Telemedicine App Development Guide: Critical Features & Roadmap Decisions to Break Through in a Crowded Market
Telemedicine app technology is evolving at breakneck speed. Is your product architected to stand out against the competition?
Telemedicine is now the preferred channel for patients needing prescriptions and to treat minor illnesses; 80% of consumers have used a telemedicine app at least once. According to research by McKinsey, telemedicine app usage is 38 times higher than pre-COVID pandemic usage. People are realizing the benefits and convenience that come with virtual healthcare, and the telemedicine market is expected to grow almost 26% by the year 2027.
Existing telemedicine apps tend to function on a basic level, so there are opportunities abound to improve reliability, performance, security, and streamline the user experience for both patients and providers. The next generation of telemedicine apps will solve more healthcare problems more elegantly, driving even greater adoption and solidifying telehealth's role in modern society.
The idea behind a telemedicine app, that a patient meets with a provider over a video call instead of in person, is simple. But the technology to make that happen seamlessly and support the entire experience from appointment through treatment is less so. Patients use a wide variety of devices and operating systems, and many in rural areas still lack access to high-speed internet or mobile networks. Infrastructure limitations aside, it's harder than it sounds to make a simple, secure video chat portal that's easy for both patient and provider to access and just works every time. The frustrating truth is that technologically flawless video calling isn't yet universally available, and some apps still struggle with the basics.
Telemedicine app developers should be prepared to overcome these technical challenges along with broader philosophical ones, like how to make up for what's missing outside the physical exam room. Whether you're a product manager at an existing telehealth company or an independent app developer, working with an enterprise or a startup budget, the telemedicine product roadmap considerations below will be critical to staffing, architecting, developing, testing, and launching your telemedicine app product.
Note: This guide focuses on common product management questions and architecture decisions encountered in planning and developing a telehealth app, or redesigning/updating an existing one. If you're a software developer looking for a more granular tutorial with specific code examples and instructions instead, check out our technical guide to building a telemedicine app.
What is a Telemedicine App?
In its simplest form, a telemedicine app connects a patient with a healthcare provider virtually, using some combination of live video and text chat to replace an in-person visit.
This functionality sounds simple at first, but the component pieces required to make it function smoothly and securely at scale can be surprisingly complex to build. In order to establish a reasonable project scope, it's important to decide up front which functions are required and which belong as part of a broader telehealth platform.
Telemedicine itself may only be one part of a larger platform that includes forums for patients with similar diagnoses, insurance assistance, libraries of medical resources, and other resources outside of the direct patient-provider relationship. For the purposes of this article, we'll stay focused on identifying and building the core components necessary to support a standard patient-provider visit.
Telemedicine vs. Telehealth
Though the words telemedicine and telehealth are sometimes used interchangeably, the US National Coordinator for Health IT offers the following distinct definitions:
"Telehealth is different from telemedicine because it refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. While telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to clinical services."
Telemedicine covers services like:
- Lab orders
- Virtual appointments
- Patient monitoring
Telehealth includes telemedicine, plus the following:
- Provider training
- Administrative meetings and services
- Continuing medical education
3 Common Types of Telemedicine Apps
Telemedicine encompasses a wide range of services for patients and providers, but most telemedicine apps can be grouped into 3 types: live video conferencing, remote patient monitoring, and prescription delivery services.
Live Video Conferencing
Live video conferencing is a way for patients to meet with their care provider for a virtual visit instead of in person. These apps are mostly used for follow-up calls or non-emergent health conditions. Live video conferencing apps are meant to be convenient for patients --- they can "go" to their appointment in between tasks at work or from the comfort of their own homes.
Patients expect the same amount of privacy during a virtual video conferencing appointment as their in-person ones. They need to feel confident that their private healthcare information won't be breached.
PMs can develop a telemedicine app that works in one of two ways:
- A third-party telehealth vendor licenses their app to existing healthcare companies so they can offer live video conferencing appointments to their patients.
