client guides · 09 Nov 2020 ·Clock14 min

How to Develop a Telemedicine App: Trends, Features and Costs

Anastasiya Kharychkova

Anastasiya Kharychkova

Project Manager

how to start a telehealth business
Illustration by Amir Kerr

Healthcare has always been one of the most conservative industries. We are used to visiting hospitals for consultations, in-person appointments with doctors, paper prescriptions, etc. This makes us feel more confident about the medical services we get. 

During the last ten years, the way we consume services and goods has changed dramatically. And these days, telemedicine is transforming the healthcare industry. It is expected to become the most common method of diagnosis and prescription. 

Though the trend of remote healthcare emerged some time ago, COVID-19 has further emphasized the importance of such online services. 

downloads medical.png
Growth in monthly downloads of medical apps during COVID-19 pandemic. Source: App Annie

Some interesting statistics to prove this idea:

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US Top 10 telehealth apps by QoQ growth, Q1 2020. Source: App Annie

Why has this industry shown such tremendous growth? COVID is not the only reason. Here are the most influential factors of virtual care’s popularity:

  • The lack of qualified doctors in rural areas. Statistics state that 20% of Americans live in rural communities where the ratio of physicians to patients is one to 2,500. This means that around 60 million people have problems with healthcare access.
  • The increased number of senior citizens. According to the United Nations’ predictions, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over the age of 65 - up from one in 11 in 2019.
  • The increased number of chronic diseases. It is expected that by the end of 2020, chronic diseases will account for almost three-quarters of all deaths worldwide.
  • Social distancing and lockdown.
  • The growing number of regulatory approvals. For example, in March 2020, the Trump Administration expanded Medicare telehealth coverage that now allows the beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services. 

Benefits of Telemedicine App Development

If you are still not sure why this industry is so promising, take a look at the benefits that both doctors and patients get.

Patients’ perks

Less Time and Lower Costs

People don’t need to go to the hospital and back, and parents don’t need to think about childcare while they visit the doctors.

Easy Access to Healthcare

Telemedicine makes healthcare services more accessible for older people, individuals with disabilities, children, and those who live in remote areas. 

Wider Choice of Specialists

Telemedicine provides an opportunity to book consultations with specialists worldwide.

Preventive Care

The possibility of tracking health remotely and getting an online consultation motivates people to care for their health every day. This approach brings great results. For example, a 2012 study of people with coronary artery disease found that preventive telemedicine improved their health condition.

Lower Risk of Being Infected

As hospitals and doctor’s offices are full of people with different diseases, there is a high risk of getting an infection during in-person visits. It is especially dangerous in the time of pandemic and for those who have weak immune systems. Staying online helps to decrease the risk of unwanted infection.

Healthcare providers’ perks

Lower Costs

Telemedicine allows providers to reduce their operational costs by cutting salary costs of the front desk staff, rent, and losses associated with no-shows. The saved money can be put towards the innovations. 

According to recent research, hospital costs for remote healthcare sessions are under $50, while an offline visit could be estimated at more than $2,000. There is a significant difference, don’t you think?

Improved Work Efficiency

Implementing telemedicine can significantly improve clinical workflow efficiency. Doctors have quicker access to the patients’ information and can use the data for better analysis and decision-making.

Additional Revenue

By reducing the overload of hospitals, providers can attract more online and offline patients. How hospitals and doctors could monetize their online products will be explained a little later. 

Lower Risk of Being Infected

That’s an important factor for doctors as well. As they are in constant contact with so many different people, they are at a high risk of getting infected.

Higher Patient Satisfaction

One of the recent studies stated that telemedicine patients feel less anxiety and stress and have 38% fewer hospital admissions these factors, for sure, increase the patients’ loyalty for the healthcare provider. 

So now, are you ready to create a helpful and trendy healthcare product? Let’s do it!

Market Research and Product Concept

Telemedicine is a fast-growing industry, and you should conduct some profound research before entering the market. We advise you to study the leading products and find a niche that is still unoccupied by other companies. 

For example, teleradiology generated the highest revenue in 2019, followed by telepsychiatry. Based on the data, experts predict telecardiology will surpass all other medical specialties and attain a double-digit Compound Annual Growth Rate till 2030. Also, telepsychiatry/behavioral health is anticipated to be the second-fastest growing segment during the next ten years. Think about this data; it might give you a great idea for your product. 

