eHealth has the great potential to deal with some burning issues faced by today’s society. As never before, we are in need of accessible, efficient, and affordable healthcare services. Innovative telehealth software upholds lasting value for both medical personnel and patients. Remote care, doctor’s availability and convenience are only a few of numerous advantages to see. In this article, we’ll discuss what challenges can be solved, common telehealth software features and required compliance regulations.
List of the Content
- Challenges that telehealth software should solve
- Telehealth software features
- HIPAA compliance for telehealth software development
- In conclusion
According to the statistics, the global telehealth market is expected to grow to $41.2 billion in 2021 in comparison with $18.1 billion in 2015. It is obvious that growth is driven by fast-developing technology innovations. Furthermore, such aspects as the shortage of healthcare professionals, aging of the population, the increase of chronic diseases, growing need for outpatient and preventative care make governments and healthcare providers adopt new approaches. They explore all the possibilities of enhancing the personnel’s productivity and overall care efficiency. For example, 65% of US physicians that practice outpatient care and 40% of medical specialists in inpatient care services have already supported eHealth applications and use it on a regular basis. The others state that 90% of eHealth investments are planned to happen within the next 12 to 18 months.
The global telehealth market is expected to grow to $41.2 billion in 2021 in comparison with $18.1 billion in 2015. Source: statista.com
Telehealth software systems can cover three major types of services:
Store-and-forward – the approach supports the data exchange between medical staff, patients, laboratory professionals, pharmacies, etc. The functional and secure software allows them to share such sensitive data as patients’ medical records, lab tests, images and videos, prescriptions.
Remote monitoring – the valuable method to assure frequent monitoring, efficient treatment, reduce costs and increase patient satisfaction. Such service is suitable for patients with high risks, chronic conditions, recently released from hospitals, etc. A variety of technological devices help to monitor clinical signs and patients’ health conditions at the distance and keep in touch 24/7.
Real-time interaction – we can’t underestimate the benefits of communication via chat or real-time video remote visits by the doctors. It is mainly used for primary and preventative care, consultations, follow-up visits, psychological support, etc. The point is that Skype or FaceTime won’t be appropriate since it has to be conducted over the HIPAA compliant telehealth software platforms.
As a result, telehealth software development isn’t just growing in popularity but becomes the absolute necessity of today’s healthcare. It gives access to efficient and affordable care services. About 74% of US citizens are interested in receiving healthcare via software systems. Those who have already used it acknowledge good quality or even better than in-person visits whereas the cost remains lower.
In their turn, healthcare providers invest in telehealth software development that can meet specific user needs and compliance regulations, including security. Taking the example of the Doctor On Demand app, we’ll discuss what challenges can be solved, common features for telehealth software platforms, and compliance regulations.
WHAT ARE CHALLENGES THAT THE TELEHEALTH SOFTWARE SHOULD SOLVE
“…the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.” the WHO Constitution (1946)
At present, governments have to focus on making it a priority to incorporate telehealth into the existing healthcare systems. Many countries work on adopting telehealth software development to provide better care and support medical practices. It isn’t hard to prove the point that eHealth is vital for today’s society enclosing the same four fundamentals of the right to health:
Patients have the right to access healthcare services where and when they need them. The eHealth software is the additional ability to ensure those rights. If we consider the rural communities, there is an apparent lack of specialists including primary care physicians. Americans living in rural areas are seven times more likely to report that they were not able to get care when needed in comparison to urban areas at three times. Using the Doctor On Demand app, they are able to have an appointment with their physician just in a few minutes.
Making healthcare more affordable
Healthcare must be both physically and economically accessible. Due to the rising costs of services, telehealth software development is given high priority by governments of different countries. They found eHealth as a practical and cheaper alternative to monitor patients with chronic diseases, provide consultations, make prescriptions, share lab tests, etc. In fact, each prevented emergency case with eHealth can make savings from $309 to more than $1500 per one visit.
Enabling the more patient-centric approach
This challenge is related to medical ethics and requires a people-centered approach. Putting the needs of people at the center of medical systems helps to advance care quality. With the help of telehealth software platforms, patients are empowered to take more active and responsible roles in their health. For instance, patients feel more comfortable dealing with anxiety or depression via eHealth applications. Licensed psychologists have the ability to provide behavioral and/or mental health care according to international compliance standards and guarantee confidentiality to their patients.
Maintaining a good quality of healthcare is a real challenge for every generation. The integration of technology in medicine has opened new opportunities to effectively, timely and affordable services. Patient satisfaction can be a good indicator as it reaches the highest levels. According to the statistics, 79% of patients find scheduling a follow-up visit via the eHealth applications rather convenient than an in-person visit arrangement.
At the same time, there’s less chance that they can miss such appointments due to the long distance to the clinic, time spent in waiting rooms, additional expenses, etc. Video calls are conducted at any convenient time and can take less than 30 minutes. Moreover, healthcare providers considerably decrease the workload of the busiest hospital and devote extra time to high-risk patients.