- A first-party telehealth app is a one-stop shop for patients — they can establish and get care directly through the app.
Live Video Conferencing App Examples
- LiveHealth Online is a first-party live video conferencing telemedicine app where patients can see a provider for minor ailments like allergies, colds, and skin conditions, as well as psychiatry and psychology. One of its most unique selling points for medical and allergy patients is that appointments are just $59 or less.
- Teladoc is a third-party telehealth vendor offered through employers and usually in conjunction with employer-sponsored coverage. Users are connected to a provider who is licensed in the patient's state. Teladoc is commonly used to supplement a patient's primary care or for certain specialties like psychology or dermatology. On the Teladoc app, patients can speak to a provider 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Remote Patient Monitoring
A remote patient-monitoring app allows care providers to monitor previously diagnosed patient conditions like high blood pressure, heart conditions, sleep apnea, asthma, and COPD. The app is typically connected to a device of some sort — a nebulizer, a blood pressure cuff, a heart monitor — so it can send information retrieved from the device to the patient's medical provider.
Remote patient-monitoring apps are usually developed by a third-party vendor. The medical device is given to a patient by their provider, and that device is connected to a monitoring app. Whenever the device is used, that information is sent through the app to the patient's provider.
For example, if you use a device to monitor your blood pressure, that device will send your blood pressure reading via the app to your provider. Care providers can then use the app to monitor the conditions and symptoms of their patients.
Remote Patient Monitoring App Examples
- PatientConnect by Health Recovery Solutions helps patients and providers monitor a variety of symptoms and conditions using just one app. It connects to devices via Bluetooth to monitor biometric symptoms and conditions and also offers education on specific conditions and diseases.
- CareSimple is an all-in-one device and app system. CareSimple sends medical devices directly to the patient and integrates with common electronic health record (EHR) companies, like Allscripts and NextGen, making it a one-stop shop for monitoring patients' conditions and reviewing past medical records.
A prescription delivery app offers patients a convenient way to get their meds delivered to them without having to leave their houses. The app acts as a liaison between pharmacies and patients.
Patients upload their prescription and insurance information and use the app to request refills from their provider. Once a provider approves the refill, the app takes care of filling the prescription and mailing it to the patient.
App users can have their provider send prescriptions to the prescription delivery app service rather than a brick-and-mortar pharmacy. Some larger pharmacies are now competing with prescription delivery apps by offering delivery services themselves.
Prescription Delivery App Examples
- NowRx offers same-day prescription delivery services to patients in California and Arizona. Patients simply have their provider choose NowRx as their pharmacy to fill their prescription. Then NowRx communicates with the patient to collect a copay and schedule a delivery.
- Lemonaid Health encompasses all three types of telemedicine apps by offering live video appointments, patient monitoring, and prescription delivery. But getting prescriptions with Lemonaid Health is especially convenient. Prescription delivery is integrated directly into the app, bypassing the conventional need to visit a pharmacy and ensuring that medications are delivered on time directly to patients' doors.
Telemedicine App Development Best Practices
Although a significant number of development decisions will need to be made through experimentation and iteration based on your telemedicine app's unique value proposition, certain established best practices can help take some of the guesswork out of the process and ensure that your solution meets or exceeds industry standards.
Establishing a clear product development process in advance will help keep your telemedicine app development on schedule and on budget. Remember that although the stages and steps below progress from initial scoping to launch, their progression isn't always linear. Some stages will require multiple iterations to get right, while others can happen simultaneously without waiting for the previous step to be complete. As engineer-turned-CEO Thierry Schellenbach explains in his DEV.to AMA,
"Product management is not rocket science. Talk to customers often, make sure there is a short feedback loop between customers/leads and product, and sort [priorities]."
Platform Compatibility & Codebase Considerations
With your app's target market and development budget in mind, you'll need to decide which platforms to support and which languages to code in. These high-level codebase considerations will determine the number of developers needed and their skill sets.
