2020 has thrown us all a challenge that seemed too tall to climb. Yet, that year has also been a lesson to learn, as investors and companies have made it clear for themselves which markets and niches to invest in. Quite obvious, the healthcare industry is topping the charts as the world is steeped in an unprecedented need for high-quality healthcare services. Yet, the ultimate question to answer is whether we need healthcare in the form it used to exist in the pre-coronavirus era?
With visits to hospitals being nothing but a threat to one’s life, patients prefer telemedicine services, meaning they want to be diagnosed, treated, and taken care of remotely. Telemedicine app development companies will thrive in the years to come, as there is no way we are going back to the obsolete queues and outdated hand-written prescriptions. If your business is even anywhere near the healthcare industry, and if you want to stay afloat in the ocean called “the healthcare industry competition,” you should probably get your telehealth app developed as soon as possible. Your customers are no longer the same, and they want another thing – a telemedicine app, and we’re just about to tell you how to build a decent one.
Why Would You Want a Telemedicine App?
Unfortunately, there is quite a huge lot of healthcare businesses that still fail to understand the meaning and value of telemedicine. In accordance with WHO, telemedicine is the “delivery of healthcare services when doctor and patients are separated by distance.” Telemedicine in 2021 is not a whim but a necessity imposed not by the medical mobile app development companies, but the healthcare market itself. Healthcare customers, also called patients, the people we used to call patients, are full-swing into telemedicine and statistical data prove it:
- Medical Economics claimed that 71% of patients across the US considered telemedicine to be their primary healthcare option when COVID-19 sprung in April 2019.
- Following the telemedicine market development dynamics, it is expected to reach a value of $185 billion by 2026.
- Telemedicine saves patients more than 100 minutes of their precious time as compared to the orthodox in-person visits to a doctor, as per Forbes.
- Telemedicine apps are way more protected data-wise than the obsolete hospital records, which once again lures people to switch to telemedicine. 93% of users, according to a study conducted by AMA, are now willing to use telemedicine to manage their prescriptions and refills.
It is crystal clear that doing business within a market-driven economy, your company is held at the mercy of the clients’ desires, and your main task is to live up to their expectations. Hence, let’s not beat around the bush and face it: you need a telemedicine app because your customers require you to.
Business Benefits of a Telemedicine App
Before we move to our stepwise guide on how to develop a successful telemedicine app, let’s just stop for a minute and talk about the all-round benefits it brings to all the stakeholders of the healthcare delivery process. Of course, pleasing your customers is the right way to keep your business running. Nonetheless, you might wonder what’s in it for you, as well. So, here comes the list of reasons why developing a telemedicine app might be a great decision for your business.
- Flexible Team Scaling. Sometimes, it takes more than one doctor to treat a patient. A telemedicine platform presents all the features you might need to communicate with remote colleagues efficiently and choose the right treatment for every patient.
- Enhanced Prevention and Control. A telemedicine app would become your patients’ health stronghold, as it will let you establish proper medical supervision over the discharged and home-care patients.
- Increased Number of Customers. Telemedicine is all about mobility and swiftness, as it lets you treat more patients simultaneously.
- 3rd-Party and EHR Integrations. Harness the power of an EHR system and systemize your patient appointments. Get the better of the 3rd-party integrations and refine the managerial and organizational aspect to its finest.
- More efficiency. You want your business’s energy and resources conversion efficiency to reach its maximum, and a telemedicine app is exactly what you need. It will reduce the number of cancellations and missed appointments, thus making sure that all of your business hours count in.
- Expansion Opportunities. With a duly-developed telemedicine app, your business has no limits, as you can use it to tap into new markets, as long as you meet the region’s local legislation, International Care Provision, and HIPAA requirements (we’ll talk more about it in greater detail shortly).
It seems like now, you can see why developing a telemedicine app is something that is not only a burden to carry but also a business incentive that carries a lot of benefits and opportunities. Turning to a telemedicine app development company will help you develop, stabilize, and scale your business.
