The healthcare industry is facing rapid changes. There are technological innovations, new regulations from the government and, of course, patient expectations that grow all the time. Nowadays, medical services involve more than just providing treatment. They also focus on high quality of care – quickly booking appointments, receiving access to tests results via the Internet or receiving prescriptions after a remote consultation. In order to stay competitive, healthcare organizations need to invest in the most advanced medical software to efficiently run internal processes and ensure high quality services to patients.
Telemedicine seems to be the future of healthcare services. Many patients find it convenient – you do not have to go out to see a doctor, you do not waste time waiting at the physician’s office, you can get a prescription or a sick leave after 5 minutes of phone conversation. This type of medical consultation is not yet a universal medical service that solves all patient problems, however. There are multiple challenges that clinics meet while running telemedicine consultations. What are the functionalities that make a great telemedicine software? How to develop custom applications and is it actually a good choice? You will find answers to these and many other questions in our article.
What are the practical functionalities of telemedicine software?
Choosing the right telemedicine software is not an easy task. There is a lot at stake here and bad choice may affect efficiency and costs of running the clinic. There are three types of business customer approaches to follow here:
- maximalist – choosing software with maximum features, often involving a big expense, even when some functionalities will never be used,
- minimalist – having only the crucial features at lower cost,
- optimalist – making a list of must-haves and additional features and trying to find software that will suit the company’s needs best.
So, what key features to look for in telemedicine software? Compliance with relevant regulations and high security of the clinical systems should remain a priority. Patients need to know that they can trust you when it comes to their sensitive data. Once you make sure that the personal information of your employees, patients and the research data is safe, you can consider other practical functionalities for your ideal telemedicine application.
Audio and video conferencing
The new software for your clinic must give you the capability to connect with your patient and run consultations by communicating in real time. Audio conferencing is a must, but we strongly recommend you to choose a solution that will allow doctors to show their face to the patient. Again – trust is very important and many patients prefer to actually see their physician. Moreover, a doctor needs to be able to visually interpret the patient’s condition to choose the right treatment.
Instant chat messaging
Reacting to the customers needs in the short time is crucial for most businesses’ success. Offering a chat functionality helps you to make the first contact and turn a prospective patient into an actual client. It also greatly improves communication. It can be a doctor or an assistant on your side that will answer patient questions – you can use chat for simple communication concerning non-medical matters (like organization, costs, making appointments) or assign an expert to advise patients.
There is no point in offering telemedicine services if you cannot actually help patients. Sending prescriptions or referrals to a specialist is a must-have feature of your new system. Your doctors need it to write and send prescriptions to a patient’s pharmacy of choice or straight to the patient.
Clinical Document Generation
In order to improve efficiency, the clinic’s telemedicine software should generate logs, records and even transcripts of the patient-physician interaction during the consultation. By automating this process, a doctor can focus more on the patient than on taking notes and dealing with bureaucracy. These documents not only provide doctors with a full medical history of the patient but also may be used to improve the process of gathering data in the future and, of course, serve as evidence for public health administration.
There are multiple other solutions that you may like to leverage, such as: virtual waiting room, systems for scheduling allowing the patients to book appointments on their own, integration with other medical software, managing payments and invoicing systems, access to personal medical records for your patients etc.
New challenges in modern healthcare
Protecting patient and employee data
Nowadays, we can observe intensive digital transformation of healthcare organisations. The new type of medical service was introduced to the market – phone medical consultation (telemedicine). So far we are just at the beginning of this journey, but as the revolution began, there is a need for greater change. Doctors need tools and systems that will make their work more efficient.
Making medical services and patient data digital raises new risks though. Data leaks, breaches in systems and compromising sensitive information may not only damage the clinic’s image and be dangerous to the patients. Violating regulations by allowing such a situation to happen may result in receiving a financial penalty from the authorities. That is why medical organisations invest in powerful cybersecurity solutions and implement multi-factor authentication in platforms for storing and sharing personal health information. Fortunately, AI-based cybersecurity solutions are capable of spotting suspicious activity in your systems while monitoring it in real time, react in the right manner and notify you about dangerous events.
Ensuring the best experience to patients
Some groups of patients have really high expectations. The medical services market changed a lot in recent years, as did the prices for medical care. Staying competitive is not easy. As offering phone and video consultations is becoming a standard, more clinics try to ensure high quality of service and the best customer experience by improving the appointment booking process, providing patients with access to their test results online, integrating new payment solutions and many more.
To make any of these improvements possible, the clinic needs to ensure efficient data flow in its systems. It will enable employees to access each patient history quickly, understand patient problems better and offer the right treatment even during remote medical consultation.