The major platforms in play are iOS, Android, and web — and most telemedicine solutions will want to support all three. It may be worth considering native desktop apps for Mac and Windows as well, but in most situations a browser-based web app will be preferable, eliminating the need for these desktop versions.
If your team isn't ready to invest in all iOS, Android, and web app development all at once, a responsive browser-based web app may provide the most universal value out of the three since it will be equally compatible with laptops, tablets, and chromebooks. This approach does sacrifice mobile flexibility, though, with many users expecting to conduct most video calls on their smartphones.
If you do commit to developing a mobile app for iOS and Android, be prepared to hire developers with strong backgrounds in Swift and Java, respectively. It may be possible for the app's two platform versions to share a common codebase in React Native, but further customization to keep up with updates and UI differences will still be required. Apple's Human Interface Guidelines will dictate a number of UI design considerations for iOS, whereas Android requirements are not as strictly standardized.
UI Design, Sketching, & Prototyping
In today's fast-paced development workflows, it can be tempting to rush the prototyping phase and make decisions based on assumptions instead of real user feedback. But unlike other app categories, telemedicine presents unique challenges in that it must be accessible to users who may be either elderly or very young. Patients of any age may even be in a state that makes communication difficult physically, mentally, or both. Basics like button design, screen layout, and menu hierarchy may need to be tweaked in ways that at first feel counterintuitive, so it's critical to take the time for proper UX testing cycles with focus groups and clickable mockups.
Choosing the Right Telemedicine API & SDK Foundations
Most telemedicine apps will require common component functions like encrypted peer-to-peer video calling, a live chat window alongside the video call, and an in-app messaging function that operates similarly to email for delivery of prescriptions and other secure messages. For most applications, it would be too expensive and time consuming to build these types of components from scratch, especially because elegant, cost-effective solutions already exist in the form of third-party API and SDK products.
With solid API or SDK foundations to build on, your engineering teams spend less time getting the fundamentals right and instead focus on the features that differentiate your product from its competitors and create a great user experience. When evaluating telemedicine APIs and SDKs, be sure to prioritize proven, highly scalable solutions. White labeling should also be a baseline requirement --- you'll find that some existing telemedicine giants sell their own APIs to developers but retain rights to branding and design, effectively putting their API customers at a competitive disadvantage. Here are the types of core APIs you'll want to evaluate, making sure that your choice of foundation in each category is compatible with your choices in the other categories:
Video Calling APIs
On its own, live video chat presents a number of development challenges. A video calling feature needs to be compatible with the wide variety of camera hardware available on users' systems, then encode and transmit video and audio in a format that can automatically optimize the balance between quality and compression based on available bandwidth. For the most advanced video calling experience, we recommend APIs built on the WebRTC protocol.
Best-of-breed video calling solutions will also automatically filter out background noise while enhancing the clarity and loudness of speech. On top of that, all data in transit needs to be encrypted to ensure that patient information stays secure. To build this type of secure, real-time HD interaction capability into a telemedicine app with these problems already solved, consider starting with a solid WebRTC-backed foundation like Dolby.io's interactivity APIs.
Chat & Messaging APIs
As with video calling, reliable and secure telemedicine chat solutions are difficult to build from scratch and can be more easily integrated into your app using an existing API or SDK. Today's users have become accustomed to leading chat apps like WhatsApp, Slack, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage, so they expect a feature-rich chat experience.
Advanced chat features aren't just for show, either: In the context of a healthcare visit, time is limited and intangible elements like human connection and trust can greatly influence outcomes. Advanced in-app chat features like typing indicators and read receipts can help to foster that feeling of connection and reduce patients' anxiety while waiting for their provider's response. Other advanced features like threads keep conversations on topic and organize responses to multiple questions.
