6 Technologies for Building a Successful Telemedicine App

Posted by Karan Shah · 18 Jun, 2020 · 11 min read
6 Technologies for Building a Successful Telemedicine App

Telemedicine (online consultations with doctors) apps are here to stay, and the recent coronavirus pandemic has only heightened the rate of adoption of this technology. Look into these telemedicine statistics to understand how COVID19 has impacted the industry:

  • The adoption of telehealth surged 50% in March, according to this Frost and Sullivan report.
  • Corona related virtual visits expected to top 900 million this year.
  • Telemedicine provider Teladoc reported that the video requests have spiked to more than 15,000 a day.

Our clients have been investing in telemedicine and healthcare since long, but don’t worry — you haven’t missed the bus yet. Telemedicine adoption is set to increase further and if you’re thinking, now is the time to act!

If you haven’t checked our blog on Why do you need to invest in a telemedicine app? — now would be a good time to do so :)

And, if you’re looking to invest in a telemedicine app, you need to know which technologies can help you make it successful. Let’s dive right in:

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is disrupting a lot of markets, and telemedicine is no exemption. Implementation of AI in telemedicine is no longer relegated to research labs and is very much part of our daily lives now.

A study of 56 healthcare companies by the software giant Tata Consultancy Services found that 86% of the respondents were ready to spend more than $54 million on Artificial Intelligence by the end of 2020.

Artificial intelligence can help doctors make better diagnoses. For example, Google uses a machine-learning algorithm to label web images. If we put this algorithm to use in diagnosing diabetic retinopathy, it performs as well as a highly trained ophthalmologist.

Clinicians can use AI to diagnose, monitor, and treat a wide variety of diseases. When you combine remote monitoring with AI and machine learning, the accuracy of diagnosis goes up, and the need for a specialist reduces.

AI can also serve as a tool to recommend treatments. Using computing power, AI can analyze vast amounts of data in seconds, and tell patients exactly what the symptoms are pointing towards.

Another area of application for AI in telemedicine is Eldercare. The demand for home healthcare workers usually outstrips supply, according to multiple media reports.

The US spent $103 billion in home healthcare last year, a figure that is expected to reach $173 billion by 2026. This is a large market that can be captured by eldercare- assistive robots, which move independently and use sensors to make sense of their surroundings.

Smart machines will improve the quality of life for ageing patients, and considering the fact that 75% of Americans over the age of 65 have some form of chronic health condition or another, this can be a major source of relief.

Robots will also decrease the cost of delivering healthcare services, and multiple governments around the world are now pumping in millions of dollars to help research in this field.

Undoubtedly one of the leaders in robotics, Japan is funding research to develop robots that help with walking, bathing, waste disposal, and monitoring vital stats.

AI can also be used to monitor patients remotely. As the doctor-patient ratio continues to remain skewed and more and more people remain hesitant to step out of their homes, AI could well be the silver bullet that the telemedicine industry is looking for.

2. Internet of Things

Telemedicine and the Internet of Things (IoT) are coming together in a big way, to help deliver quality healthcare to ageing patients.

This is a key demographic since many of the developed countries like the US have an ageing population. According to a study by the University of Pittsburgh, by the year 2050, adults aged over 65 will make up 20% of the population.

A vast majority of this ageing population want to stay in their homes after retirement, instead of moving to assisted living facilities. This movement, called ageing in place, often means the patients have to be provided with good elderly care, which includes healthcare.

The Internet of Things is already in the process of making the golden years a breeze for this old group. Voice-activated smart speakers, such as Alexa, can operate the lights or adjust the thermostat. Alexa also gives users the option to shop on e-commerce sites, removing another barrier for the elderly.

And the researchers of IoT are putting out smarter devices into the market at an ever-increasing rate. Take, for instance, the smart medication bottle Pillsy, then connect to an app. The bottle reminds its owners to take medication on time, prevents patients from taking double doses, and even tells the loved ones if a patient is skipping on medication. Yikes.

A known obstacle in the telemedicine sector was the inability of a doctor to measure a patient’s blood pressure or listen to their heartbeat remotely. Firms such as ekuore and Cybermed are targeting this very segment by coming up with digital stethoscopes and other wearables.

These devices do not require the patient to constantly use them in order to be effective. Data from devices such as pulse oximeters get transmitted in real-time to the cloud for near-instantaneous evaluation by the physician.

Via telemedicine apps and video conferencing, doctors can even guide the patients on how to use these devices correctly to get the most accurate readings.

The Internet of Things in the healthcare system is a market that is attracting a lot of investments in the US, with the IoT market expected to grow at a CAGR of 29.9% in 2020 to reach $322.2 billion by 2025.

Huge conglomerates such as IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Honeywell are all betting big on the IoT market, and soon, stepping out of the house to receive quality medical care may be a thing of the past.

3. Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is the process of using technology to collect health data from a patient in one location and electronically transfer the information securely to medical personnel in another location for recommendation and assessment.

The increased internet penetration and the emergence of new technologies such as 5G mean that patients sitting in remote places now have access to the best healthcare options available, thanks to telemedicine.

Add this to the fact that one in five Americans live in rural areas, according to this US census report, and the market for rural telemedicine is huge.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, remote patient monitoring is more important than ever, since it enables the doctors to track key patient parameters without actually coming into contact with them.

RPM also means that patients with less severe cases such as a viral fever are kept out of the hospital, saving precious hospital beds for patients with severe COVID 19 symptoms. With a University of Washington study predicting that 20 states will face ICU bed shortages when the coronavirus peaks, the need to prevent unnecessary hospital visits is now more than ever.

