Integrating telemedicine in your medical practice gives it unparalleled flexibility and scalability. Geographical barriers are brought down with virtual visits which allows your practice to provide telehealth services to a large number of patients while streamlining operations for your practice at the same time.
Telemedicine adoption is at an all time high in 2020. In a mere span of two years, the number of physicians offering telehealth consultations has increased from 18 percent in 2018 to 48 percent in 2020.
While the surge is a result of COVID-19, telemedicine is here to stay even after the pandemic ends.
One of the major questions that prevails in the mind of any healthcare practitioner or hospital looking to integrate telemedicine within their workflow is the time required to start telemedicine. Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t really straightforward.
Variables involved in getting started with telemedicine
Telemedicine platform development and its implementation within the practice workflow depends on a number of variables.
The scale and scope of the project, the type and complexity of features that need to be integrated within the telemedicine platform, the goals that you aim to accomplish with telemedicine, all these and more have an impact on the timeline for starting with telemedicine.
With years of specialized experience custom developing telemedicine platforms for a number of clients ranging from well established hospitals to healthtech startups, we can help you understand the timeline of telemedicine implementation.
If you are currently wondering “how long does it take to start telemedicine?”, we’ve got you covered. However, before going into the details, the first thing you need to decide is whether to custom build your own platform or purchase a market ready telemedicine software
Tackling the build vs buy telemedicine debate
There are a number of market-ready telemedicine software already available in the market. While the onboarding costs are lower and time-to-market is faster when buying telemedicine software, the user experience is much better in case of building it from scratch.
Building a telemedicine platform also allows you to incorporate a wide range of unique features that it needs to set it apart from other software already available and gives it a competitive advantage.
Custom built telemedicine software also aligns better with your practice workflow and can integrate seamlessly with any existing software solutions like EHRs, appointment scheduling software, billing software that your practice may be currently using.
Due to the clear benefits that custom development of telemedicine software offers, we are going to discuss the timeline for starting telemedicine in this context itself.
Understanding the timeline for starting telemedicine
Here are the stages a telemedicine project needs to go through before its implementation in your practice.
1. Need assessment
The first step in starting a telemedicine practice is to do a thorough market analysis. This helps in understanding the needs of the community that you intend to provide telemedicine services to.
It also helps in determining what kind of services are already available, what are the gaps that exist and how you can fill them.
Need assessment is comprised of two phases
1. Consumer research
2. Competitive analysis
Consumer research involves analysis of the market needs. What is your target market segment and what are the ailments they are commonly afflicted with.
For example, if your target market consists of professionals that are under high levels of stress and anxiety, launching a telemedicine platform for mental health might be the need within the community.
Similarly, if the community that you are targeting has a high incidence of hospitalizations and senior population, launching a remote monitoring platform in conjunction with smart devices for at home monitoring may be the need of the hour.
Competitive analysis involves researching the telemedicine solutions that already exist within the market and the features and functionalities that they offer.
Analyzing your competitors’ offerings can help identify areas of gaps that can be focused on when offering telemedicine services.
The planning phase comprising market analysis and competitor research takes somewhere between 7-15 days.
2. Organization’s self assessment
Once the market needs are identified, it is time for some internal introspection. What are the goals that you aim to accomplish with telemedicine? What resources would you need to fulfil your goals? How do you plan to obtain the return on investment?
Telemedicine, like any business investment needs to have a solid plan of action to ensure effective ROI.
Identification of the technology tools that you would require, shortlisting of the KPIs to track for effectiveness of telemedicine implementation, resource allocation and distribution has to be planned during the organization’s self assessment phase.
It is also important to determine the telehealth model that you would follow during the self assessment stage. Do you need the telemedicine app to provide real-time patient provider interactions or would it follow the store-and-forward model for specialist referrals.
Once the features to be included within the telemedicine app are finalized and the functional requirement gathering is complete, the development phase can commence. The assessment phase should ideally be completed within 15-20 days
3. Development time
The development phase is divided into UI/UX designing, wireframing and finally development. User interface and experience design determines the flow, the look and feel of your telemedicine app.
Wireframing creates a design prototype of what the final product would look like. The wireframes are finally converted into lines of code by the developers.
Following the stages of development are crucial to form a scalable product. It helps in having clear visualization of the software being developed. It also allows for changes to be incorporated if the need arises early on in the development cycle.
Estimating the timeline for development is a challenging task. It depends on the scope of the project and complexity of the features to be incorporated.
A simple patient-provider video conferencing application that does not store any patient data and requires minimal backend configuration can be ready for deployment in a couple of months.
Conversely, a complex telemedicine application with a myriad of features like artificial intelligence powered chatbots and big data analytics can easily take upwards of 6 months for their development.
4. Testing and maintenance of software
Any medical software that collects, transmits and stores protected health information (PHI) is subject to legal and regulatory frameworks like HIPAA (health insurance portability and accountability act).
This is why along with functional and user acceptance testing of the telemedicine software, the security component also needs to take precedence.
Testing and maintenance phase also covers checking for the integration of the telemedicine platform developed with other existing software that the practice may use.
Integration of telemedicine is a potent combination for improving overall patient outcomes. It allows the physicians easy access to a comprehensive overview of the patient’s history through data.
The maintenance phase continues even after the software gets deployed. When developing a telemedicine platform, it is crucial to partner with a vendor that not only has a thorough software testing mechanism in place for ensuring security and privacy of data, but also provides robust tech support during the maintenance phase.
5. Training of staff
The secret to a successful telemedicine implementation is involvement of all the stakeholders. Right from high level decision makers to the physicians and nursing staff who would be involved in giving consultations, everyone has to be involved.
While ensuring availability of the right hardware and software in order to provide virtual consultations is crucial, the power of the right training when transitioning from in-person care to online consultations cannot be undermined.
Set up a hands-on program that allows the staff to familiarize themselves with the platform before starting actual telehealth consultations. Any incorporation of technology takes time to grasp a foothold and this makes training an essential component of telemedicine implementation.
Ensuring faster time to market when starting your telemedicine platform
While the telemedicine platform has to go through the 5 stages mentioned above, here is a hack that will let you accelerate the development timeline, reduce the time to market without compromising on the quality and usability.
Take the MVP approach!
MVP stands for the minimum viable product. This approach consists of an iterative stance towards the development process.
Instead of aiming for a feature heavy application in the first round of development, the MVP only has the must-have features that need to be a part of the telemedicine software. There are the features without which your app will cease to function optimally.
Once the MVP is developed and deployed, the nice-to-have features can be included in the next round of development. This results in the formation of a highly scalable product.
It also gives you a chance to incorporate the user feedback into the development process, resulting in a telemedicine platform that successfully meets the needs defined early on during the planning phase.
Most importantly, it gives you greater control over the timeline of development, results in faster time to market and cuts down on the time required to get started with telemedicine.
Need a custom timeline for the features you have in mind? Our telehealth specialists can help you out. Get in touch with our team of expert telemedicine consultants.