In healthcare, the stakes for reliability and performance are too great to rely on an unstable chat experience. A highly customizable chat API like Stream's takes the guesswork out of building this feature and ensures that your in-app chat will just work, with lightning fast response times ensuring peace of mind for your users.
Developing for Scalability & Reliable High Performance
One of the most common and most consequential planning mistakes we see — even from veteran engineers and product managers at massive corporations — is the failure to build scalability into an initial MVP design. A team will develop a nicely functioning app, only to realize that with 5,000 or 20,000 concurrent users, it gets unacceptably buggy or slow or crashes completely. This problem can be a nightmare to fix, often requiring a complete rebuild of the initial codebase.
Scalability requires a deliberate architectural commitment from day one, with dev teams thinking beyond the initial MVP scenario and designing their code to accommodate retroactive tweaks and expansions as needed. It also requires a thoughtfully configured, highly available, and highly resilient infrastructure setup --- for most teams, this means turning to one of the major cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers: AWS, GCP, or Azure.
As your telemedicine app grows, a dedicated DevOps team should handle scaling, maintenance, and troubleshooting of your pipeline and production infrastructure. Response times to deploy scalable infrastructure, such as automatically spinning up a new server in advance as loads increase, can be further minimized by automating repetitive DevOps tasks in an infrastructure-as-code approach.
Key Telemedicine App Features to Consider
Some functions of a telemedicine app are relatively obvious, like the live video chat feature discussed above. Others work behind the scenes to keep everything synchronized, and still other more advanced features can be integrated to enhance the user experience. Any telemedicine feature overlooked in the initial planning stage can be a headache to add later on, especially if the product wasn't initially designed to accommodate it. For this reason, it's important to list all core features and functions, whether simple or complex, in one place ahead of development.
It's also worth noting that the main problem solved by a telemedicine app (virtual doctor visits) is really the sum of a set of smaller problems for which good technological solutions already exist. The main challenge in building a good telemedicine app, then, is thoughtful and effective integration of these component features to create a product that is secure, easy to use, and highly scalable. No single component is revolutionary on its own, but the way they're combined, synchronized, and packaged can be.
Core Features for a Minimum Viable Product
Consider these features required to build even the most basic usable telemedicine app.
- A patient portal handles basic registration paperwork and administers pre-appointment symptom questionnaires, collects medical history via forms, and redirects emergency patients to the appropriate resources. This is where the patient can view information about upcoming and past appointments and launch the live visit interface. The patient portal should also include a secure payment gateway, with more advanced versions integrating directly with insurance systems so patients can avoid the process of paying out of pocket then later seeking reimbursement.
- The provider portal will be more complex than its patient-side counterpart, allowing the healthcare provider to navigate between different patients, begin and end their appointments, and view the paperwork and medical history provided by the patient. The provider also needs a way to enter diagnoses and prescribe treatments. Many successful telemedicine apps go beyond these functions with advanced capabilities like EHR integrations discussed in more detail below.
- Video chat with high-quality video and audio and low latency. Data must be encrypted in transit to protect patient privacy.
- Live chat with text alongside the video call helps avoid frustration if the video connection is poor or gets interrupted. Text chat also helps resolve differences in pronunciation and helps healthcare providers make sure complex words and concepts come across clearly.
- Direct messaging functionality is similar to an email client nested securely within the patient and provider portals for communication before, after, and in between live visits. Leading apps trigger an email to the patient's regular email address when a secure message from a provider is received, prompting the patient to log in and view the message. In an MVP telemedicine app without a separate module to handle prescriptions, the direct messaging feature could be used to deliver prescriptions as file attachments. Secure direct messages are also a good way for providers to send written instructions for things like aftercare, medication usage and tapering, or physical therapy exercises.
- A database & associated services on the back end should store patient information, medical history, visit records and diagnoses, and related lab work and imaging, at a minimum. These services should be enough to support one-off visits, but an app that replicates the experience of visiting a traditional primary care physician will need to be more complex.