Regarding telehealth software systems, it is a win-win solution all around. The real value is the connection between all the users involved in the healthcare chain and how they can really benefit from it. Patients and doctors that are main participants of healthcare have become two active users of eHealth. More and more people would rather apply for the service of physicians, therapists, psychologists and nurse practitioners via the Doctor On Demand applications. Whereas doctors acknowledge the exceptional functionality like EHR and EMR, ePrescriptions, laboratory tests, medical calculations, etc.
Let’s define what important telehealth software features to include here.
TELEHEALTH SOFTWARE FEATURES
Telehealth software development would cover the needs of the two main actors types: patients and medical personnel. There is also clinic administration staff, but their functionality is not essential for the eHealth software to function, so it will be covered briefly.
Now that we have defined two main users, it is much easier to decide on the required functionalities. To start with, telehealth software developers deal with complex systems of integrated modules including separate applications for doctors and patients. It would be the obvious thing that app features are chosen according to user roles in healthcare. So let’s outline the most common features for both of these eHealth applications.
TELEHEALTH SOFTWARE FEATURES FOR PATIENTS
It is important to develop functional and user-centered software that will cover the patients’ needs and be oriented on their convenience and accessibility. Both healthcare providers and development teams have to anticipate customer requirements and meet them with the following functionalities.
Besides containing general information like name, age, or address, patients need to have access to data on last visits, lab orders and results, prescriptions, treatment guides, etc. It is always great to add the search for insurance providers to check if the patient is covered or the employer section as many of them reimburse costs for video visits as well.
List of the doctors
The great search engine allows patients to find the required specialists just in a few clicks. Firstly, doctors need to be categorized by specialty, current availability, and location. It isn’t just convenient that the patient can schedule the follow-up appointment in a clinic but it can be limited by state laws like in the US. Doctors licensed in certain states can’t serve the patient from others until they get their licenses as well. Specialists’ rates via patient feedback are a great addition to improve the quality and transparency of the services.
That is one of the nice-to-have telehealth software features that helps in the pre-diagnosis stage and treatment itself. The functionality is quite diverse. As far as filling in the simple questionnaire the patient knows what specialists to contact or doctors can gather necessary data on the current patient conditions before the video visit or call. The more details the specialists gather, the more accurate diagnosis is made.
Video and audio calls
Real-time interaction enables medical practitioners to serve at a distance. That is an efficient solution for primary, preventative or chronic care. It is important to understand that making a call via telehealth video conferencing software is completely different from the regular telecommunication app. Each transmission is secure and HIPAA compliant as it has to be during the in-person visit.
It is required to provide the technical support that raises customer engagement, solves disputes between patients and doctors, conducts negotiations on service, payment, and insurance-related questions. Moreover, the development team has to find the solutions to moderate the telehealth software platforms including user feedback, doctors’ workload, etc. For example, tracking the visits actuality is rather important so the patients aren’t charged for canceled or missed visits and doctors aren’t paid for services that they don’t provide.
The advanced calendar would be a great addition to the functional telehealth software. Patients would benefit from the customized designs, synchronization with other calendars and integration with scheduling features of doctor portals. It allows users to easily find free appointment slots due to doctors’ availability, schedule calls/video visits and set automatic reminders on the upcoming events. Moreover, this app feature can become a customized tool to develop and maintain healthy habits like physical activities, the sleep schedule, staying hydrated and taking medicine on time. The more features you add the better time management tool you present for your users. One thing to remember here is being complex under the hood, it has to be clear and easy to use for patients.
eHealth application by default should not only provide patients with the effective ways of diagnostics and treatment prescription but also a convenient way to follow doctor’s recommendations. This functionality aims at assisting patients while they undergo treatment. Besides the detailed doctors’ guidance, automatic reminders are sent every time patients have to take pills, do exercises, run lab tests and have the next check with the doctor. It ensures better patient engagement and helps the medical staff monitor the changes and improvements in patient health conditions.
Integration with other eHealth applications
If the app synchronizes with other applications, gathered data becomes a valuable source that helps medical personnel make a more accurate diagnosis. For example, HealthKit application reads and writes the health data like temperature, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, blood glucose. Permitting to share it with the primary care provider allows them to monitor patients’ conditions regularly.
TELEHEALTH SOFTWARE FEATURES FOR DOCTORS
In order to provide quality services for patients, medical practitioners have to be equipped with professional tools. In the case of eHealth, it is an advanced telehealth software that enables connections between the involved parties. So let’s define the most common functionalities to include here.
Medical practitioner profile
The doctors’ profile is like a resume that would be presented to the patients and other healthcare providers. The more complete the profile is, the more professional and trusting it looks. The appropriately professional photos, past experience, licenses and certifications, best accomplishments have to be covered here. It is always a great idea to include customers’ feedback and rates.
Electronic health records
Like any other application for healthcare professionals, it has to be fully integrated with EHR and EMR systems. This ensures valued-based care within regulatory compliance and enables secure data exchange with patients, third-party providers like pharmacies, insurance services, health registries, etc. For example, doctors can get access to the disease history, previously prescribed treatments, reports on patients’ lab test results, health improvement data gathered by other eHealth applications.