Developing a Brilliant Telemedicine App: A Stepwise Guide
This ultimate journey always starts the same: you reach out to a telemedicine app development company and supply your requirements for the app you have in your mind. In other words, you share the vision and the idea, and those folks help you implement it. Now, here comes an important milestone in the app development process, as it all depends on whether your app’s concept has been proved or not. If your answer is yes, then you move straight into the development stage. If the answer is negative, you should embark on the research stage and get the POC and MVP. Fancy learning more intricate abbreviations? Let’s roll!
The Discovery Stage (Optional, Yet Recommended)
You might wonder why you would need your business concept to be proved, as you think that your idea is stunning. Well, saving millions of dollars that would have been otherwise wasted seems to be quite a viable reason to mention. Author of The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, claims that developing an MVP is, probably, the most important stage of developing any product. MVP (minimum viable product) is the most basic version of your app that will actually show you whether it’s worth being rolled out into a full-scale product.
When developing a telemedicine app, creating an MVP is essential as you can use the MVP to collect feedback from your focus group and improve user experience, features, and toolkit, even before the product reaches its end user. And don’t think that MVPs are for companies that are not confident of their product’s success. Dropbox, just like a myriad of other businesses, evolved from a small MVP created back in 2009, and look where they are now. As a matter of fact, there are eight pivotal benefits that might be associated with developing an MVP:
- Developing a clear vision of your product.
- Minimal risks associated with developing an unchecked product.
- Enhanced knowledge and development of the product’s core functionalities.
- Early user-provider relationship development.
- Clearer and more responsive user interface.
- Quicker development-to-market phase.
- Improved understanding of the customers’ needs.
- Flexibility in providing further updates.
It is quite likely that if you decide to develop an MVP for your product, you’ll get a business analyst, a software architect, a UX/UI designer, and a project manager involved in the process. At least, this is the very basic set that a reliable software vendor would offer you to cover for both commercial and technical aspects of your product. As a result, you will get a clickable prototype of your final app that is subject to commenting and improving. Once you get your concept proved, you’re all clear for launching the full-scale development of your app.
Nota Bene! Please, stay alert of the software vendors that are ready to embark upon development without an MVP. Quite likely, they’re just interested in making the most of your budget and not delivering the product in the end. A decent development company would always like the development stage to follow a preliminary conducted proof of concept (POC). So, let’s talk about the development stage in more detail.
The Development Stage (Compulsory, Strongly Recommended)
As soon as you have your concept proved, the development stage begins. While you could have read about hundreds of things and steps you have to make to end up having a workable product, we say that developing a telemedicine app takes no more than seven steps. Buckle up and get your mind ready for some project management brilliance. In less than ten minutes, you will know how to develop a telemedicine app that meets each and every one of your customers’ requirements.
- Choosing the Platform.
A good beginning makes a good ending and software development is not an exception to this sacred rule. If you’re developing a mobile app, choose between native or cross-platform apps; if you’re developing a desktop app, choose between native or web. Well, you will most likely know the platform you need by the time your MVP is ready, as the business analyst will come up with the statistics regarding the platform your target audience would prefer. For example, in accordance with Statista, in the United States, 55% of users stick with iOS and 45% prefer Android-powered gadgets. Yet, we won’t spend time talking about the platforms, as you can read everything you need to know about them in our specially designated article.
- SaaS vs. Custom-Built
Nowadays, there are many discussions on whether building software from scratch is a viable solution, while there is a myriad of multi-tenant platforms providing the features you need on the SaaS (software as a service) basis. Well, while SaaS might be cheaper, as it comes on a monthly subscription basis, you should know about the drawbacks it brings along.
