The Coronavirus Pandemic seems to have changed the approach to providing medical services worldwide forever. Now Telemedicine services are becoming in demand.
According to Statista, the Telemedicine market should grow to $ 41.2 billion by 2021. The Pandemic has accelerated this process. More and more healthcare providers need applications or web-platforms to solve urgent patient’s health problems.
We’ve decided to find out the following questions: what Telemedicine services are, how life-saving they are and how they can be brought to patients, what is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Healthcare system all over the world.
Are you in? Then keep reading.
What are Telemedicine Services
The idea of Telemedicine is to provide patients with proper medical care through interaction with doctors on the Internet and by phone, smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.
Telemedicine services are inappropriate in emergency cases when there is a need to urgently relieve pressure, stop the bleed, or stitch up. Here hospitalization is required. On the contrary, telemedicine services are used in cases when there is no urgency, but there is still a need to constantly stay in touch with the doctor and, if necessary, to consult. For example, if there is a rash, or if a finger pain is bothering.
Telehealth services which are most likely used:
- face-to-face: synchronous complete consult (live video);
- non-face-to-face: patient phone calls, patient-sent photos, videos, provider-to-provider consults, patient portal communications.
Telemedicine services are based on video meetings. It helps a doctor correctly assess the physical condition of a patient and promotes trust between them. As it was proved in one of the recent studies, unlike a phone call, video communication leads to a closer interaction and increases the patient’s involvement in the process, his/her interest in the result of treatment.
Telemedicine is not a modern phenomenon. Back in the 1980s, it was a common practice among radiologists to share videos or images showing a patient’s condition. Over the years, this area has grown. As a result, Telemedicine is one of the most growing Healthcare areas today combining the achievements of the IT industry and meeting the Healthcare system needs.
The issue of Telemedicine Software Development continues gaining increased attention. Thanks to high-quality software solutions it is possible to provide such medical services that are legitimate and taken into account Billing and Documentation requirements.
Below you can figure out what are the features of Telemedicine platforms, what restrictions and challenges Telemedicine software development encounters, and what the forecasts for the industry can look like. Let's get started with the Telemedicine situation nowadays.
Why Telemedicine is the future of the Healthcare industry
Telemedicine is known as one of the most progressive and promising healthcare technologies.
Previously, Telemedicine development was restrained due to several reasons.
Did you know? More than 80% of patients would prefer a medical provider with Telemedicine options over those who do not provide online services. For example, in the UK thousands of clinics are already switching to remote treatment and patient monitoring.
The next reason slowed down Telemedicine development in the past was bureaucracy and regulatory restrictions. Today, when the pandemic has swept the world, many countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany are beginning to ease their control and reduce the requirements for Telemedicine companies. Insurance companies also make policy changes to facilitate the use of Telemedicine.
What exact the changes have taken place is described below.
What’s the impact of COVID-19 on Telemedicine Aspects such as Reimbursement, Documentation, Billing
Telemedicine is changing now. COVID-19 forced Telemedicine to mobilize and provoked several changes in aspects such as Reimbursement, Documentation, and Billing.
Let’s find out what a Traditional Telemedicine looked like:
- Technology: HIPAA compliant;
- Regulations and Reimbursement: originating sites, equipment, restrictive.
Nowadays the main elements of Telemedicine are:
- Patients: social distancing;
- Technology: any video software, phone;
- Regulations and Reimbursement: from home, no specific equipment, major changes to Reimbursement.
There have been many restrictions around Telemedicine until recently. They dealt more with software development aspects, for instance, what type of technology or what equipment to use, which specific requirements for some HIPAA compliance software to comply with.
What many have done, was to use non-traditional telemedicine, for example, the cash-pay model when you give the patients flexibility to do Telemedicine from home.
But today time is different. Telemedicine quickly adapts to modern conditions. There are no restrictions:
- Any equipment is available;
- It is possible to communicate via phone/laptop using a camera;
- Any messenger or social network is appropriate;
- It is allowed to call by phone instead of video conferencing.
The need to stay at home and maintain social distance is now emphasized. Telemedicine services provide the opportunity for the patients to be seen, to make urgent appointments, to schedule or reschedule.
When it comes to paying for Telemedicine services there are three major types of sources:
- research grants;
- insurance (Medicare/Medicaid commercial insurance);
If talking more precisely, insurance is more likely for most patients. There is a need to meet state and institutional regulations for licensure, the price transparency is increasing, the patient “buy-in” is required, and overall fewer regulations.
Before the shift to Medicare be sure you are:
- compliant with your state/country and with state/country of your patients' laws;
- licensed in a state/country you can care for a patient who is located in a different state;
- obtained patient consent.
Telemedicine Reimbursement is rapidly changing, nearly daily during COVID-19. New codes and rules now exist to potentially aid payment for such services as virtual check-in, remote interpretation of pictures submitted by the patient, online patient portal communication, interprofessional consult (e-consult).