- A calendar with appointment scheduling capabilities should be securely integrated to allow patients to select times available on the provider's calendar. An alternative approach avoids scheduling appointments in advance, instead pairing patients with the next available provider in real time. This type of queuing function will require a greater investment to build.
- User authentication & access control features verify that both the patient and the provider are who they say they are and have been granted access to view whatever information they are trying to view. You'll need a user directory as part of the back-end database and a way to authenticate against it. On the provider side, it may be helpful to have multiple user permission levels for privileged access management. This way, an administrative assistant could be given permission to direct message patients but not necessarily access their medical info, for example.
Advanced Features to Consider
With leading telemedicine apps already offering a high-quality experience and users expecting the above features, further customization will likely be required to stand out against the competition. The right combination of the following advanced features can make the entire process of scheduling, attending, and paying for an appointment easier, helping a new or redesigned telemedicine app appeal to patients and providers alike.
Deeper insurance integrations and sophisticated payment gateways remove administrative friction for both patient and provider, automating the process of submitting a visit's cost to the patient's insurer. Ideally, this type of system automatically determines a patient's copay amount (if any) and applies the correct billing codes for the services rendered. Given the array of healthcare systems available worldwide and the nuances of different policies and coverage within each, any app that succeeds in simplifying this process will have a significant advantage over others. This is one reason many insurance providers are investing in building their own telemedicine apps or creating one-off integrations with existing apps, such as Amwell for Cigna.
A library of doctor profiles lets a patient view a provider's credentials and areas of expertise alongside their headshot, giving the patient more choice in the type of care they'll receive. These profiles could also include ratings and reviews from other patients, which would in turn require a way to keep reviews fair and accurate. (If your solution is designed primarily to connect established providers with their regular patients, supported by traditional scheduling and billing systems, this feature may not be necessary).
Group chat and group call functionality can be useful for both patients and providers when a one-on-one visit isn't enough. A provider can securely add nurses, technicians, and other colleagues to discuss lab results, treatment plans, and other evaluations. A patient may want to include a family member or other trusted caregiver for support or to help with listening to and remembering details.
Electronic health record (EHR) system integrations help telemedicine providers access and contribute to a patient's medical history. Many telemed apps currently operate like urgent care facilities, treating relatively low-risk health issues at flat rates without needing to access the patient's full record, but a solution that provides more comprehensive recordkeeping functionality could help telemedicine providers offer better personalized care.
Computerized physician order entry (CPOE) integrations (or a proprietary version of this type of system) take your app's database a step further, providing a centralized location for healthcare providers to add treatment orders and visit notes to a patient's medical record and track changes made to that record by others.
Psych-field-specific features make telemedicine more practical for uses like therapy and psychiatric evaluations. Leading apps for virtual talk therapy allow a patient to see the same therapist consistently, building trust and a personalized plan for progress. Some even use enhanced video features like AR/VR to create a more comforting environment or simulate somatic exercises the provider may want to employ. Learn more about developing for psych-specific use cases in our technical guide to building a psychotherapy app with video and chat.
Dedicated prescription systems go beyond delivering a PDF as a direct message attachment, instead allowing the patient to select the pharmacy or care provider (as with PT), of their choice and virtually "dropping off" the prescription for them. As with insurance and payment infrastructure, this is another area where even established telemedicine apps are seeking to innovate and offer a simpler experience.
Automated chatbots can serve as a help desk alternative, answering common patient questions about how to use the interface. Some telemedicine apps are even using HIPAA compliant chatbots to make pre-appointment form fills and questionnaires more interactive.
Video recording functionality allows a patient to securely play back their visit, alleviating the pressure to remember spoken details and instructions.
SMS or push notifications give patients flexibility to be up and around their homes while waiting for a visit to begin. Virtual waiting rooms can also provide a fun interactive experience for kids that doesn't require them to switch contexts when their pediatrician or other healthcare provider becomes available.