Handling Big Data
Even more data is being generated and sent across multiple parties and systems each year and dealing with such large volumes of data is not easy. Businesses that collect a lot of data need powerful and secure tools to manage and analyse it. WIthout performing important processes like data cleaning, you will not be able to generate accurate insights for your company. You have to remember though, that it is not only about the software – your organization culture also needs to change. Your employees must learn how to trust in data and leverage analytics to work more efficiently to treat patients.
Telemedicine – how does it work?
The interest in telemedicine grew significantly due to COVID-19 pandemic. The risks connected with direct contact during this difficult time forced not only the healthcare industry, but also many other sectors to find a way to operate on a daily basis without meeting the customers face to face in the real world. Running consultations via the phone or during video conferences seemed to be quite a good solution. Over time, it has proven to be an efficient solution in many cases, and it enabled doctors to receive more patients per day. It seems that this type of medical consultation will remain standard service in any clinic. With many medical teleconsultation providers, telemedicine will have to evolve eventually in order to ensure better customer experience.
Benefits of telemedicine
Telemedicine itself is a great idea. If it is performed using the best accessible software, it may bring many benefits for both patients and employees.
Improved access to care regardless of mobility
Coming to the clinic for the appointment seems to be simple enough, but many patients still postpone their visits until they are really sick. Some do not show at all. There are multiple reasons for such behaviour – one of them is limited mobility, absence of reasonable transportation options for those leaving far from the clinic, sudden change of plans etc. Teleconsultation does not require the patient to travel at all. A person may simply go through a basic examination during 15-minutes break from work. After such a quick conversation, the doctor may order a drug refill for the patient, write a new prescription, a referral to the right specialist or send the patient to a sick leave.
Safety of both patients and clinic staff
In many situations there is no need to meet in person. Patients sick with the flu or a cold can have a conversation with their doctor without risking infecting other people in the public transport, waiting room or doctor’s office. It is also a much safer solution for immunocompromised patients who are very likely to become infected if they leave their safe and clean environment.
High efficiency of clinical work
It may be surprising, but telemedicine enables clinics to serve more patients than ever. There is no need to clean exam rooms between appointments and visits are much shorter. With the access to advanced technologies and high quality medical software, clinics can diagnose patients faster and with higher efficiency. Paperwork is reduced to a minimum. Overall costs are reduced (because there is no need for traveling and managing large facilities, since doctors have an opportunity to work remotely from home).
Those are only a few examples of simple telemedicine benefits – ones performed only using phone or video conferences and standard medical software. Unfortunately, such a minimalist approach also has multiple drawbacks.
Low quality of telemedicine services can be explained by bad choice of software. Clinics which do not invest in innovations are less likely to provide good patient experience and work efficiently leveraging this model.
Inability to perform certain examination and procedures at once
There are situations that require immediate reaction. In many cases it will be impossible for a doctor to help in a different way than simply by ordering some tests or asking a patient to come for an actual, in-person consultation in the clinic. Now, if the patient went to see the doctor in the clinic in the first place, they would receive a diagnosis earlier, while with a teleconsultation they could have wasted even a few days if there were many patients waiting for the standard appointment.
As telemedicine is still a rather new type of medical service, some insurance companies may not cover the costs of such consultation. It will probably change in the near future, but nowadays, it can be problematic for a large group of patients.
Finding the right software
If you want to become competitive in the healthcare market, sooner or later you will need to invest in modern medical software to ensure high quality of service. You will need powerful platforms and applications to communicate with your patients. Moreover, you need professional medical software for other processes such as internal communication, data collection, analytics etc. Such systems must be capable of running fast and handling high traffic, but most of all they must be secure. It is not easy to choose from among different solutions available on the market. Sometimes having a custom software created just for your facility may be the best choice.
Ensuring high security of patient and employee data is not easy. It requires additional training for the staff in such areas as cybersecurity and data protection. Investing in high quality medical applications for remote working also means that you will have to choose a cybersecurity solution – either outsource services or create an in-house team responsible for safety and management of the software. You will also need to create a good strategy and plan your reaction to unexpected situations.
Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence combined with telemedicine – the future of healthcare?
Artificial Intelligence can be leveraged to improve medical software. Telemedicine can benefit greatly from implementing this technology, as well as from using the Internet of Things. IoT and AI can both power internal systems of the clinic and applications that enable communication between clinic staff and patients.