Telemedicine also helps in Real-Time monitoring of patients, helping doctors make well-informed decisions. The advent of technology means patients have more control over their health, enabling them not to rush to urgent care centers to address small issues.

Babyscripts, for example, is a maternity care platform that helps obstetrics to deliver prenatal and postpartum care virtually. Combining a mobile app and remote patient monitoring tools, Babyscripts aims to bridge the gap in maternal care, especially in the high-risk population bracket.

Patients signing up for the app also get a “Mommy Kit,” which consists of remote monitoring tools such as weighing scales and blood pressure cuffs. This gives doctors real-time information about a patient’s critical data such as high blood pressure or elevated blood sugar levels.

4. Cloud Storage of Patient Data

The cloud has revolutionized the way data is stored and retrieved between different devices, and telemedicine is one of the many areas that has been impacted.

In the year 2019 alone, the US spent approximately $124.6 billion on cloud computing technologies, according to this IDC report.

A Cisco study further predicts that cloud computers will process 94% of workloads in 2021.

Cloud storage is the process of housing digital data on remote servers accessible via the internet. The physical infrastructure required to deploy the cloud is owned by a hosting provider, such as Amazon’s Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It is the responsibility of the provider to keep the cloud up and running and provide data security and availability at all times. Cloud storage means companies only need to pay for what they use, thus decreasing the upfront investment costs in IT infrastructure.

Cloud computing offers substantial advantages when it comes to scalability, agility, and elasticity, making it the perfect choice for delivering healthcare IT services.

In cloud-based Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, a web app allows individuals to manage, share, and access critical medical information according to their authorization levels. This medical information involves critical data such as personal profile, medical history, prescriptions, lab results, etc. which need many layers of security.

Cloud storage means it is easier for firms to do telemonitoring and Biosignal processing. Patients in rural areas who do not have access to specialized equipment can make use of telemedicine to monitor their critical functions. This data can then be stored on the cloud. So that the doctor can study them at a later date.

One of the key advantages of cloud storage is how doctors now have the ability to use a simple link to a folder on the cloud instead of emailing large files over a network. Doctors can also use any device to access this data, thanks to the cloud.

A minor concern with cloud storage is handing over the responsibility of data security and privacy to a third-party provider. But with advancements in technology, these concerns can be easily addressed, and we will see greater adoption of cloud data storage in the coming years.

5. Blockchain

Blockchain is a write-once-read only distributed record of digital events that are shared in a peer-to-peer network. Blockchain technology offers three important advantages that can find its application in telemedicine — decentralization, security, and immutability.

Blockchain technology works like a distributed ledger that facilitates a more efficient method of data transfer. Information can be shared instantaneously in a secure and coded format.

Blockchain in its barest form is a link of digital blocks all connected to the previous block and also to the block that comes next. In each block, there is coded information about a person’s medical history or a list of transactions.

The very nature of the blocks, the fact that they are “digitally connected chain of blocks,” makes it nearly impossible to tamper or change the data in a single block. Changing this data not only requires access to that particular block, but also to blocks that are connected to it.

Add this to the fact that Blockchain is one of the hottest pieces of technology in the world, inviting billions of dollars in investment. Spending on blockchain technology alone is expected to cap at around 16 billion dollars annually by 2023, according to this report by Statista.

Using Blockchain means storing data in secure, fragmented systems, that contain a vast amount of information. The blockchain will only be shared between an agreed-upon party and a trusted patient. When this patient’s computer is added to the blockchain, they receive a copy of the blockchain that is updated every time a transaction is added.

The protected healthcare information can only be accessed by someone who has the private key, making hacking the blockchain next to impossible.

Blockchain technology is promising but it also comes with its own set of obstacles. For instance, the technology relies heavily on intense computing power, a commodity that is difficult to obtain in rural areas.

The initial cost of investment is also a barrier for blockchain, which otherwise holds promising prospects in its application in the telemedicine field.

6. Data analytics

As we have seen, telemedicine generates a vast amount of data, in the form of patient’s past records, their vital statistics, prescriptions and other medical details.

Big Data aims at providing a more holistic method to approach a patient’s well-being, by adopting an outcome-based model that not only explores all the treatment options but also understands what causes these ailments and how we can eliminate them.

The global Big Data market is expected to grow to around $142.5 billion dollars by 2020–24, according to this report by Technavio.

A host of technologies such as IoT has helped in the emergence of smart operation theatres, smart hospitals, smart healthcare monitoring etc. This enormous amount of data generated from these devices has led to the emergence of a new branch of analytics called health informatics.

Application of Big Data assures that the vital patient statistics such as variation in a heartbeat, blood pressure, pulse etc are constantly monitored and any anomaly is detected early, preventing life- threatening conditions.

Predictive analytics conducted by using historical medical data also allows healthcare professionals to gauge if there are chances for critical illness in the future. This helps healthcare professionals to create risk scores based on data from various sources, which also enables early detection of ailments in patients with high risk.

Data also helps doctors to accurately diagnose a patient’s illness, a task that was previously conducted by patients listing out their symptoms and doctors making a calculated guess. Now, the patient’s wearable devices tell the doctor all the information they need to know, and the best part is, the doctor need not be in the same room or even the same city as the patient.

With more data, doctors can now recommend prescriptions that are tailor-made for a particular patient. For this, the doctor can take help of the data from a patient’s wearable device, the healthcare app, patient’s electronic health records etc.

These are the technological advances changing the course of telemedicine and giving us a radical new way of approaching healthcare. Make sure you choose the right technology stack and app development company to build a successful telemedicine app.

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While we’ve covered a brief on the major technologies used, the scope here is virtually endless. Healthcare is vast and so is telemedicine. Reach out to us if you would like to hear in detail about how you can carve out your niche in this field.

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