Remote lab integrations facilitate the return of test results to providers, automatically attaching incoming results to a patient's profile inside your app. Using an additional screen sharing feature, the healthcare professional can then go over visual documents like x-ray results with the patient without ever leaving the main telemedicine app. A third innovation in the remote lab area allows lab organizations to mail test sample collection kits directly to patients, who then mail the kits back for analysis. An integration with this type of service allows the provider to authorize and send a test kit from within their telemedicine portal.
HIPAA & Other Compliance Requirements
Setting the universal standard for healthcare compliance requirements, the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 regulates security provisions and data privacy for electronic protected health information (ePHI). In other words, it requires that patients' data be stored, transmitted, and accessed securely and only by appropriate parties.
At a minimum, all data will need to be encrypted in transit and at rest. True end-to-end encryption, while not officially required, is a good idea. On top of that, appropriate identity management measures like role-based access control (RBAC), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and password complexity and rotation requirements ensure only the right people can decrypt private data.
When it comes to more granular requirements, we recommend assessing each component feature of your telemedicine app in its initial planning phase, rather than assessing the entire app's compliance standing later on as a whole. Here's more detail on how to build a HIPAA compliant chat app, for example, and you'll want to research similar guidelines for record storage and the other features listed above.
Though HIPAA may be the most familiar healthcare compliance standard, it isn't the only security benchmark telemedicine app developers need to plan for and meet. Additional compliance frameworks designed to regulate other industries may also apply here, and while many of their criteria will overlap with HIPAA, it's important to complete a careful assessment for each. Other relevant standards like SOC 2, ISO 27001, and GDPR, for example, may go into more or different technical detail about how security practices must be configured and monitored.
Estimating the Cost to Build a Telemedicine App
The total cost to develop a telemedicine app can range widely --- from tens or hundreds of thousands to even millions of dollars. While a hobbyist or single developer may be able to code a bare-bones app that more or less functions, any solution designed to meet compliance requirements and scale to compete in the market will skew toward the higher end of that spectrum, requiring some form of advance funding and a team of developers.
An accurate cost estimate for this type of solution must first weigh each of the decisions outlined in the sections above, especially with regard to desired feature depth, which platforms to support, and anticipated user counts. A product manager's calculation will then factor in the number of developers and distinct developer skill sets required, their salaries, and the labor hours the project will take them.
The decision to build or buy component solutions will also greatly influence the total development cost. As discussed above in the section on APIs, it rarely makes sense to sink a significant amount of developer time into reinventing something like chat, email, video calling, or appointment scheduling when cost-effective modular solutions are readily available from vendors. With the right APIs purchased, your dev team can then focus on the integrations and decisions that differentiate your telemedicine app from the rest.
For a more detailed breakdown of the build vs. buy dilemma, plus a much more granular walkthrough of how to estimate the cost of a significant development project, check out Building vs. Buying In-App Chat: The Ultimate Decision Guide.
Steps for Developing a Telemedicine App
Development of a telemedicine app is generally broken up into six phases in which you plan and oversee the establishment of your app. The six phases are similar to other app development projects: planning & business analysis, design & pre-development, development, testing, launch, and maintenance & analysis. But for telemedicine, it's important to pay special attention to patient privacy and plan out a UX that is HIPAA compliant.
1. Planning & Business Analysis
During planning and business analysis, you and other stakeholders --- C-suite, lead developers, etc. --- determine whether your app idea is feasible. Look for telehealth apps similar to your idea on the market and determine if there is a need for your app among healthcare patients and/or providers.
This is a time for workshopping ideas and determining the app's vitality within the market. This is also the stage where you determine the budget and make sure you have all the resources, staff, and knowledge you need for all the components of building the app.
During planning and business analysis, a product manager has several responsibilities.
Lead a team of people to research the market. Research gives you valuable insights into what users want from a telehealth app. You'll research end-user demographics, growth history & predictions, and competitor info. You might explore what convinces users to sign up for a competitor's app and how many daily active users are currently using telehealth apps. Then you use this research to inform the features, design, and components of your app and determine your value proposition.
