most is the range of platforms where the solution is going to be made available. Telemedicine applications for mobile devices are significantly more popular than web solutions, so if you decide to focus just on the mobile platforms, your tech stack is going to include mobile-first technologies. However, the share of web telehealth users is still considerable enough for you to develop a web version as well. Here are the technologies most telemedicine developers now use in their products:

  • App for iOS: Swift
  • App for Android: Java, Kotlin
  • Cross-platform/Hybrid app: React Native, Flutter
  • Front-end for web: React, Angular
  • Back-end: Java, Python, Ruby
  • Micro-services: Node.js, Express
  • Cloud services: Google Cloud, AWS
  • Data storage: PostgreSQL, MongoDB, MySQL

UI/UX Best Practices to Build a Telehealth App

Telehealth software development is a complex topic, and so many things need to be done just right in order for the app to generate buzz and win over a sizable market share. Of course, the features of a telemedicine app are what matters the most, but UI/UX design is also an integral part of telemedicine software development, and a product with great functionality but disappointing UX can end up failing to meet its goals and KPIs. Here are all the UI/UX best practices to keep in mind for telehealth app development.

1. Intuitive Design and Navigation

First things first — whether you are developing an MVP of a telemedicine app or a full-scale product, the user-friendly design and navigation are where your efforts should go in the first place. It’s vital to make the interface easy to use not just for patients, but also for healthcare providers, who are often pressed for time and cannot afford to master a complex interface. It’s also crucial to minimize onboarding time, as patients often resort to telemedicine in the case of an emergency, where every minute spent trying to get the hang of the UI is the minute that postpones getting the help they need.

2. Focus on Human Interactions

Telemedicine app developers often make the mistake of building a solution for a more knowledgeable audience rather than attending to the needs of the average telehealth user. A typical person using a telemedicine application may lack substantial technology experience, have vision and understanding issues because of their condition, or simply be too stressed out to grasp complex ideas. This is why, when designing the way users interact with the app, it’s important to use normal, human-centric language that doesn’t create unnecessary barriers for inexperienced users.

3. Healthy Amount of Customization

The nature and features of a telemedicine app all point to one thing: this type of software is not where users expect too many customization opportunities. Still, a certain level of customization creates a better user experience and fosters a stronger bond between the user and the application. Some examples of reasonable customization for a telemedicine application include offering users a choice between light and dark themes, an option to change the font size, and the ability to adjust the home screen to include the most frequently used features and controls.

4. Limited Data Input by Users

Getting complete information about the patient before the doctor’s appointment or telemedicine session is crucial. However, when left with too many options or fields to fill out, users may often produce faulty results or enter information that is not relevant to their condition. Ideally, user information should be uploaded from the clinic’s EHR. In case that is not an option and at least some of the information needs to be obtained directly from the user, it’s best to do it with a multiple-choice questionnaire where the user needs to check the corresponding box, not open-ended questions with text input fields.

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How to Create a Telemedicine App: A Step by Step Guide to Telehealth App Development

Developing a telehealth application, whether for mobile or desktop platforms, is a complex process that can take from six to twelve months to complete, depending on the complexity of the idea and other factors. If you want the project to be completed in a reasonable time and not miss any important features or design elements, following a specific sequence of steps is the shortest path to get there. Here are the stages to go through when you develop a telemedicine app.

1. Validate Your Idea

When you have an idea for a telemedicine application, the first step is formulating it in great detail and making sure it’s actually viable. To do this, you need to know which issues your product is going to solve and who its target audience is going to be. Ideally, you need to communicate with the target audience at this stage to see what they are looking for in a telehealth application, how savvy they are, and how much they are prepared to pay for the service. You will also need to perform a competitor analysis to see what works and what doesn’t for other apps in the niche. A business analyst can help you with all those tasks.

2. Evaluate Your Resources or Find a Tech Partner

One of the most important choices you need to make in the beginning of a telemedicine development project is whether you have the resources to develop it in-house or if you need to outsource at least some of the work to a tech partner. For medium and large projects, a reliable partner with relevant healthcare expertise may need to get involved even if you have an in-house development team, as it may not be easy to meet all the industry regulations as a first-time telemedicine software developer.

3. Develop the Application Architecture

A crucial step in the process of telemedicine app development is setting up the application architecture. On different projects, the architecture will consist of different elements, so you will likely need someone like a Systems Architect — a person who is familiar not only with the technicalities of application development, but also the business side of things, and can successfully bridge the gap between the project idea and the available resources. The architecture will include client, clinician, and administrator functionality, communication tools, APIs and microservices, and cloud and storage facilities.

4. Create the UI/UX Design

The importance of a strong UI/UX design cannot be overrated: even from your experience as a user of different apps, you can probably agree that a design can make or break the success of a software product. This is especially vital if you’re targeting a casual audience without deep technical knowledge. The application needs to have an intuitive, clear interface on any platform, and all telemedicine software features should be accessible with one or two taps on the screen. An experienced UI/UX designer can help you craft a perfect visual representation for your idea.

5. Develop Your Software Solution

This is the stage where your project will finally come to life and you can see your ideas in action. A good idea is to start with an MVP first, seeing how it’s received, and then developing the solution with extended functionality. Sure, dividing the development part into two stages may drive up the initial telemedicine app development cost, but it can also save you from many costly mistakes. The most important thing at this stage is to get your app developed within the specified deadline and following the original specifications.

6. Perform Quality Assurance

Before you can let your application see the world, you need to make sure that it’s fully ready for the release. And the best way to do it is through extensive software testing. Depending on the project specifics, this can include functional testing, user acceptance testing, compatibility testing, localization testing, security testing, UI/UX testing, and activities like smoke testing and regression testing to make sure a particular software build has all the necessary functionality and is fully stable.

7. Deploy Your Application

When every possible development and testing activity is over, it is time to get your solution out there. Specifically, you may need to upload it to App Store and Google Play Store, and make it available as a web application. You will also need to launch a marketing campaign to make sure as many people find out about it as possible and your user base grows steadily. However, your work isn’t over, because next comes the maintenance stage. Keep your application up-to-date, constantly work on usability and new functionality, and pay attention to customer feedback to stay on top of the telemedicine market.

Monetization Strategies for a Telehealth Mobile App

The complex process of telemedicine platform development has several goals, including helping patients and doctors get better experiences with healthcare. However, the application also needs to make money for its stakeholders. So what are the options when it comes to the monetization of telemedicine software and which ones should you consider for your next project?

The exact set of monetization opportunities depends on who is developing a project: a healthcare company with the help of a tech partner, or a software development company that does not necessarily belong to the healthcare domain? A healthcare company that wants to venture into telemedicine can typically choose from the following three monetization models:

  1. Subscription model. Under this strategy, the user will select one of the available subscription plans. The subscription cost depends on what’s included: most importantly, how many video or text consultations the user can get per subscription period. There may also be some content, such as health tips and diet plans, that is available for free.
  2. Per-consultation model. This is probably the most popular monetization model: the user does not pay for using any of the app functionality except for synchronous or asynchronous consultations. This is the model that makes the most sense financially for users who only need an occasional consultation, but it also means the company behind the app needs to rely on a constant stream of paying users to support itself.
  3. Ad-supported model. Under this model, users can access most or all of the app’s functionality for free, but there are going to be ads displayed from time to time. Ads can also include sponsored content that should be marked as such. That way, users can get quick consultations (typically over text) without having to pay for them. There can also be an optional paid subscription that removes the ads.

Now let’s talk about the ways to monetize your teleh