Documentation and Billing
It is important to document:
- Telemedicine evaluation via video conferencing (or phone);
- patient consent to Telemedicine evaluation;
- total time spent with the encounter (face-to-face and completing encounter) and total time spent counseling and coordinating care;
- physical exam components that you can perform (patient appearance, behavior).
The recommendation to providers is to keep the best documentation possible (as noticed above). The preferred approach for clinics is to simply “bill”, and then allow billing staff to figure out how to submit appropriate charges based on the patient's insurance.
Impact of COVID-19 on Telemedicine Software Development
In connection with the pandemic, the Telemedicine industry, on the one hand, is recognized as the most important tool for reducing the spread of COVID-19. On the other hand, it overcomes in a short time the restrictions that have restrained its development for decades.
But still, experts predict the rapid growth of Telemedicine in 2020, due to its obvious benefits.
The reasons to develop Telemedicine Software Solution during COVID-19
Remote interaction between a doctor and a patient is not just a trend, but a requirement dictated by the modern world. If Telemedicine advantages were not so obvious previously, it is hard to overestimate them today. The main of them are listed below:
- Decreasing the distance between doctors and patients and minimizing the risk to be infected.
- Protection of each nation’s frontline healthcare workers. As a result, the health workers don’t get infected and they’re protected. Virtual care is the right way to go as the first line of defense. Telemedicine is another modality that makes sense to insert into how doctors practice care daily.
- Screen patients remotely, classification of non-infected patients, and patients with other respiratory diseases.
- Hospital cost reduction, and Healthcare cost reduction due to the automation of medical staff daily work.
- Improving the quality of Telemedicine services. If necessary, the patient can contact the doctor at any time, which means that the first aid will be provided as quickly as possible. The doctor might be better aware of the patient's condition to make a more accurate diagnosis and set up the appropriate therapy.
- Consistent participation in the patient request. A sequence of certain actions is reduced from a patient's request or suspicion of illness to an expert response based on incoming data (pressure, temperature, general patient’s condition, etc.).
- Access to health care from anywhere on the map, including rural areas, schools, closed-type hospitals, prisons, as well as round-the-clock access to medical services for the vulnerable patient categories.
* Worth noting is that there is still a lack of knowledge about such services among people.
- Flexible work schedule. The doctor is available anytime if necessary. This has a positive effect not only on the well-being of the patient but also the quality of the relationship between doctor and patient (relationship becomes more trusting).
- Virtual testing of how effective the brand new medical devices and gadgets are, based on quick patients’ feedback.
Telemedicine Software Development: Technologies to apply
There are technologies without which the further development of Healthcare is impossible.
The most irreplaceable and useful of them to consider:
- IoT. This technology involves the use of gadgets such as smartwatches, tablets, digital cameras, and so on. By applying all these devices, it is feasible to monitor and better understand how human organs work, and respond to unexpected situations in time.
- AI and Machine Learning. This type of technology includes chatbots, mobile phone software, voice recognition, language interpretation, and other devices and features that are used to make the correct diagnosis. These technologies can improve COVID-19 detection. AI and Machine Learning help classify patients by severity and discover new treatments or vaccines to fight COVID-19.
* Interesting to know. A study was conducted showed that patients are more honest with AI.
- Big Data. This technology processes a large amount of data, compares, analyzes, and provides more optimal methods of treatment, and as a result, reduces healthcare costs. It might be useful in modeling disease spreading, prediction of its potential growth, and regions affected. It can be applied also to model how countries are prepared to fight the virus.
- Blockchain. This technology provides reliable storage, processing, and patient data exchange, unlike paper-based documentation.
There are also technologies that are widely-spread in advanced countries to restrain the COVID-19 pandemic: robots, chatbots, drones, 5G thermometers, smart rings, and bracelets synchronized with the AI platform. The most famous among all chatbots is the Corona-Bot. It is daily updated with fresh scientific research gathered on reliable sources. Corona-Bot helps correctly diagnose coronavirus based on the symptoms described by the patient.
The software solutions and digital tools that are most effectively used in the fight against COVID-19 can be useful in the future in case of a new disease or can be applied to other areas of Healthcare.
What is the Structure of Telemedicine Solution
Any Telemedicine platform might consist of three mandatory parts: Patient panel, Panel of Doctors, Administrative panel.
What is available in the Patient panel:
- sign up and restrict access to personal data;
- fill in a patient profile with the data required for a doctor;
- choose and find the right doctor depending on the request, time availability, and location;
- schedule consultations and control list of medicines with Google calendar integration setting up push notifications or email reminders;
- reschedule or cancel appointments;
- share feedback;
- follow the plan of the insurance company (integration with the insurance provider);
- instantly contact the doctor via video call or text chat;
- keep a record of medications taken, patient medical record, and much more.
