How to Build a Telemedicine App with Video and Chat for iOS

In this tutorial, we'll build the basis of a Telemedicine app for iOS using Stream Chat, to deliver fully featured chat components, and Dolby.io, to deliver quality audio and video. Both solutions provide HIPAA compliance. By the end, we'll have an application similar to the screenshots below. As a bonus, it's compatible with both light and dark mode.

Image shows two screenshots, one from the chat screen with a small video overlay with the doctor, and another with a fullscreen video of the doctor

If you get lost during this tutorial, you can check the completed project in this GitHub repo. Let's get started with our telemedicine app development!

What is Stream Chat?

Build real-time chat in less time. Rapidly ship in-app messaging with our highly reliable chat infrastructure. Drive in-app conversion, engagement, and retention with the Stream Chat messaging platform API & SDKs.

What is Dolby.io's Client SDK?

Dolby Interactivity APIs provide a platform for unified communications and collaboration. In-flow communications refers to the combination of voice, video, and messaging integrated into your application in a way that is cohesive for your end-users. This is in contrast to out-of-app communications where users must stop using your application and instead turn to third-party tools.

Requirements

Set up project

Create the Xcode project

First, we open Xcode and create a Single View App project.

Screenshot shows a single view app created on Xcode 11

And make sure to select 'Storyboard' for the User Interface.

Install dependencies

To install the Stream Chat and Dolby.io's Client SDK dependencies, we'll use CocoaPods. If you prefer Carthage, both frameworks support it as well.

In the folder where you saved the project, run pod init and add StreamChat and VoxeetUXKit to the Podfile. It should look similar to this:

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/b8e695db46653f8ba5c94bd2aa77c15d

After you do that, run pod install, wait a bit for it to finish, and open the project via the .xcworkspace that was created.

Configure the Stream Chat dashboard

Sign up at GetStream.io, create the application, and make sure to select development instead of production.

Screenshot of a user creating a development application at GetStream.io

To make things simple for now, let's disable both auth checks and permission checks. Make sure to hit save. When your app is in production, you should keep these enabled.

Screenshot of skip auth checks and permission being enabled in a Stream App dashboard

You can see the documentation about authentication here and permissions here.

Now, save your Stream credentials, as we'll need them to power the chat in the app. Since we disabled auth and permissions, we'll only really need the key for now, but in production, you'll use the secret in your backend to implement proper authentication to issue user tokens for Stream Chat, so users can interact with your app securely.

Screenshot of credentials on stream dashboard

As you can see, I've blacked out my keys. You should make sure to keep your credentials safe.

Configure the Dolby.io dashboard

Configuring the Dolby.io dashboard is simpler. Just create an account there, and it should already set up an initial application for you.

Screenshot of credentials on dolby.io dashboard

Now, save your credentials, as we'll need them to power the audio and video streaming in the app. As with the Stream credentials, you use these for development. In production, you'll need to set up proper authentication. It's described in detail here.

Configure Stream Chat and Dolby.io's SDKs

The first step with code is to configure the Stream and Dolby SDK with the credentials from the dashboards. Open the AppDelegate.swift file and modify it, so it looks similar to this:

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/f7587d7989ab34029bac2b302ac9fa62

That code initializes the Dolby.io and Stream Chat SDKs with credentials you got in the previous two steps.

Create the Join Screen

Let's start building the "Join" screen. This screen consists of two UIButton instances. One to join as the Patient, and the other to join as the Doctor. This is, of course, an oversimplification to make this tutorial short and get to the chat, audio, and video features faster. In your complete app, you'll need proper registration, database, and all that. For this tutorial, the screen will look similar to the screenshot below.

Screenshot shows an app with two buttons, one to join as the patient, and the other to join as the doctor

Go to the storyboard, select the default view controller, and click Editor > Embed In > Navigation Controller. That will place it under a navigation controller, which we'll use to navigate to the channel screen.

Image shows storyboard with a JoinViewController embedded in a navigation controller

Make sure to rename ViewController to JoinViewController, so you don't get confused later on. You can do this easily by right-clicking on ViewController in ViewController.swift and selecting refactor.

To make things simple, let's leave the storyboard like this and use only code from now on. To set up the two buttons, we need the following code in JoinViewController.swift:

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/9bc4bf7446c999a8491cd72aa7eb0787

That code sets up the views, the constraints, and the handlers we need. Let's start by extending JoinViewController to define setupViews:

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/9142eded9d7cd61c2d021b824c66bcc3

That code will create the buttons and add them to the controller's view. Next, we need to define constraints between the three. Let's do this by extending JoinViewController to define setupConstraints:

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/c511a9d89d6f907d01be6691eed2cbc7

That code will make sure the patientButton stays in the center of the screen and the doctorButton below it. Now we need to set up the handler for when the user presses the buttons. Let's do this again by extending the controller to define setupHandlers:

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/f43793f739991392d28a67ce399705ab

That code will make it so when the user presses the button a ConsultViewController is created and set up for the doctor or patient, depending on which button was pressed. We'll create ConsultViewController in the next step.

Create the Consult Screen

Now, let's create the screen where the patient and doctor will talk via chat and where they can begin a video call. We'll start by defining ConsultViewController. It will look similar to the screenshots below.

Image shows two screenshots of a conversation in a chat screen, one from the perspective of the patient, and the other from the perspective of the doctor

The first step is to create a ConsultViewController.swift file and paste the code below.

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/bdb9ecc570e966c700b3943e210b3273

That code defines a subclass of ChatViewController, which provides most of the chat behavior and UI we need. It also defines the patient and doctor User objects and a Channel object between the two. These objects will be used to interact with the Stream API. On viewDidLoad, we also call setupViews and setupHandlers to set up the views and handlers needed. We'll define those functions next.

But, let's first define the setupPatient function that sets the current Stream Chat user as the patient, and the setupDoctor function that sets it as the doctor.

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/94ffcc5526a0979b103755d85ff9de07

Now we define setupViews to set up the views we need.

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/628535f3838dbb477887f6c2e7cbf712

Those functions will display a button which starts a call. For it to work, we'll need to define setupHandlers as well.

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/9f3ffaacb2254adc3cb5f170626a9c2a

Those functions set callButtonPressed as the function to be called when the call button is pressed, which in turn calls startCall, which we define next.

https://gist.github.com/cardoso/9946fda83650e60113d764a7e3198226

Finally, that function uses the Dolby.io SDK to start a conference call.

Configure usage descriptions

If you run the app now, you'll be able to chat, but pressing the call button will cause the application to crash. That happens because we need to configure the usage descriptions for microphone and video in the Info.plist file. To do this, just open Info.plist and set the NSMicrophoneUsageDescription and NSCameraUsageDescription keys as pictured below.

Image shows the Info.plist file with the two usage descriptions defined

Finally, we open the app in two devices, and, from the chat, we can start a call.

Image shows two screenshots, one from the chat screen with a small video overlay with the doctor, and another with a fullscreen video of the doctor

Wrapping up

Congratulations! You've built the basis of a functioning telemedicine app with Stream Chat and Dolby.io. I encourage you to browse through Stream Chat's docs, Dolby.io's docs, and experiment with the project you just built. If you're interested in the business side of things, read about how Stream Chat provides HIPAA compliance and how Dolby.io provides HIPAA compliance. Good luck on your telemedicine app development!

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