Using in-build features, the physicians are able to manage their timetable, schedule calls and video visits, track working hours, etc. Integration with Google Calendar, iCalendar or other time management apps advances the overall app functionality. Automated reminders allow doctors to be on schedule everywhere and inform patients about open hours to book the appointments. Moreover, telehealth software systems can gather data on the busiest hours to offer better specialists’ availability.
Video and audio calls
Remaining the main feature of any telehealth software, it targets at establishing direct communication between doctors and patients through HQ Audio or/and HQ Video. The development team also has to implement video and audio recordings, hosting features. Besides, it is essential to provide good video compression to save the Internet traffic or dial-in numbers to connect via voice using the regular phone. Quite often during the call, the medical personnel needs access to doctor’s notes, medical protocols, and calculators, treatment guidance. Considering that fact, the additional functionality is a necessity to consult patients on the highest level.
It is a common practice to suggest complete drug info, brand, pricing, the closest pharmacies with available medicine. Once the ePrescription is written, it can be shared with both patients and pharmacy services. Nevertheless, all the prescriptions have to comply with the necessary regulations. For example, the ePrescription for controlled substances like codeine is forbidden as it is only done after visiting the doctor in person.
Remote patient monitoring
The advanced telehealth software features bring together many connected tools to deliver higher quality care services. A centralized repository gathers the patients’ data via sensors, wearables or other synchronized apps to process and share with healthcare providers. It enables improved support, daily awareness of patients’ condition as well as emergency prevention. Ensuring better patient and doctor engagement is the main target of any healthcare system.
Account moderation and support
Medical practitioners are usually granted additional permissions to perform actions. Account moderation and support would help to build good relationships within the app community. For example, doctors also have the ability to moderate the chats. It can cover no posting from guests only signed-in users, limited history and embed access, denied permissions to post messages or share images, Sometimes it even ends up blocking certain users. However, it could prevent policy violations and solve arising disputes.
Continuous medical education
An extremely helpful tool can include different case studies, practice-changing updates as well as share experience with doctors that use the same software. In other words, it’s building the progressive and supportive community within your app. For example, developers can include the internal chat for medical specialists to share the first-hand experience or quick mass mailing update about some new methodology or medicine.
HIPAA COMPLIANCE FOR TELEHEALTH SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT
While eHealth improves the mobility and efficiency of healthcare services, it also increases the security risks associated with medical data protection. Unless telehealth software development adopts the safety regulations, it can’t be legitimate. The adoption is strictly governed by state, federal and international laws. Anyone providing healthcare services and service-related operations like payment, support are under provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It was introduced in US legislation in 1996 to protect medical data, regulate transmissions, and limit access to unauthorized entities.
The regulations focus on physical, procedural and network security measures taken by both covered entities and business associates. The important thing is that companies are free to choose the approaches suitable for their development process as long as they remain in compliance with HIPAA. Here are some of the good practices to consider while developing reliable telehealth software platforms
- Access control – Establishing the procedure of managing document, file and image exchange is a great decision as files are assigned the security level labels and remain accessible only to the authorized users.
- Encryption – Following FIPS 140-2 is strongly recommended for HIPAA compliant telehealth software systems.
- Audit controls and activity logs – These are common technical safeguards to control and record activities done with the data after its access.
- Automatic log-off and two steps user verification – The simple features that prevent unauthorized users from getting access when devices are not watched or in the cases of the user’s credentials stealing.
- Risk assessment – Both healthcare providers and development teams have to identify hazards and risk factors and determine appropriate ways to eliminate them.
- Restricted third-party access – Any medical data can’t be processed, transferred and held by third-party services until partners sign Business Associate Agreements.
- Contingency plan – In case of emergency, the developed plan enables continuing business processes and integrity protection. Moreover, backup copies prevent sensitive data loss.
- Security incident report – Constant reporting gives a higher chance to counteract the possible breaches.
All the security measures have to be documented while covering key aspects considered in risk assessment. It is also recommended to provide special training to inform medical personnel and other employees about the security policies to decrease risks of sharing data outside the organization.
Failure or refusal to develop the telehealth software with HIPAA compliance has serious consequences. Healthcare organizations, as well as their employees, can be fined by violating rules. Among the first reached settlements with the covered entity was the CVS pharmacy fined $2.25 million for improper data exposure. Besides civil penalties, some violations like data use for personal gain, selling data are considered due to criminal charges and prison terms.
Healthcare primarily limited to hospitals is changing its extensions at a rapid pace. Telehealth software has become a vital solution for both inpatient and outpatient care. Efficient, accessible and affordable health services are much needed for modern society. What’s more, we have all the necessary tools and technologies to implement this. Covering the needs of all involved parties, gathering the professional team, using up-to-date technologies enables the success of your products and services. We hope that this article has helped to define the important features for telehealth software and give practical advice on your security solutions.
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Existek. We are an outsourcing software development company with extensive experience in the healthcare industry. We focus on providing the best quality services and finding reasonable solutions for our customers. Visit our contact page or use the chat widget on the right for any further assistance.