What is available in the Panel of Doctors:
- fill out the work profile as much precise as possible (specialization, certificates, work schedule);
- schedule, cancel, or reschedule appointments and keep them on the Google calendar + set up email reminders;
- communicate with patients either via chat or running video conferencing (more expensive integration);
- record and upload audio or video recordings after meetings with patients;
- keep a section with patients’ medical records, and much more.
Must know. The Panel of Doctors and the Patient panel should match in terms of functionality. There are other features to apply while building a Telemedicine platform. Which of them to use in the early stages of development depends on the project goals and budget allocated.
Telemedicine Software Development Challenges
All obstacles are caused by the necessity to ensure the software product with a high level of personal data security as well as act as a part of the laws of the country where this software product is considered to be run.
The more tight the IoT and the Healthcare industry are, the more likely cybercriminals are to download all the data at once. Here are necessary action to take in order to prevent such a situation:
- multi-factor authentication;
- high-quality encryption protocols to ensure uninterrupted integrity;
- ability to quickly restore access to data in the case of a technical or physical accident;
- checking the availability and fault tolerance of systems associated with data processing;
- checking the security level by analyzing the effectiveness of the protective measures applied;
- connecting reliable third-party services with a preliminary in-depth study of their documentation and security guarantees.
The most promising areas of Telemedicine
One of the Telemedicine areas worthy of further development is connected with chronic patients. These patients need regular clinic visits, which is not always possible for different reasons. Online meetings with a doctor simplified access to necessary information and emergency care. Moreover, virtual medical care helps reduce the burden on hospital units and staff.
Another promising area of Telemedicine is the so-called “hospital at home”. Those patients who need hospitalization, but with a generally stable condition, are advised to get treatment at home being supervised by an online-doctor. The great news is that a person who needs care will be treated by a doctor online, staying home instead of being in bleak institutional environments.
The future of Telemedicine is promising, as well as the obstacles. The main obstacles are connected with the idea that Telemedicine violates the inviolable principle of Healthcare about confidentiality and data integrity. However, as noticed above, an unexpected COVID-19 pandemic has given the obstacle management process a boost.
A few steps left to discuss Development of your Telemedicine Project
- detailed studying mechanics of user interaction with the service interface;
- creation of a CRM system with further possibility to upload and process collected data;
- software solution development with different access levels.
So, if you’re looking for a telemedicine solution we can discuss the details of your project.
Telemedicine Solution built by DDI Development team: Look at what we’ve created
We have developed a multilevel Telemedicine platform to help patients obtain virtual care services. Each user dashboard consists of mandatory elements for smooth and consistent platform performance.
At the Patient level, there is an opportunity not only to point out the data but also to contact the doctor, get acquainted with his/her qualifications, ratings, certificates and reviews, check the laboratory tests results, keep the list of Medicines and make appointments.
The Doctor dashboard provides not only a summary of patient progress but also such detailed information as the patient’s allergy. Here is an access to the list of medications, records made during the consultations, appointments scheduled. Moreover, the technical ability to notify patients is available for clinicians. The platform is equipped with Software for convenient communication between patients and doctors via text messages, audio calls, and video conferencing.
The Waiting Room function is also available to see how large the queue of patients is, what symptoms and requests are listed, how much time the treatment takes, whether the patient follows the instructions.
One of the most important sections is Documentation. All documentation is stored here, including medical records and insurance. Thus, our platform allows you to ensure consistent and complete documentation.
The Finance section is one more benefit provided by our Telemedicine platform. The payment solution is integrated to easily manage the money flow, for example, to make online invoicing and set up automatic payment reminders.
As for the security issue, the platform is totally secured thanks to Encryption and security protocols. It is possible to restrict users in such activities as documentation uploading and sharing.
To sum up, let's say that the Telemedicine software solution developed by DDI team provides users with features such as Clinical Documentation, Appointment setting, HIPAA compliance, E-prescribing, Virtual waiting room, Encryption and security protocols, Video calling and text messaging.
If you are about to offer an effective solution to manage increased demand for acute care by determining patients need while they are safe at home, it makes sense to run a Telemedicine platform. It’s important especially considering the rapidly developing Telehealth industry during the pandemic.
Feel free to discuss with us your ideas about Telemedicine Software Development from scratch or an improvement of an existing project. Our experts are ready to build and launch for you one of the most useful, convenient, and cost-effective services in the world. Stay at home, and just give us a call.
Despite the obvious restrictions and difficulties that Telemedicine faces nowadays, they seem easy-to-solve against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments make their restrictive policies weaken, programmers gain unprecedented wide experience developing the powerful, cutting-edge, high-security Telemedicine platforms, which allows timely to provide medical care to patients-in-need while they stay at home.
As we found out, Telemedicine Solutions can vary in complexity and structure, which makes them available both for clinics and for personal healthcare providers. Demand for such platforms is only growing and will continue to grow after quarantine. The Healthcare system in every country will never be the same. It's all because of Telemedicine services which make medical care fast, safe, and high-quality. Isn't that the whole point of Healthcare?