Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, according to HealthIT.gov, while telehealth, as a broader concept, involves, apart from telemedicine, provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education. However, for simplicity, we use telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably.
What is Telemedicine Software
Telemedicine refers to remote clinical services using telecommunications infrastructure to deliver care at a distance.
There are different definitions and types of telemedicine software, but in this atricle we focus only on applications through which patient-doctor virtual appointments are held. Such software enables video or phone appointments between patients and medical providers.
In light of COVID, telemedicine became crucial for providing remote medical services to patients. The global telemedicine software/hardware market is expected to reach USD 460 billion in 2030. Many people, who have isolated themselves in the COVID pandemic, had trouble accessing face-to-face appointments with a doctor. It made “telemedicine app download” one of the most googled queries. Since then telemedicine has become more widespread standard of healthcare services. Video conferences, live chats, and app texting - there are plenty of ways to set up online doctor visits.
Since the 2019 pandemic, the healthcare industry has experienced the rapid implementation of telemedicine, and nowadays many people prefer online doctor consultations over a meeting in person. Telemedicine software development opens doors for new possibilities, where more specialties can successfully expand their practice and make a meaningful impact on a patient care.
As a result of the continuous advancements in healthcare software, telemedicine platforms and apps made healthcare even more affordable and accessible.
Telemedicine provides better access to healthcare services, turning telehealth platforms and telehealth apps into an essential part of the healthcare industry.
Benefits of telemedicine for patients
- The implementation of telemedicine helps health care providers to examine a patient and monitor health conditions on a spot: no more commute times while completing an in-person appointment. The adoption of telemedicine removes the locational gap for those, who live far away and supports patients with chronic diseases.
- A telemedicine app allows for treating patients more efficiently because it is a comfortable way of communication between doctors and their patients;
- Quick reaction to emergency care.
Benefits of telemedicine for doctors
Healthcare professionals benefit from telemedicine opportunities. The most common benefits of telemedicine are:
- Flexible work-from-home opportunities for doctors;
- The additional revenue model for doctors, for example by offering on-demand off-hours telemedicine visits.
By using a modern telehealth app, it is possible not just to conduct virtual doctor appointments from a mobile device, but also to view patient appointment scheduling, e-prescribe treatments and medications, and more.
Top 10 Features of Telemedicine
Being recognized as a time-efficient and cost-effective means for delivering quality healthcare service, telemedicine applications need to have advanced telemedicine app features. Here are the top 10. The features are listed in the order as it is convenient for patients (patient registration, profile fulfillment, doctor selection, making a virtual appointment, payment and leaving the review) and for doctors (integrated patient profile, integrated EHR, integrated practice management, and integrated e-prescribing).
1. Patient Registration/Authentication
A patient needs to complete consent forms before scheduling an online appointment:
- a registration form to provide a medical worker with demographic and insurance information, a health history, and information about allergies.
- a HIPAA compliance patient consent form that describes patients’ rights under the law. By signing this form a patient allows for using of protected healthcare information (only a necessary minimum) with medical workers to prescribe treatment, process payment, or healthcare operations.
- a telemedicine consent form explaining that a conferencing technology is not the same as a direct patient/health visit because a patient will not be in the same room with a healthcare provider, hence the specialist’s responsibility concludes upon the termination of a virtual health care provider visit.
A registration form should be supported by an easy yet secure authentication process. Usually, it is required to enter an email address and a password and verify it when a patient first creates an account.
Some added features here to be considered as a must-have:
- to upload medical records a patient has received from previous consultations, an insurance verification form, billing information, photos, pictures, dental insurance cards, or other papers;
- to schedule and track an online appointment;
- to select the patient’s preference for text or phone notifications before the virtual appointment;
- to receive appointment reminders (via text or phone number specified during registration) to attend your virtual visit and a notification that the doctor is on the call;
- to mute your video or audio, send photos and messages, and share the screen during the visit;
- to give feedback on the video and audio quality of the call / to review and download the visit summary.
2. User-friendly Dashboard
A useful feature for medical workers to evaluate and elaborate quickly on a treatment plan.
The dashboard indicates an outline of a patient's personal and medical records, so it is possible to diagnose faster. The main advantage of a dashboard is to highlight details of patient’s medical issues, such as:
- Latest information on the patient's medical state;
- Doctor’s prescriptions;
- Health complaints;
- Healthcare insurance information;
- History of appointments;
- History of medical management;
- Information from remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices, such as glucometer, pulse oximeter, wearables, etc.
3. Telemedicine Specialists Catalog
A specialist catalog allows for choosing a specialist to make a perfect patient/doctor match.
An administrator is able to access and manage doctors’ profiles allocating healthcare specialists for online visits.