AI-based analytics and patient monitoring
AI-powered analytical solutions are already in use in several industries. Why shouldn’t they support decision-making and diagnostic processes also in healthcare? There are two ways of looking at a clinic – it is both a place where patients get treatment, but it is also a business. As such, it requires powerful analytic tools that will improve diagnostic capabilities of doctors and business insight that may be used for creating better strategies and increasing efficiency of the organisation. From the medical point of view, AI-based analytics can help professionals make decisions faster, identify high-risks conditions and react before emergencies occur.
With IoT patients’ conditions may be monitored remotely. It can prove useful in case of patients with serious conditions or limited mobility. Data collected by IoT devices could be analyzed in real time and medical staff could be informed if a patient required assistance or immediate help. AI and IoT can prove valuable also in preventive treatment to suggest to a device user what they should do to improve their health.
Automation in healthcare
Thanks to AI and machine learning, business software is capable of performing manual, continuous tasks that so far needed to be performed by doctors and the rest of the medical staff. What sort of processes could be automated? For example, creating medical documentation based on medical history reported by a patient during consultations via teleconference. In many clinics doctors still have to take notes and insert a lot of data manually into the system. Natural language processing could be leveraged for automatic notation. Specialists could then focus fully on the patient and later – after the conversation – a note with information about appointment and medical recommendation could be automatically generated and sent to the patient.
Platforms with AI can also be used to help doctors with making diagnosis, by suggesting possible diagnosis or the best treatments based on patient test results and medical history. This will save a lot of doctor’s and patient’s time.
24/7 patient service in real time
24/7 customer service is very convenient for clients in various industries. Having access to medical support at any time of day or night might prove quite comforting. But AI-based real-time support for telemedicine can be used for making appointments, asking general questions about health, checking test results etc. Chatbots for patient services can be operational all day long and IoT devices for real-time monitoring can give clinics 24/7 access to basic information about the patient.
Custom Telemedicine Software Development
Developing your own telemedicine software with all the features your clinic needs can be the best idea, if you want to become competitive and win the healthcare market. There are multiple ways to run an IT project for a medical institution. If you have your own, in-house development team, but you need some extra professionals experienced in building telemedicine systems, you should consider staff augmentation services. Some clinics do not have an IT team of their own. For those clients, we may provide a dedicated development team that will take care of planning the project and building a fully customized, powerful telemedicine system along with applications for supporting that system. What can you gain by choosing our development services?
First of all, efficient software tailored to your specific needs. It is impossible for non-tech business representatives to determine requirements for an IT project. We, on the other hand, gained extensive experience in healthcare software development over the years. We learned from many development processes, our consultants and developers may suggest what kind of features your new software should have and help you implement AI and IoT solutions in your business systems.
You will improve customer satisfaction and save money thanks to process automation with RPA. This technology is not yet so popular in healthcare. Implementing it will make you significantly more efficient compared to the other clinics. RPA bots can enable your patients to book an appointment on their own, along with appropriate reminders before the visit.
There are multiple burdensome tasks that your staff needs to handle every day, you may also expect potential human errors that can slow down the diagnostic process. RPA eliminates that risk. That is why operational costs are so high. Advanced technologies not only make work in healthcare easier, but may also reduce overall costs of running such a business.
After creating your custom telemedicine solution, we can also integrate it with pharmacy software and add other additional features that will help you offer your patients high quality telemedicine services. We may also build applications with chatbot 24/7 support for improved communication with patients.
How does the development process look like?
It all depends on the type of service you would like to invest in. If you prefer to have more control over the development process, you can simply “rent” some experienced specialists from our company to support you with the project or have a whole team to handle it and work closely with your internal experts. All we need to know is what level of expertise you require from our developers and what technologies and tools they should know.
We may also handle the entire development process of your digital product in our company if you do not have a development team or you would like a more experienced group to build your applications and software. In this case we will carefully analyze your business needs and follow the following steps:
- project scheduling – during workshops with the customer we learn all about the solution they need for their business,
- defining the scope for the project – after establishing the expectations we choose the right tech stack to develop the actual digital product,
- building a prototype – we build minimum viable product (MVP) with all necessary functionalities,
- developing all functionalities the client needs – after developing a MVP we create all additional features that are needed,
- testing – we conduct final tests to be sure that everything works as it should.
The time required for each project depends on its complexity. Tell us about your ideas, so we could tell you more about the development process. We may help you with scaling and improving your existing software as well. Remember that IoT and AI-based solutions are evolving all the time. Soon, remote medical services may become much more than just online consultations. Do not stay behind the competition – build a smart, data-driven business, reduce costs and increase profits!