When choosing the niche, don’t forget to collect some basic information about your potential users:

  • Personal demographics
  • Education and career background
  • Typical healthcare routine
  • Typical everyday routine
  • Fears and pains

This could seem like a difficult task as you may say that your product suits everyone. But trust us, if you create an app for everyone, in the end, you are going to satisfy no one. 

Trending Technologies for Telehealth App Development

After defining your niche and target audience, it’s the right time to think about the technology you will use with your product. As the top telemedicine companies have implemented the latest developments, you can’t afford to release just another simple app.

So, what are the options? 

Artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML)

We can’t imagine the modern world and business without Artificial Intelligence. It has penetrated almost every single part of our lives, bringing a lot of benefits to telemedicine as well.  

Look how useful AI/ML-based technologies can be:

  • By using accumulated knowledge, AI/ML apps can create individual care plans.
  • AI-based chatbots can decrease the waiting time for the patients, solving the basic problems of a larger number of people.
  • AI/ML products can collect and process the anonymized data of millions of people so that medical professionals can improve the effectiveness of disease treatments.
  • Based on the collected data, AI/ML products can diagnose patients more quickly and accurately. 
  • The collected and processed data can help prevent potential diseases. 

Now there are 64 AI/ML-based medical devices and algorithms approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. For example, in 2018, the FDA approved the usage of the first AI-based device for diagnosing eye disease. The algorithm processes the photos of the retina and states whether there are any signs of diabetic retinopathy. It is 87% accurate when diagnosing the disorder and 90% accurate when screening healthy patients.

Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

The win-win match of IoT and telemedicine gives birth to an Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). This means using medical devices like EKG monitors, along with mobile applications, to track health conditions. Devices in IoMT include wearables, remote patient monitoring, medication-tracking systems, and other medical devices. It leads to a more accurate diagnosis, lower costs, and a higher quality care level. 

For example, in 2018, the cancer monitoring system CYCORE was presented to the public. The focus group of head and neck cancer patients used a Bluetooth-enabled weight scale and blood pressure cuff and tracked their symptoms in the app. The data was collected and sent to the doctors so they could correct the treatment plan daily. It made the process much easier both for patients and doctors. 

The importance of IoMT has significantly increased due to COVID-19 as it revealed the importance of remote monitoring. It’s no surprise that the global IoMT market is expected to grow from $113.751 billion in 2019 to $332.672 billion in 2027.

Extended Reality (XR)

Extended reality is another trendy innovation that is rapidly gaining popularity. It includes such technologies as Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR). These technologies have also influenced the development of telemedicine, especially in the circumstances of self-isolation.

Now VR is widely used by clinics to provide remote healthcare. There are even several fully XR clinics like XRHealth. Using VR helps to deal with pain, different types of physical injuries, and stress, and it can even help patients overcome the respiratory problems caused by COVID-19.  

 

Also, the combination of AR and AI could be very effective in the treatment and monitoring during the pandemic when it is crucial to decrease the number of in-person contacts. Medical personnel and patients can avoid in-person contact by using the XR sets, while AI-based products will guarantee constant access to the patients’ health indicators and report when something goes wrong. 

XR not only provides more opportunities for remote care but also for education. 

AR glasses give surgeons and doctors vital guidance during different procedures, surgeries, and exams. This includes accessing a holographic image of the patient or even facilitating a full body scan to pinpoint ailments.

Blockchain

Since virtual care means a constant online exchange of medical records between patients and doctors, the risk of a data breach is really high. This is where blockchain comes in to help. 

To keep it simple, blockchain means a mutually agreed decentralized and anonymous interaction between parties. It allows physicians to get access to their patients’ full medical history. They can store a much larger amount of medical records and other information using securely encrypted fragmented systems.

The mandatory validation of each transaction between parties decreases the number of inaccurate claims allowed into the system. Cases of insurance fraud and false patient claims are significantly reduced. 

Despite the obvious efficiency, blockchain is still not too popular. It can be easily explained by the cost, the necessity of high-level knowledge, and standardization.

Challenges in Telemedicine App Development

Now that you have chosen the technology that will contribute to your product, let’s talk about the challenges that you have to take into account.

Challenge 1. Insurance Coverage

There is no unified insurance policy in the US. This is why only 26 states require insurers to cover or reimburse the costs of telemedicine. Nevertheless, insurance companies are aware of the trends, and some giants like Aetna, Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and UnitedHealthcare are temporarily covering or waiving telemedicine costs.

Challenge 2. Lack of In-Person Contact

Yes, this can be both a positive and negative factor. Some healthcare providers worry about the possible misunderstanding and patients’ mismanagement that can occur due to online care. Doctors have to trust the data that patients provide them with, and if there are some inaccuracies or gaps, the diagnosis and treatment may be compromised. 