Just like a patient’s medical profile integrated into a telemedicine app specialist profile should also contain basic and detailed information about a healthcare professional as follows:
- Communication ways: doctors can connect through in-app calls, video sessions, or in-app chat;
- Doctor’s qualifications;
- Area of expertise;
- Medical experience;
- Online appointment schedule;
- Payment modes.
4. Schedule tracking
Schedule tracking with an integrated calendar is designed to send push notifications and remind of upcoming medical visits. By using the app-integrated feature to track online appointments doctors can:
- Be up-to-date with their daily schedule;
- Preview a patient queue;
- Browse and filter patient records.
- Cancel appointments, if necessary
5. Consultations via video, audio, or text messages
The most common telemedicine platforms enable video consultations and in-app chats.
Telemedicine service providers use cloud-based telehealth solutions to keep medical data for as much time as it needs, protect HIPAA-compliant data transmission, and make it easily accessible to any physician or any other medical worker who works with patients
- Teleconferencing allows patients to ask questions;
- Online assessment is available;
- App integrated features and cloud-based solutions designed by telemedicine app developers enable live communication, remote medical examination, and virtual diagnostics.
6. EHR Integration
EHR integration elevates the practical application of telemedicine apps. While EMR contains the patient’s medical and treatment history from one practice and usually is not shared beyond the doctor’s office (meaning that EMR is unlikely to follow if a patient switched health care providers), EHR stores patient's records from previous attending doctors and contains laboratory test results, medical history, x-ray images, and medications. So EHR provides a more profound and long-term view of the patient’s health progress.
The telemedicine app integrated with EHR enables quick health record processing, saves time when monitoring a patient’s condition, has medical records collected in one place, and prevents health data duplication from different doctor’s appointments. Telemedicine software with integrated EHR ensures fast and coherent online invoicing and provides:
- Streamlined data collection: all patient information is already integrated;
- Swift healthcare data processing during a telemedicine appointment;
- Integrated online payment systems.
A telemedicine app should geographically link patients to doctors in the same area. This feature helps to locate medical organizations and pharmacies in the surroundings, in case of emergency and provides the shortest route and estimated arrival time.
Allows pharmacies and doctors to provide healthcare services faster. Telemedicine apps with integrated e-prescription should meet the requirements of the following telemedicine regulations:
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA);
- EPA (Electronic Prior Authorization);
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA);
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS);
- HITECH Meaningful Use Stage 1 (MU-1) and Meaningful Use Stage 2 (MU-2).
The e-prescription provides access to medical insurance records that can be shared with electronically connected pharmacists.
E-prescribing enhances patient/doctor communication and improves both patient and doctor satisfaction, plus it has other advantages:
- Includes a complete list of medication and recommended dosages;
- Lowers prescription drug and pharmacy errors;
- Simplifies prescription process and speeds up prescription renewals;
- Safe for patients: by alerting physicians of risks related to drug interactions and other possible medical complications;
- Convenient to study a patient’s anamnesis;
- Reduces drug costs for patients by informing healthcare providers of more cost-efficient therapies, suggesting to cease avoidable high-cost medications, and recommending optimization of current therapies before sending prescriptions to a pharmacy;
- Decreases re-hospitalization cases by preventing adverse drug events and drug allergies;
- Enables systematic track of medication intake.
9. Online Payment
A much-needed telemedicine app feature is to pay medical bills right from a mobile device. Integrated payment systems are a must for telemedicine service providers not only because it is convenient but also because it helps to reduce processing costs. Fast and easy online payment systems have some other significant advantages and offer:
- Automated invoice processing;
- Automated adherence to appointments by sending automated alerts and reminders directed to patients;
- Various payment methods;
- Assistance in pay-slips creation;
- Payments record storage;
- Payment processing compliance;
- Secured payment processing.
10. Reviews and Rating
Patient feedback and the opportunity to evaluate the attending physician is a primary telemedicine app feature. Patients' ranking might help to improve healthcare outcomes and the professional growth of treating doctors. Doctors’ scoring enables patients with similar diseases to find the medical specialist suited for their health issues the best. The scaling option contributes to the healthcare system development.
As telehealth apps are booming, telemedicine software development will be on the rise in the coming years. Telemedicine is the perfect example of on-demand healthcare that can be provided from a smartphone, tablet, or computer regardless of location, that is what makes it cost-effective and time-efficient. Thanks to the benefits of telemedicine, which are to provide better care to patients, expand the healthcare industry and build more profitable practices, many healthcare providers implement telemedicine applications in their practice.
Telemedicine is changing the healthcare landscape: virtual care is being used now by all generations. Integrations with the Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices, a whole new industry of telehealth technologies, such as remote patient monitoring devices and automatic speech recognition tools, as well as a growing tendency toward more decentralized healthcare accompany the general trend to provide improved quality of care, make it flexible, satisfactory, and convenient.