First of all, a SaaS-based platform envisions no personalization. That is, you will have to abstain from adding features that your customers need, which automatically prevents you from considering the SaaS option. Secondly, your app will look identical to all the other apps hosted on the same multi-tenant platform. So, there is no design and visual identification for your product. Every medical mobile app development company will recommend you to stick with the custom-built option if you want your product to be scalable, flexible, and improvable.
What is more, SaaS is not always cheaper than a custom-built app, at least in the long run. SaaS subscription prices depend on the number of users. So, if you plan on extending your clientele, get ready to pay the big bucks. Meanwhile, a custom-developed app envisages a one-time payment to the developer, while a SaaS service is a constant expenditure. Furthermore, as your client base will grow, you will need to implement custom features and solutions, which you will have to pay for heavily if you want them implemented within a SaaS platform.
Thus, if you need a limited scope of features and no individual design for a limited number of users, stick with SaaS. If you plan to develop a personalized product for a larger group of customers, opting for a custom-build app is your path to follow.
Yet, there is one more solution, which might turn out quite viable for you if you’re looking for a swift movement along the software delivery pipeline. You can consider using open-source telemedicine software platforms, such as Intelehealth, Borboleta, Doxy, and others. The open-source resources are way more customizable than the SaaS services, meaning you will be able to customize them to a great extent. Still, get ready to pay a lot when your customer base grows, as quite often they operate on a subscription basis, as well.
Open-source telemedicine software will be useful for companies willing to enter the market as soon as possible. It won’t take very long for you to craft a platform for your users that will meet their basic needs. In the long run, you will have to adapt your business processes to their technical algorithms. Meanwhile, a custom-built app will have the technology aspect adapted to your business logic. That is, using an open-source platform might be a good idea to use simultaneously with having your very own custom-built app developed along.
- Bring On the Design
When we speak about the app’s design, we do not mean creating pictures of its interface (even though its matters). Today’s design is all about the experience and your user’s bumpless navigation through the app right to the very features they need. So, let’s consider that you have opted for a custom-build iOS-based telemedicine app, right? The time has come to infuse it with the toolkit and features your users need, while simultaneously ensuring the most flawless of user experiences they might get.
User Experience (UX) Design
Your app might be brilliant from a technical perspective, but your users are not interested in “how good your code is.” They want a sublime and smooth experience of using it – the one that caters to and even predicts their needs. So, think about the ultimate purpose you’re trying to reach with your telemedicine mobile app and then implement it during the UX design phase. Make sure to understand that in telemedicine apps, you will have to design two sides: the provider’s backend and the patient’s frontend.
While the final UX version of your app depends on the features you want it to have and the user experience you want to provide, there are five major rules to keep in mind when building your wireframes.
- Embrace the problem that you want to fix for the end-user. You have to understand the value your app will bring to your user in order to craft it up in the smoothest of manners possible.
- Make sure to limit the number of screens to a maximum of three. Modern users don’t like to be overwhelmed with information and visual data. They want everything to be succinct and efficient.
- Keep your language simple. A 3rd-grader must be able to navigate freely through your app. If you’re about to localize your app for the users from another country, make sure to put this requirement atop of the translator’s technical task.
- Given that the majority of features on a telemedicine app are chargeable, ensure the simplest and the fastest way of reaching them. No chargeable downtime must be present.
- Embark upon comprehensive testing once the UX wireframes are ready. Summon together a focus group and make sure to gather extensive feedback on your app.
- Redesign the app in accordance with the feedback supplied and rerun the testing process until every party remains satisfied.
The very moment you feel like your wireframes are ready to serve your users, move on to making sure that your app does not only feel but actually looks stunning. Bring on the UI phase.
User Interface (UI) Design
Imagine that your app is a human body. At this stage, you already have all the organs, a perfectly-built loco-motion system, and the muscles to grow. Now’s the time to cover it all up with some beautiful silk-touch skin. Or think of it as a perfectly planned building: you need a fascinating facade to make folks want to enter it. This is exactly what the user interface design does.
