The worldwide telehealth market is expected to reach $185 billion by 2026 (compared to $34 billion in 2018). Such rapid growth creates new ways to profit from this relatively new branch of business. The demand for remote medical services and telemedicine app development has been booming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus, with its high transmissibility rate, has unveiled many serious deficiencies of the present medical system, such as the lack of medical staff and a shortage of beds in hospitals.
Doctors who worked offline at hospitals had to shift their work to online platforms in order to continue their practice.
A medical center in California, UC San Diego Health, has reported that they experienced a huge increase in telehealth patients through their app — from 6% to 60% — just in the first three weeks of the pandemic in the US.
The most famous and oldest telemedicine app, Teladoc Health, saw a 50% rise in appointments at the beginning of March 2020.
This surge in demand for telemedicine inspires entrepreneurs all over the world to start new businesses in this profitable area.
As you think about how to start a telemedicine business, here are the steps that will help you structure your thought and action:
- Step#1: Determine your niche
- Step#2: Choose your business model
- Step#3: Select your key features
- Step#4: Choose your unique selling points
- Step#5: Comply with regulations.
Telemedicine Types and Implementation Areas
If you want to create a profitable telemedicine startup, you should know that telemedicine is subdivided into different types by application, modality, end-user, and purpose.
- By application
The most popular types of telemedicine by application are teleradiology (radiology images analysis), teledermatology (skin diagnostics by photo), telepsychiatry (consultations with a psychiatrist), and telecardiology (ECG images analysis).
- By modality
A telemedicine platform can work as synchronous (real-time), asynchronous (store-and-forward), or remote monitoring services.
Real-time consultation means that a patient and a doctor are both present at the same time during the video session. Real-time apps mainly focus both on emergency situations and pre-scheduled appointments.
Store-and-forward apps are used for non-emergency situations when a patient doesn’t have an urgent need to see a doctor in real-time.
Remote monitoring apps are useful when continuous tracking of a patient’s health is needed. This app is perfect for patients with chronic diseases that require constant monitoring of their physical well-being.
- By the end-user
Telemed apps can work for hospitals and medical consultations or for homecare.
- By purpose
People can use telehealth apps for different purposes, such as:
- Medical consultations
- Prescription renewals
- Medical records storage
- Emergency Medical Services.
Telehealth Business Model
If you are wondering how to start a telehealth business, you definitely want to know how to make it profitable.
At its core, a telemedicine app is a mediator between a patient and a doctor and collects a fee from either patients or doctors.
Telehealth business models:
- Commission. A platform can charge a fixed or per-minute rate. For example, some apps add a percentage surcharge (up to 25%) to the amount of the online consultation. Another method is to charge a flat fee per minute of consultation (like $0.08/per min).
- Membership fee. This model is used for patients who have regular appointments. For example, a platform can charge a 100-dollar annual fee for unlimited consultations.
- SaaS. You can create a telemedicine app and charge doctors or clinics.
You don’t have to stick to just one telehealth business model, many successful platforms use a mix of several monetization options.
The telemedicine startup costs will depend greatly on the feature set. An ideal telemedicine app consists of the main three parts:
- Patient section
- Doctor section
- Admin section.
The section for patients should be designed so that they can easily get access to consultations and other services.
Features of the patient section:
- Registration (by email, mobile phone, insurance number)
- Patient profile (appointments, disease history, lab tests)
- Search (by location, language, disease, symptoms, etc.)
- Appointments (all necessary functions allowing a patient to check a doctor’s availability and to make an appointment or to cancel it)
- Notification (if a doctor accepts an appointment, the patient receives email notification)
- Communication (secure file transmission, call records)
- History of payments (all available payment options and payment records)
- Reviews of doctors.
The doctors should have the ability to easily register and start their practice on your platform.
In order to get the most comfortable ‘patient-doctor’ or ‘doctor-platform’ communication, you should provide these options:
- Detailed verification for doctors (including license upload)
- Doctor profile (info about a doctor’s medical practice, studies and so on)
- Appointment options (available hours)
- Communication (including the screen sharing option)
- EMR or EHR integration to easily check medical records
- E-prescribing options
- Earnings management.
This is a ‘back office’ part of the app and it should include:
- Doctor management (database of doctors, doctors verification)
- Patient management (database of registered patients)
- Automated reports
- Finance management
- Content and customer management
- Technical support.
When you determine what you should have in your app, you will be able to calculate the cost of implementing a telemedicine app.
Unique Selling Points
Another important step is to determine ways to set your platform apart from the competition. One way to do this is to choose some extra features that will be valuable for your users. Here are some good examples:
- Pre-visit questionnaires for patients (symptoms description, photo uploading option, lab tests);
- Medication reminder option for patients;
- Patient insurance plan;
- Pharmacy databases;
- Business accounts for corporate needs.
Ensure HIPAA Compliance
Though telehealth may seem quite a lucrative niche, there are certain challenges you will face as you start working in this sphere.
- Data protection
In order to protect your application from hackers, you should use multi-step authentication with fingerprint or face recognition, backup and recovery options, and data encryption.
- Telemedicine legislation
Starting a doctor-on-demand app, you should take into account the fact that in different countries the laws pertaining to the collection, processing, sharing, and storage of data, can vary. Find info on HIPAA if you plan to create an app for the USA, The Directives for Data Protection — for the European Union, or PIPEDA — for Canada.
To ensure the full protection of data, as an owner of a telemedicine app, you should choose a development company that is able to create a system that will work in compliance with existing regulations.
For years, tough competition and restrictive laws were the main reasons why telemedicine stayed behind traditional medical services. The pandemic became the catalyst that jump-started the demand for remote diagnostics and suitable apps.
There are already many telemedicine apps that successfully operate in the market, but there is always a place for solutions that can fill unmet needs and create a more comfortable user experience.