The Trends and Challenges of Telemedicine Apps

Having a 24/7 access to medical services means correct disease management and better health outcomes, and telemedicine is making it possible. 

Telemedicine is a recently re-established concept that is rapidly evolving. It started in the late fifties as a way to cater to the needs of patients living in remote areas but has nowadays transformed into an integrated system of diagnostics, care, and support. This sector is growing and attracting new funding and actors: from $18 billion in 2015, it is expected to reach $41 billion in 2021, growing at a 33.5% CAGR between 2018- 2023. 

At the moment, telemedicine is shifting away from catering to geographically isolated patients toward the general convenience of medical services. 

Why create a telemedicine app?

There are numerous benefits to adopting telemedicine apps, including quick and accurate results, lower costs, and convenience. Most consultations do not require the patient to be present at the hospital. A conversation on the phone or via Skype could be enough, which saves them time and money while giving the doctor the opportunity to cater to more patients.

Remote Consultations

Telemedicine doesn’t always need to be high-tech. Sometimes it is almost as simple as having a regular talk with the doctor. The difference is that by using an app, all the essential details of such a process can be saved for further reference in the patient’s electronic health records, in a safe and privacy-compliant way.

This can also be effective in the case of routine check-ups where the patient’s condition is stable over time and the patient only requires the doctor’s confirmation for an Rx, or to let them know that their health is evolving as expected.

The app can also help patients quickly book appointments, through a set of questions to determine their possible needs and the expected diagnosis, then selecting an available doctor. By making use of tele-consultation slots of 15-20 minutes, the patient can put their mind at ease without wasting a few hours or even days traveling to the medical facility, with the same outcome.

Digital Photo Diagnosis

Some might argue that this kind of diagnostics is only efficient in a handful of situations when the doctor doesn’t need to evaluate lesions, scars, wounds, or other conditions. However, the advancements of computer vision (CV) tools can transform any phone into a diagnostic tool, which is sometimes even more efficient than the doctor. 

Today, CV can identify malign tumors with a 95% accuracy, which is higher than most human doctors can guarantee. With a telemedicine photo app, you only need your phone and good light to take a clear picture of the problem area and upload it into the cloud to be analyzed, for example when you have skin cancer suspicions. Of course, before you get a final diagnosis and treatment, a doctor should review and confirm the machine’s estimations. 

Reissuing Prescribed Drugs 

For chronically ill patients, some of the doctor visits are motivated by the need to renew their prescriptions. This can’t be done automatically; the doctor is still required by law to perform a minimal inquiry about the patient’s condition. 

A telemedicine app could help connect the doctor and the patient in such cases.  But it can also do so much more, including warning the patient a few days before the prescription requires renewal, booking an appointment with the doctor, and even booking the drugs at the patient’s favorite pharmacy or having them delivered at the doorstep. 

Challenges of Telemedicine

Creating an app is not easy; just check the story of DocDoor telemedicine app development to get an idea about how many things you need to take into consideration, although the features most of the time seem pretty straightforward. 

Most of us have dozens or hundreds of apps on our devices. The motivation to install another one always relies on convenience. To be used actively, the app should provide more value to the user than separate services which offer the same outcome. 

The interface of the app is vital for the final adoption rate; that is why companies that embark on this journey should set aside time and budget for the UX/UI components. The brief for the design company should have two different stakeholder groups: the doctors who are usually more tech-savvy and have a shorter learning curve, and the patients who, sometimes due to age or different conditions, should benefit from the most straightforward interface available.

Not only the app design is important. How it works also matters for the users, doctors and patients. It should connect different services like calling the doctor, recording the outcome of the consultation, issuing a prescription, and more, all in an easy and flawless way.

On top of these functional requirements come the demands regarding security and compliance with specific standards, like HIPAA. Patients and doctors need to feel assured that sensitive information can’t be compromised and that technical errors are impossible.

Last but not least, there are constraints related to payment or reimbursement for services by insurance companies. While simple phone calls are not chargeable by doctors despite being time- and expertise-consuming, using a telemedicine app could count as remote care and be charged accordingly, giving doctors an incentive to provide the necessary time and attention to this way of caring for their patients.  

In this case, the app needs to have a payment module integrated or a system of points that translate into actual money based on the amount of service delivered over a period of time, like one month. 

Successful Examples

So far, there are a few apps that stand out from the crowd and have managed to help people. These are:

  • Lemonaid: Same Day Online Care: for a flat fee of $25 you get an appointment in two hours and also delivery of the recommended drugs.
  • Express Care Virtual: for $49 (insurance accepted) you get a doctor’s appointment, treatment plan and a note.
  • Doctor on Demand: you connect to a licensed doctor and pay to them depending on their respective fees. The app itself is free.

As this business sector grows, we can expect more apps to emerge and telemedicine to become as common as paying with a card instead of cash. 

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