Like with the UX, you need to choose the very best options that fit your app’s idea. Yet, here, you will have to deal with images, animations, colors, fonts, and buttons – every single visual element included in your app. You will have to position each of them to make sure that your users don’t stumble upon any barriers when using the app.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when designing your app is to stick with inclusive design. You have to design it in a way that will make your app easy to use for every person. Quite often, you can expect telemedicine apps to be popular with the elderly or people with special needs. So, keep the user stories down to earth and ensure that the app’s UI keeps everything important within the user’s sight. By the way, it would be a great idea to involve people with special needs in your focus group. As soon as you’re done with the UI design, test, test, test. Then, do it all again until everyone is satisfied.
- APIs and Integrations
Regardless of how brilliant your app is, it cannot exist in today’s IT ecosystem without 3rd-party integrations. For example, your users won’t even be able to use their email to create an account with you without integrating the email hosts into your app. Furthermore, efficient data analytics (you would, probably, want to know the app’s features that are the most popular with the end-users) is also a tall order to deal with without 3rd-party integrations.
When it comes to selecting the right APIs for your app, it all depends on what you want your app to be capable of and its compatibility with the APIs chosen. The technologies used when coding the app must comply with the technical requirements of the APIs that you want to apply. For example, if you want to add a 3rd-party chat to it, make sure that it follows a HIPAA-compliant end-to-end encryption policy. By the way, speaking of HIPAA and legal compliance is the next big thing that we surely have to mention.
- HIPAA Compliance and Legal Restrictions
Telemedicine apps stand out from the crowd of apps because they carry a lot of truly sensitive patient information, which if stolen, might be used to cause significant mental and material damage to them. Therefore, depending on the market you want your app to function on, you have to make your app compliant with the country’s legal provisions, as well as HIPAA.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), also referred to as the Kennedy-Kassebaum Act, is one of the most crucial milestones achieved by the United States Government in modernizing the country’s and global healthcare systems. The Act has once and forever altered the information flow patterns within healthcare systems worldwide by ensuring more security for the patients’ data. Yet, we won’t focus on HIPAA here, as we have already come up with an extensive guide on how to make your healthcare app HIPAA compliant.
Yet, when it comes to local legislation, you have to stay alert, as it may change from state to state and from region to region. For example, in accordance with the CMS Law and Tax Consultants, any software processing patient’s personal data in England must, besides HIPAA, comply with:
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003 (PECR)
- The Data Protection Act of 2018 (DPA)
This list of regulations, norms and restrictions can go on and on, so the best decision would be to team up with a narrowly specialized lawyer and get down to scrutinizing the legal requirements for patients’ data processing in the countries considered to be your app’s target markets.
- Assure the Quality
Now that everything’s done, you have to make sure it all works properly together. It’s not hard to guess that we’re talking about testing, as namely testing makes sure that your software does not act up when it reaches its end user. We’re not advising you here, but rather reminding you that your developers have to conduct peer code reviews while the QA team must ensure unit tests of the app on various devices, especially when you’ve opted for a cross-platform app. Finally, make sure that you perform the tests before you launch your app. Better safe than sorry.
- Deploy and Support
When everything’s been coded, designed, and tested, it is time to deploy your app – make it available for your users to download. Still, keep in mind that the App Store and Google Play provide annual updates on their code requirements. If you want your app to run smoothly make sure to follow their policies and update your code respectively.
We’ve just thought that you might use a bit of guidance on the technologies that can be used for crafting a brilliant telemedicine app. Of course, your software vendor will advise you on the stack. Yet, here are some Goldilock variants that you can use for both frontend and backend design, as well as implementing some auxiliary features within the app. Think of it as a construction set you can use to put together your telemedicine app. But don’t be afraid to mix things up and add other technologies that cover for the needs of your users.
Telemedicine Apps Stack Constructor
Success Checklist: What Is a Good Telemedicine App?
