How to Develop a Telemedicine App: A Guide for Health Entrepreneurs

13 min to read
Telehealth app
13 min to read

Telehealth makes it possible for patients who are unable to visit a doctor to get an online consultation using telecommunication technology -it is a revolution in the sphere of medicine. Now, anyone who has access to the Internet can visit a doctor while staying at home, or elsewhere.

If you're looking into telehealth app development, this article will give you a clear understanding of the cost and technology behind telehealth, as well as how you can build a competitive application for iOS and Android. But first, why don't we look at how telemedicine became so popular?


How telehealth came into existence


The telehealth industry isn't something new or unusual. In fact, the idea of using remote medical care occurred more than 100 years ago when phones were invented. Back then, people tried to pass on the sound of a heartbeat to the doctor, in order to make a diagnosis.

In the second part of the twentieth century, the active process of space exploration began and scientists had to observe physiological parameters and monitor the health of astronauts. Later on, these telemetry systems were applied in different spheres, such as sport, aviation and so on.

In 1959, a Canadian doctor sent a video image to the receiving set in his house,which led to his invention of a telemedicine system that connected two hospitals in Montreal for teleradiology diagnosis. In the same year, chest radiography was delivered from the USA to Canada with the help of a coaxial cable.

Despite these huge steps, the most significant evolution happened at the beginning of the new millennium. With the help of the global development of technologies, as well as the widespread use of computers and free Internet, telehealth became a day-to-day thing.

Benefits of telemedicine apps are incontestable and obvious. The first and very evident benefit is that these apps allow patients to connect to a specialist from home. It's a great opportunity for older adults and parents of young children, who may be less able to visit a doctor’s office in person.

 The biggest group of telehealth app users are millenials. As a result of their hectic lifestyle, this generation is keen to make everyday tasks more convenient and spend less time on routine.

Now, telehealth is open to the public and easily accessible. You just need two things - your smartphone with a telehealth app installed and a connection to the Internet – to connect to a medical practitioner.

The number of telehealth apps on the market is growing rapidly. But not every app becomes sought-after. Let's take a look at some successful and popular apps in order to understand why they are so widespread.


Successful examples of telehealth mobile apps


If you open the Google Play market or the Apple App Store you will see a huge number of telehealth apps. But what are the best options? Here are 5 examples of successful and popular teledoctor apps that you can download for analysis: 

  • MDLive

This is a telehealth service that’s available in all 50 states in the USA. This service is designed to allow users to replace urgent medicine, for example, if a person has a sore throat, fever or common cold there is no need to go to see a doctor. Just open the app and get in touch with a medical practitioner via video call.

You can get a consultation not only from physicians, but also from therapists who can help you with mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, addictions and so on. Also, MDLive can help with dermatology problems and solve issues with nails and hair.

MDLive screenshots

  • Lemonaid

The app’s mission, according to its owners, is to provide healthcare to everyone in America. To get a consultation, or to ask personal health questions, a user has to pay $25 - this is the price for one visit. Also, a user of this app can chat with a doctor and get free medicine delivery.

Lemonaid screenshots

  • AmWell

This is another telehealth app that works in the USA. The mechanism of work is pretty much the same as in the other examples - by using this app a person can get video consultation with physicians. The app allows users to choose a doctor of their choice from the list provided.

In real life, the patient should pay for a doctor's visit, but a “virtual visit” through AmWell can be covered by insurance.

AmWell has been voted as the most popular telehealth app several times, and in 2015 it got the first accreditation of the American Telemedicine Association for online patient consults.

AmWell screenshots

  • Babylon

Babylon is a British telehealth app that was made to provide professional healthcare through the use of text and video messages. Users can send questions to doctors or nurses, attach photos or videos of the problem and get a consultation or drug prescription that can be sent to the user or directly to a pharmacy. Also in the app, a user can find specialists who can help them with anxiety or depression.

If a physical examination is required, users of this app can book health examinations or make an appointment with a nurse. Users can apply this option a certain number of times at specific facilities in London.

Babylon has spread throughout the world since 2013, when it started to work in such countries as Rwanda, China, and Canada.