Create a plan to fill knowledge and skill gaps. While privacy is a concern for any kind of app, telehealth app managers need to prioritize the unique privacy concerns, like HIPAA and other laws, that come with healthcare. You'll most likely need to hire an outside medical compliance consultant to ensure your app is compliant unless you already have an expert in-house. If you have the resources, it's also beneficial to work with science or health advisors and healthcare subject matter experts or writers. They understand patient behaviors as well as what patients and providers expect from healthcare apps, and they can help inform the type of features or design you should include in your app.
Share your value proposition and tentative plan with the marketing and sales teams. Marketing and sales folks come in later in the process, but it's important that they understand the plan for development and what their roles are. Marketing works with you to develop the go-to-market (GTM) strategy, and the sales team is responsible for selling the app. Both teams need to understand the value proposition and the key selling points. Keep both these teams in the loop as you finalize the design, features, and development of the app.
Create a timeline and cost estimate. During the initial planning step, you draft an estimate for costs for all components, including features, visual design, healthcare consultant costs, infrastructure, maintenance, and development costs (if developers aren't in-house). Consider hiring a compliance officer or consultant so you have someone who can accurately review your app for HIPAA compliance issues. Your timeline and cost estimate should also include the estimated time that all in-house employees are expected to work on the app. For example, estimate the number of hours that marketing needs to work on the GTM plan.
2. Design & Pre-Development
During design and pre-development, you and your team apply the basic concept of the app and decide what the app will look like and how it will function. For telemedicine, UX should focus on privacy, convenience, and ease of use. Understanding patient behavior is key in this step. Use the insights you obtained from your research to workshop different UX solutions to provide an optimal patient experience.
At this point in product development, a product manager:
Brings in designers and developers. Some teams already have designers or developers in-house. But if you need additional help, this stage is when you would hire or contract them. If you don't have someone on hand who specializes in telemedicine, consider hiring a consultant to work with your in-house folks. They can lend expertise to everything from content to compliance.
Establishes a list of features for the MVP. As the PM, one of your key roles is deciding which features should definitely be included and which get built first. For example, with a live video conferencing telemedicine app, you'll likely want to build or buy the video function first since that's the foundation of the app. Work with stakeholders to prioritize necessary features based on consumer demand and other insights you got from your research. For example, if ease of use is a priority to most patients and providers, you could focus on simpler navigation than apps currently on the market.
Establishes a wireframe. Decide how the UI/UX will look and function, including the color scheme, structure, graphic elements, and more. Determine which features need to be built from scratch and which platforms your app will support. For example, if you'll be offering a video chat option for users who are deaf or hard of hearing, that's something you'll need to plan to buy or start building at this stage. This is also when you create a plan for developing a HIPAA-compliant video conferencing solution if your app will include video consultations.
Generally, development of a telemedicine app is broken up into three parts:
Different designers and developers work on each component. Your role as the product manager is to oversee these folks and the development process. You keep the timeline on track and the project on budget.
During development of a telemedicine app, a PM:
Adjusts timeline to account for any delays. Coordinate with the development team or project manager periodically to make sure everything is going according to the road map. If there are bottlenecks --- like strengthening the security of a certain feature or function so it's HIPAA compliant --- you're responsible for updating the roadmap with a new timeline.
Keeps appropriate stakeholders updated. If there are any bottlenecks that need to be accounted for, you'll adjust the timeline and update appropriate stakeholders of any delays. For example, if the development team is running into issues getting the video function up and running, that's a key part of the app and can cause a delay. In this case, let marketing and sales teams know of launch delays and keep all stakeholders in the loop.