Challenge 3. Compliance with Healthcare Authorities and Data Security

If your application will collect, store, and process the individual data like medical records, insurance or billing information, or any other individual and identifying information, your product should be compliant with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which is meant to protect the users’ data. 

HIPAA is a specific set of rules, especially for telemedicine products, such as: 

  • The login controls, monitoring process, and the storage of data should all be synchronized.
  • There should be no scope of data leakage or unauthorized access by any third parties.
  • Tools like AWSCloudTrail and AWS CloudWatch used in telehealth app development help in the successful implementation of these norms.
  • There should be SSL-enabled endpoints to provide the best solution to secure the data in the transfer process.
  • Data must be encrypted.
  • Use only secure API frameworks and libraries.
  • The development is only complete when the data on your telehealth app is HIPPA compliant. It prevents data breaches and makes the data exchange more reliable. 

Carefully choose the type of information that you need to collect so that you will not have to worry about HIPAA compliance without necessity. 

Challenge 4. UI/UX Design

Usually, telemedicine applications are full of different functions, and their UX is far from satisfactory. While applications from e-commerce or social media have plenty of UX patterns, healthcare products don’t. So creating a user-friendly and intuitive interface could prove to be a difficult task. 

However, don’t be scared of the above challenges. With an experienced development team, you will easily make it through them. Let’s move on.

MVP for a Telemedicine App

Finally, we reach one of the most interesting parts of product development. We are going to define the functionality set of our potential product. Please, keep in mind that it’s not a mandatory instruction, and you can play with the functions depending on your product idea. 

Let’s take this product idea as an example: a platform for patients and individual doctors to organize video and text consultations.

Our potential product will contain 3 parts:

  • Android and iOS applications, 
  • Backend,
  • Admin Panel.

The interface and set of functionalities will vary depending on the user type: a doctor or a patient. 

The key features of the application could look like this:

Sign Up/Sign In

That’s the first big step that will introduce your app to the users, so it should be quick and simple. We suggest implementing a phone sign-in/sign up in the first version as it helps to make the process easier and confirm identity at the same time. 

Personal Information

Right after the sign-up process, the user should choose whether they are a patient or a doctor. Depending on the answer, the profile creation will require different data.

For patients: name, age, gender, photo, location, and language. 

For doctors: name, age, gender, photo, location, language, area of expertise, license, intro, types of services available, and prices.  

The information can be edited later in the personal profile. 

Lastly, both patients and doctors should have the possibility to delete their accounts and to download all the personal information that is stored in the application.

Search for a Medical Specialist

The patients can search for the right specialist based on their preferences: location, area of expertise, price, rating, language, or available time slots. 

For more convenient search results, we can implement the sorting functionality so that the users could organize the doctors’ list depending on the price or rating, etc.

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Doctor search feature in Doximity app

It could also be possible to save the search parameters and track new relevant doctors.

Doctors Profiles with Ratings and Reviews

The patients should be able to look through the detailed information about the doctors, along with other patients’ reviews and the doctor’s rating. 

The following options could be available:

  • Study the doctor’s schedule, 
  • Book a video appointment,
  • Send a message,
  • Leave a review,
  • Block and report.

Messaging

Chat can be used not only for a quick consultation but also for sharing some medical records, photos, laboratory results, and other important information. So, chat should have the functionality of sending photos, videos, and documents.   

Video Calling

This is the core functionality of the first app version. This is where patients and doctors are going to communicate.

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Video calling feature in Amwell app

Scheduling and Appointment Management

This section will vary depending on the user type.

For patients: the list of consultations (completed, upcoming, canceled) and the option to cancel or reschedule the call.

For doctors: the calendar with the possibility to set free time slots for the calls, the list of consultations (completed, upcoming, canceled, paid/unpaid), and the options to approve, cancel, or reschedule the call.

appointments.png
Appointment management feature in Virtual Care app

Payments

Patients or doctors depending on the monetization model that will be chosen should be able to easily pay for the services inside the app. Let’s say we’ve chosen the model where the patients pay for every consultation. 

The payment section allows users to track their transaction history, payment cards, and subscriptions available. 

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Bill pay feature in FollowMyHealth app

Push Notifications

This is an essential part of this kind of product. We are going to notify the users about the upcoming consultations, new messages, and new relevant doctors.

Extra Features for a Telemedicine App

In the later versions, we can implement extended functionality such as:

Multiple Profiles 

It is useful and effective when managing the health of all the family members in one place.