Babylon screenshots

  • Doctor on Demand

Doctor on demand is an American company that serves in each state. The main idea of the company is to provide healthcare anytime and anywhere. This app offers a big list of diseases they can help with.

It is free to sign up and a user will see the cost of a visit before it starts, so there won't be any surprise bills after the visit. One video call with a doctor costs $75, the cost for video chat with a therapist starts from $129, and an initial visit to a psychiatrist is $299. The app also provides help to those who don't have insurance. Also, Doctor on Demand provides corporate health programmes, so employees can receive help anytime.

Doctor on Demand screenshots

The popularity and success of these apps gather pace - they are convenient, fast, available on demand and profitable. Why not become part of this successful industry?  

  

Telehealth app development: the main app's features


Telemedicine app development is a complex process. There are a lot of features and particular qualities this type of app should have. Plus, telehealth apps have different features for patients and doctors. Let's, first of all, see the features of the patient app:


Patient's app

  • Sign in

The best way to register an account in such apps is to use a personal email address, or even better – a phone number. Such an app will contain very personal and important information about a person’s health, which is why powerful protection is required.

  • Personal profile

In the personal profile, a user will fill in information such as illnesses they have had, allergies, blood type, and other important medical notes, as well as their name, age, weight and so on. In other words, everything that a doctor would need to know. Also, it will be very useful and convenient if a user is able to add pictures or scans of X-ray or any other lab results.

  • Search

This gives users the ability to look through a list of doctors and choose who they wish to consult with. In order to optimise the process of doctor searches, implement filters. With the help of filters, users can filter doctors by reviews, rating or other criteria.

  • Schedule

Every user of an app should have a personal calendar where all doctor's visits can be seen. Also, the user should be able to cancel a visit or postpone it.

  • Text and video chats

Patients should have personal chats with selected doctors. They should be able to send text messages, make a video calls, send photos and attach files.

  • Payment

Users should have several payment options available to them. If a telehealth app works with insurance, then a patient should have the opportunity to pay with insurance. If not, it should offer users the ability to easily connect a credit card. The possibility to pay with PayPal or other payment systems would also be useful.

  • Location

You might think that it isn't a necessary feature, but let us prove to you why it is needed. Firstly, the doctors and professionals with whom patients will connect with must be licensed to work in the county where the patients are. Secondly, it is convenient for the doctor to be able to see your location so they are able to send a prescription to a nearby pharmacy for collection.  

  • Give reviews and rate doctors

Reviews offered by patients are a good way for prospective patients to make an informed decision on whether or not to book a consultation with a particular doctor. They are also a great means to estimate the quality of care provided by the doctors listed in your app.

Features of healthcare app for patients

The doctor’s app looks similar to the user’s app, but it still has some significant differences.

Doctor's app:

  • Doctor's profile

When a doctor signs in, they should also fill in the information as any user does. Medical practitioners should give information about their license and work experience. Also, it would be nice to give doctors the ability to upload photos of different certificates and diplomas in order to increase credibility.

  • Schedule

The same feature as a patient has. Any doctor, as well as any patient, should have a personal calendar to track appointments.

  • The ability to review patient information

One of the most important features for professionals. Looking through personal records and medical results is one of the steps on the way to the right diagnosis.

  • Text and video chats

Medical practitioners, as well as users, should be able to have personal chats with patients they work with.

  • E-prescriptions

Doctors should be able to provide prescriptions in an electronic form. Also, they should be able to see a patient's location in order to send a prescription to a pharmacy that is close to where a patient lives or from where they called.

These are the basic and most necessary features for medical practitioners. But, there can be more elements in the app which should help doctors and make them interested in working with an app.

  • The ability to connect with colleagues

This can be very useful in situations where a doctor needs a consultation with their colleague in order to make an accurate diagnosis, or even just exchange experience and knowledge.

  • The ability to save video calls and patient messages

Another helpful feature for medical practitioners. When a doctor has a lot of patients, it's difficult for them to remember all the details of each individual case. But, if they could save video calls from specific patients, they could review them anytime to recover the information.

Features of healthcare app for doctors


How much does telehealth app development cost? 


The first question that may pop into your head after you decide to make a telemedicine app is what is the cost of developing a health app?

Before developing any app, it is necessary to understand at least an approximate cost and a telehealth app is not an exception.