You’re cognizant of the process of developing a successful telemedicine app. So, let’s make sure that you would be able to tick off all the boxes on the final checklist of having a telemedicine app that would be more than successful. We’re talking about an impeccable telemedicine app, and there are 15 features to implement in it.
- High Availability. Your app must be available for your clients whenever they need it. Even if your platform is down, you would want to restore it as soon as possible as access to the patient’s medical data might turn out critical.
- HIPAA and Legal Compliance. Even though we’ve already talked about it, this reminder is never an odd one. Make sure that your app meets every local and international legal compliance requirement.
- Secure Video Calls. The information patients share with their doctors via video-conferencing is extremely sensitive. Hence, their knowledge of the fact that the stream is protected from any intrusions is a must. Furthermore, this is one of the major HIPAA compliance requirements. One way or another you will have to stick to it.
- Reliable Back-End. Sometimes, the patients’ clinical records play the crucial role when it comes to diagnosing them. So, you will need a reliable back-end repository for storing all of your patients’ data, including labs, medical history, etc.
- Scheduled Appointments. One of the biggest benefits that the clients seek from telemedicine apps is the ability to schedule appointments with doctors without excessive run arounds.
- Peer-To-Peer Chat. Availability 24/7 is what clients expect from your app. While they understand that doctors might be sleeping at night, they want to be able to text doctors during their working hours, as there might be some minor issues that require two-three messages and not a separate call. Furthermore, messages are more convenient to use when exchanging information that might be misheard when relayed verbally.
- E-Prescriptions. Make sure that your app has this feature and simplifying the process of getting their prescriptions and refills is one of the pivotal values you can deliver for your clients.
- Group Calls & Chats. Remember, we mentioned flexible team scaling as an opportunity provided to your business by a telemedicine app? Well, group calls and chats must be there for exactly the very same reason, as they will aid your doctor’s ability to connect their colleagues and provide efficient ad hoc consultations.
- VR for Telepsychiatry Sessions. While we’re still talking about calls, let’s mention the VR technology and its applicability to enhancing the telepsychiatry experience for patients and doctors.
- EHR Integration. Accurate synchronization of the patient’s data and request with the app’s inner system will save your personnel a lot of time. Thus, you’ll be able to increase your company’s efficiency.
- Chatbot. Be ready that your doctors cannot work 24/7 as some clients might actually expect them to. Having a chatbot might be a great solution to keeping your clients satisfied and engaged until the next morning when the doctor will be able to answer the client’s questions.
- Medical Assistants Module. If you’re running an advanced medical organization, you might need a separate UI interface for the medical assistance staff, such as nurses and assistants. Doctors don’t need to pay attention to all the organizational and subsidiary information. Hence, ensure the utmost efficiency with a medical assistants module.
- Apple Healthkit and GoogleFit Integration. Most of your clients would like their health data gathered by their iOS and Android native health apps to be synchronized with the app. Thus, the doctors will be able to keep track of the patients health data and not react but proact when it comes to treating diseases.
- Peripheral IoT Devices Integration. Wearables are an important part of today’s telemedicine industry, as they serve as a crucial agent when it comes to collecting and analyzing the patients’ vitals.
- Mobile Payments. Just like healthcare services, paying for them must be swift and comfortable. Furthermore, implementing this feature will help you customers pass the Google and Apple commissions, which is quite good.
You have to understand that you don’t necessarily have to implement all of the 15 features on your telemedicine app. It all depends on the particular type of medical business you’re into. Sometimes, it might take only five of them to take your company to the next level. Nonetheless, they are here to let you get a grasp of what a decent telemedicine app must consist of.
Developing a telemedicine app is not a whim but a need for your business. Today’s customers want more than sitting in long queues and spending time commuting to the doctor’s office. It is crystal clear that businesses willing to withstand the intense competition in today’s healthcare industry will have to go tele – the sooner, the better. Hopefully, our guide on how to develop a successful telemedicine app will help you choose the right telemedicine app development company.