Telemedicine refers to the various methods patients and doctors communicate without coming in physical contact. You’d hear of different terms such as telehealth, e-health, m-health, or digital medicine used in its place.
Recent developments and trends in telehealth
Telehealth was first notably used in the medical sector in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and over time, it has seen a significant rise in popularity as its uses have proved to be remarkable. In fact, a study conducted on Michigan Medicine indicates that 27% of clinicians report having higher productivity when using telemedicine, a figure which may show an increase over the coming years. (1) (2)
Technological advancement has seen a remarkable evolution of telemedicine. Presently, the development of smartphone health applications has made it even easier for patients to remotely seek professional healthcare services from their physicians. This is a trend that grows in popularity by the day, as a survey conducted in 2015 suggested. It indicated that 58.23% of mobile phone users in the United States had at least one health app on their phones. (3)
Therefore, if you’re an app developer whose client base lies within the health industry, you’d want to be aware of the critical patient and doctor preferences for such apps. Here’s a list of essential telemedicine features you must include in a health app:
1. Video, audio, and text capabilities
Telemedicine relies heavily on effective communication. Therefore, it’s crucial that when you want to develop a telehealth application, you should ensure that you incorporate features that’ll ensure ease and efficiency for interactions between both parties. To do this, you can include features such as the following:
- Live video conferencing: The health app you develop must support good video quality. Preferably, it should be capable of making high-definition (HD) or ultra-high definition (UHD) video calls. The users can easily have face-to-face conversations, and they’ll be able to read each other’s body language and interpret facial expressions.
- In-app voice-only calls: This option is useful for users who prefer not to disclose their faces. Ensure the telehealth app has excellent sound quality, as it’s crucial for virtual communication. Poor sound quality can lead to misinterpretation of facts being exchanged between the doctor and the patient.
- In-app chats: This will be useful for users in noisy environments that make voice calls impossible or those whose medical condition bars them from having an efficient voice conversation. Therefore, consider including a texting option when building your app.
2. Medication tracker
Research by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that only 50% of patients in developed countries stick to their regimens all the way. For this reason, when designing a health app, include a medication tracker. This feature will help doctors to not only write their patients prescriptions but also send them notifications to remind them to take their medicine. Thus, they’ll be able to monitor their recovery process. (4)
3. Electronic medical records
Electronic medical records (EMRs) are a necessity for digital health as they detail a patient’s medical data and a recorded history of communication with their doctors. Some apps use cloud technology for EMR storage and retrieval. They make it easier for the doctor to quickly review the patient’s history before a virtual clinical session. Therefore, when creating a health app, include an EMR section where a doctor can easily record, organize, and access their patient’s medical files.
However, since patient information is sensitive, it should always remain private and secure from cyber threats. In fact, you may end up being penalized by the government if the app you create has security loopholes that hackers can easily breach. To prevent this, you need to develop a robust security system for your app and ensure that it conforms to data privacy requirements mandated by state and international data protection bodies. (5)
4. Efficient payment options
Patients need to pay for the services they receive. Therefore, you should incorporate an electronic payment system that’ll offer convenience to the users.
Ensure that you include one that offers good security to user data, is up-to-date with the latest payment options, and is generally cost-effective. You could liaise with reliable e-payment companies to integrate their software in your app. To offer flexibility for the patients, make a point of integrating several of the most popular e-payment options.
5. User profiles
This is an important section useful for identification purposes of both patients and doctors. A patient would want to know some basic information about the doctor, including their name, physical address, and qualifications, as well as see their avatar. A doctor would also want to know the patient’s name, area of residence, gender, and contact information, as well as see a photo of their patients’ faces.
So ensure your health app has this feature. It should be among the first things a user spots when they open their app. A good tip would, therefore, be positioning it at the top parts of the app screen.
The emergence of health apps in the medical industry has made telehealth much easier as the apps integrate several helpful functions. If you’re an app developer, consider the features mentioned in this article, including user profiles, video, audio, and text communication capabilities; EMRs; medication tracking; and convenient payment options.
Including these features ensures your app is beneficial to both doctors and patients and that it complies with the related regulations.
- “The Evolution Of Telehealth: Where Have We Been And Where Are We Going?” Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207141/
- “What Does The Future Hold For Telehealth? New Report Gives Hints”, Source: https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/industry-dx/what-does-future-hold-for-telehealth-new-report-gives-hints
- “Health App Use Among US Mobile Phone Owners: A National Survey”, Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4704953/
- “The Quantified Self: Medication Tracking Apps”, Source: https://onlinepublichealth.gwu.edu/resources/quantified-self-health-tracking-technology/
- “Why Is Data Protection So Important?” Source: https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources-page/why-is-data-protection-so-important.html
Harry Lopez is a software developer. He shares his insights and expertise through blogging. During his free time, he plays chess, watch movies, and exercise. He has a German shepherd dog named Jasper.