The telehealth software cost will depend on the features you want your app to have and the amount of time that will be spent on its development. The more time developers spend on working with your app, the more money you will need to pay.

Another important thing that makes a difference to cost is the country your developers are based in. For example, if your specialist is from North America, the average price for one working hour will be around $170-$180. In South America prices are lower, so you can pay about $40 for a working hour. You will find a similar hourly cost for developers in Eastern Europe – $35-4$0. In India, the average price is the lowest – $25-$30. And finally, if you want to find a developer in Australia, you will pay $110.


How to make a profitable telehealth application


According to Statista, in 2015 the telemedicine industry was valued at 18 billion U.S dollars. In 2021 it is expected to be valued at more than 41 billion U.S. dollars.

Telemedicine industry development

According to these numbers, it is obvious that this sphere is generating huge profits.

As the owner of a telehealth app, one of the most important questions you’ll ask yourself is how to make money with your app? There are several options to monetise a telehealth application:

  • Set a monthly subscription fee

A lot of apps use this model. A patient can download a free demo version of the app with a limited number of functions. To get the full range of functions and use them anytime, they need to pay a monthly subscription fee.

  • Charge for every call

It is the most popular way to monetise an app. Users who want to contact and see a doctor pay for every video call - if it is done through your telehealth mobile application you can take a percent from every call a patient makes.

At the same time, you can charge a doctor who's using your app for every client he or she has.

  • Make your app a franchise

Let's say, you developed your own medical care software, and you would like to have a telehealth app, but the local market in your country is overloaded with such apps. You can make your app a franchise - you sell the rights to use your telehealth software to a company or private individual. In other words, you sell the skeleton of your app and the franchisee adds the feature and functions they want.

How you can get rich from this? You, as an owner, can choose from the following ways of monetisation: lump sum (non-refundable franchise fee); royalty fee (regular payout during the contract term); renewal of franchise (payment for a continuation of the contract). 

The best telehealth software is going to become more and more popular because the industry is growing quickly and getting more widely used and discussed, meaning a franchise will be constant and stable source of profit. 

  • Offer insurance

If you want to implement this monetisation model, you should partner with insurance companies and advertise their services in your app. For example, when a user signs in they need to fill in the information about their insurance provider. In case they don't have one, your app can offer them a company from your list. In this case, you make a profit as an intermediary. An insurance company gives you a percent for every client who learned about them from your app.


Challenges that may occur in telehealth app development


As with the development of any app, the development of a telehealth mobile app is a complicated process and you can face some problems on this path. Here are some challenges that you can deal with and solutions that you can implement:

  • Privacy and security of health data

Your telehealth app will save and exchange user’s private health information. In different countries there are laws that regulate the process of sharing, collecting and using personal information. You need to comply with these laws to ensure the security of data.

In the USA it is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). In Canada it is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and in the European Union it is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

  • User-friendly interface

Telehealth apps should be comfortable for both patients and medical practitioners to use. Everything should be logically structured and work like a charm. Also, the interface of such an app should be different for doctor and for patient.  

Although having a large number of functions can be a great part of an app, there shouldn’t be too many. You should understand that the app needs to be functionally and mindfully balanced and.

Of course in the process of development you should refer to rival apps and note the interface and features they have, so the app you develop differs and offers something new to the marketplace. You can take some hints on how it should be done, but uniquely develop your own app. 

And last but not least, you should make your app understandable at the very beginning - perhaps add a simple, short video lesson on how to use your app. Let users, who open your app for the first time, feel familiar with it when they start to use it.    

  • Vetted professionals

Some people do not trust such apps because they are worried about whether the doctors listed there are qualified enough. In order to eliminate this fear, you should only collaborate with medical practitioners who are fully licensed in the area they operate. They should upload their license when they sign up, so that any patient can check it. It should be obligatory.


Should you start your telehealth application?


The answer is definitely yes! The sphere of telehealth is getting more popular as people appreciate the ability to save time with the help of smartphone apps. Now, when you know the main features of telehealth mobile apps, you understand what your app should have and you know the basics that you can improve on.

Keep in mind that your app needs to be comfortable to use and well developed. We can develop this app for you - find more information about our expertise here.