Works with the marketing team to generate excitement. At this point in the development process, you should be working closely with the marketing team. Meet with the marketing team to share in-depth product details that they can use to promote during launch time. Help them understand the ins and outs of the product. Work together to identify key messaging points that marketing should use to promote the product to potential patients and providers. For example, if you're building a prescription delivery app and you're able to deliver quicker than other services on the market, that could be one of your key messaging points.
At the testing stage of telemedicine app development, you're responsible for testing and overseeing the tests of every component of your app to make sure it's working as intended. Testing gives your team the opportunity to uncover any bugs or defects within your app so you can implement any changes as needed.
During the testing stage, a PM:
Lays out the testing plan for various aspects. In telemedicine, usability is especially important because there are a lot of components. Patients and providers should be able to securely access private files and information, send messages back and forth, order or refill a prescription, schedule appointments, and use video conferencing. Testing will show you if all of these components are working properly. A compliance officer may also review your app for relevant regulations.
Works with stakeholders to finalize the product launch plan. By this point, you have a better idea of the exact launch date, and there aren't likely to be any more delays. Collaborate with marketing, sales, customer service teams, and other stakeholders so that everyone is aligned on the launch date and knows their responsibilities. If you're working with any healthcare partners and providers, loop them in on the updated launch date so they know when to promote it to patients.
During product launch, you initiate the GTM strategy and start promoting the app. Many apps opt for a soft launch, so they can mitigate any issues before they roll it out to a wider audience. A soft launch allows you to launch the app to a small group of patients and providers so they can use the app and leave feedback.
This step is about making sure you have all your ducks in a row and are ready to launch on schedule.
Work with marketing to ensure all communication and collateral are ready. When you coordinate with marketing, they'll create a plan to publish all product marketing collateral, like flyers, ads, social, email, and web copy, on a certain cadence. You'll also work together to come up with a distribution plan. Distribute physical collateral in partner hospitals, urgent care centers, or pharmacies so patients are aware of your telehealth app. Promote online on healthcare-related websites and target certain patient demographics, like millennials and Gen Z, who are more likely to use a telemedicine app than older generations.
Prepare customer support. Train customer support staff on how to use the product so they can assist patients and providers after launch. Your goal is to educate customer support on every aspect of your app so they can provide a great customer experience. You'll work with the customer support team leaders to create a workflow where support tickets that need to be escalated to the product, development, or IT team go to the right team, and tickets are answered in a timely manner. You'll need to train customer support staff on patient privacy, too.
6. Maintenance & Analysis
After launch, it's important to closely monitor the app's success and identify any bugs or glitches. Your job is to troubleshoot any issues and delegate fixes to the right team. You'll also ensure that all patients and providers are continually in compliance with HIPAA and other privacy standards.
Track product metrics, like Daily Active Users (DAU) and revenue. Tracking and analyzing metrics is the key to understanding how successful your app is. Gauge these metrics against your benchmarks to know if you're on track to meet revenue and user goals. If you track these metrics and realize that you're not seeing the results you expected, you can work with your business development, marketing, or sales teams to create a plan to improve engagement and revenue.
Plan for future upgrades. As your telemedicine app grows, you'll likely want to add new features or functionality, more security measures, redesign the UX, or make other updates. As the product manager, your role is to keep the app evolving to continuously meet the demands of your patients and providers and stay informed of the legal requirements around healthcare and telemedicine.
Make Informed Decisions Early to Ensure Telemedicine App Success
Early stage decisions like where to invest development resources can make or break an app's success. Above all else, avoid wasting development bandwidth to reinvent an existing technology like secure messaging or video calling and instead focus on building the unique features that differentiate your telemedicine app.
To ensure reliable, scalable performance and reduce build time from years to months, build on top of the best video calling and chat APIs, and build integrations with the most popular medical records systems and other types of established electronic health solutions. Consider security a cornerstone of your business, creating opportunities for security and user convenience to complement each other instead of opposing each other. Succeed in creating an intuitive, trustworthy experience for patients and healthcare providers alike, and your app could play a role in solving some of the most complex challenges in modern life.
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