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Accounts management feature in Virtual Care app

Electronic Prescriptions

To provide a full spectrum of medical services, doctors should have the possibility to send prescriptions online and get notifications when they need to prepare the new ones.

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Electronic prescriptions in LiveHealth Online app

Medication Tracker

The possibility to track medicine intake makes the treatments more effective. The doctors should be able to control how the patients perform their treatment plan and get a notification when it’s over or when they need to send new prescriptions. 

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Medication tracking feature in Medisafe app

Documents and Photo Storage

Such storage allows both patients and doctors to have on-hand access to important health records and share them easily between themselves. 

Symptoms Tracker 

This function is very helpful for remote diagnosis as it can help the doctors to notice health complications or get a fuller picture of the current disease.

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Symptoms tracking feature in WebMD app

Dashboard with Health Analytics 

It helps the users track their health themselves every day and ask for a doctor’s help in time.

If you decide to develop a platform like this, you should also think about a basic admin management system with the following features:

Users Management

Here you can easily find all the users registered in the app, see their basic personal information, and be able to block or delete them.

Reports Management

In this section, you can have easy access to all users’ reports about violations. 

Technology Stack for a Telehealth App

The tech stack depends on the project’s specifics and the company’s and developers’ preferences. 

However, without taking into account AI or any other chosen technology developers, the future team will look something like this:

  • Mobile Development: Kotlin for Android, iOS for Swift
  • Admin Panel Development: React.js
  • Database: PostgreSQL, MongoDB
  • Cloud Storage: Amazon S3
  • Backend Development: PHP, Symfony, Laravel
  • General Utilities: Firebase, Google Analytics, Stripe, Twilio, Google Maps

Telemedicine App Development Cost

After going through all of the above steps, we are ready to show you a minimum estimation of the mobile, backend, and admin panel development. Don’t forget that the final estimation can be provided only based on the approved design and requirements. Even though these numbers are still provisional, they will get you the idea of the possible minimum budget for a telemedicine product.

StagesDevelopmentTesting and StabilizingManagementSum, people/hoursDays
UI/UX Design140-2816821
MVP 1.0     
iOS596898977497
Android59614989834104
Server & API430866558173
Admin Panel74151110013
Sum, MVP 1.01,6963392542,289286

Read also: How Much Does it Cost to Develop an App

How to Monetize a Telemedicine App

So, you’ve invested an impressive amount of money and are now thinking of getting a return someday. Here are the most efficient ways to turn a profit in the telemedicine industry. 

Subscription

This is a common way to monetize any mobile application. Think of renewed membership plans both for patients and doctors. They could be monthly, semi-annual, annual, and could start after a free trial. 

The minimum estimation of development: 28 hours per platform.

Paid Consultations

The doctors may set the prices for their services. They may vary depending on the qualifications, specialization, and the type and time of consultation. You may charge a specific fee from every payment.   

The minimum estimation of development: 28 hours per platform.

Freemium

That’s another popular method of monetization. It means that you define some basic set of free features, and the extended set of functions will be available only within the paid plans. This model gives the users an opportunity to discover the app’s value first and then give you their money.

The minimum estimation of development: 48 hours per platform.

Ad Campaigns

This is certainly not a user-friendly way of generating income, but it is an effective one. The challenge is to implement the most useful advertising that will not interrupt the main users’ scenarios. 

The minimum estimation of development: 20 hours per platform.

Sponsorship

You can collaborate with relevant companies to provide the maximum value for the users. Sponsorship can mean the placement of the company’s logo or special offers somewhere in the app. Make sure to be meticulous during the evaluation process.

The minimum estimation of development: 16 hours per platform.

Related: How Much Money Can You Earn With an App?

There is no universal advice about what type of monetization model to choose. It will highly depend on the product idea and your future audience. The only rule you should keep in mind is that it will bring you profit only if it is valuable for the customers. 

Final Thoughts

It is hard to discuss all the aspects of the telemedicine industry in just one article. Telemedicine provides so many opportunities to grow, discover new niches, and implement the latest technologies that it is difficult to ignore this field. We truly believe that telemedicine is becoming our new normal, and in the long-term, it will highly improve the quality of healthcare services, and as a result, the population’s health. 

So, are you excited about this industry as much as we are? We hope this short trip to the fascinating world of telemedicine has spawned a variety of fresh ideas on how to conquer the market. And we are here at your disposal to help you with this mission. Tell us your idea and our specialist will consult you and estimate your project for free.

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