essential features of a telemedicine app to combat the covid-19 pandemic image

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the world deeply and with unprecedented events happening everywhere, it is only wise that one should consider developing a telemedicine app. Earlier, patients could visit the emergency room when they get sick, but with the lockdown and other limitations, including lack of doctor availability, it seems imperative that there should be an alternate solution (for the caregivers) to meet with the demands of the patients. 

According to data from Worldometer, as many as 12,74,848 people worldwide are infected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as on April 16th, 2020, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared it a pandemic. The USA has the most confirmed cases in the world. Here is a list of the most affected countries in terms of registered cases.

USA | Total cases: 644,089 | Total deaths: 28,529 | Recovered cases: 48,708

Spain | Total cases: 1,80,659 | Total deaths: 18,812 | Recovered cases: 70,853

Italy | Total cases: 1,65,155| Total deaths: 21,645 | Recovered cases: 38,092

Germany | Total cases: 1,34,753 | Total deaths: 3,804 | Recovered cases: 72,600

France | Total cases: 147,863 | Total deaths: 17,167 | Recovered cases: 30,955

China | Total cases: 82,341 | Total deaths: 3,342 | Recovered cases: 77,892

Iran | Total cases: 76,389| Total deaths: 3,603 | Recovered cases: 49,933

UK | Total cases: 98,476 | Total deaths: 12,868 | Recovered cases: N/A

Turkey | Total cases: 69,392 | Total deaths: 1,518 | Recovered cases: 5,674

The list doesn't include new active cases.

The Need of the Hour - a Telemedicine App

While thousands of people are dying from the disease all over the world, doctors and other healthcare workers are struggling to keep up with the demand. Consulting with patients on a face-to-face basis daily puts them at the highest risk as well. In fact, they are the worst-hit community in the entire world. After all, they have to treat patients for all kinds of conditions and diseases, not just people affected by the dreaded virus. Through a telemedicine app, it becomes easier for doctors to examine their patients from afar, provided they abide by the rules and guidelines dictating remote care. This gives patients access to better care, and the caregivers can help more people, thanks to the eradication of two major hurdles in the medical profession - distance and travel time. 

The telemedicine app could include, not only help in connecting patients located in remote regions but also access to doctors, clinics, laboratories, and pharmacies that were initially out of reach. When more and more people have access to facilities like this, it would be a boon to remote areas of the country where visiting a good doctor is a hurdle. Telemedicine could be hugely valuable in countries with smaller towns and rural areas where there is a severe shortfall of doctors. 

A telemedicine app would also benefit women who may not always be able to step out of the house to get timely medical care. 

This is currently the scenario and you see how important it is for the world to have a reliable telemedicine app handling much of the load. Now let’s look at the main features of a telemedicine app:

1. Corona self-checker

Including a self-checker ‘questionnaire’ in the app would give a clearer picture to the user regarding their symptoms. A person who wants to assess the symptoms can open the app, go to the self-checker page and answer questions related to the particular disease, in this case, Covid 19 and check whether the symptoms they have (like fever, body pain, shortness of breath, etc.) require medical care or whether it is just a normal fever that will go away in a few days. The self-checker would also suggest whether the user should self-isolate or visit the emergency room.

Corona self-checker

Image Credit: BBC News

2. At-home Covid-19 tests

After the self-check is over, the app guides the users on what to do next to further investigate further the symptoms they have. This could include taking samples at home (blood and urine) and mailing them to a lab, or speaking with a licensed doctor through telephonic consultation. Some companies are also working on releasing test kits that would help people test at home.

At-home Covid-19 tests

Image Credit: MobiHealth News

3. Free coronavirus risk assessments 

Clinical risk assessments are provided by the apps free of cost. They would then direct the patient with Covid 19 symptoms to reach a definitive testing facility in real-time. A telemedicine app coupled with artificial intelligence and machine intelligence would really help identify people who are at high risk for coronavirus and hasten their access to better medical facilities including screening, so they don’t have to be exposed to public spaces and spread the infectious disease. They can easily consult with the doctors through telephonic consultation or video. 

4. Prescription and medication tracker

This would be an important feature in telemedicine apps that helps doctors and caregivers monitor the intake of medicines they’ve prescribed to their patients. There would be a pill reminder for all those forgetful patients, and a pill tracker that reminds the patients of their skipped and confirmed intakes. The information would then be shared with the doctor who would know if the patients in isolation are managing their medication. Another feature that can be included with the medication tracker would be the home delivery of the medicine. Understandably, the patient and their family members are not allowed outside during the period of lockdown, making it impossible for them to buy the medicines. The medication requirement would be sent to third-party agencies who would then bring the medicine to the patient’s home, so the patient and their family need not step out of their homes. 

Prescription and medication tracker

Image Credit: Caring Village 

5. Chatbots

People may not be very comfortable in discussing their symptoms with a machine, so using chatbots in healthcare might just help break the barrier. They may be more forthcoming and honest when they know the person at the other end isn’t judging them. Using chatbots will bring in a groundbreaking advantage when people are confused about how to use the app successfully. The bots can guide the user right from the first step until they sign out.

The most important thing that people with symptoms look for is empathy, and chatbot developers have cashed in on that aspect, so they can successfully communicate with patients through auditory or textual methods. Chatbots can truly step in and take a huge burden off the shoulders of medical professionals, and caregivers can address specific health issues, in this case, Covid 19. The texting and talking algorithms are fast becoming the first point of contact in primary care, and when the little medical helper has talked it all out with the patient, a real-life doctor can take over (and that too only when necessary). You can definitely expect these apps to say something more than “ Stay Home, Stay Safe” or “Call 911”.

Image Credit: Chatbots magazine

These are some of the most essential features that should be included with your telemedicine app during the Covid-19 crisis. You can also incorporate the following features to make your app complete and functional:

6. Audio consultation and video session recording

Obviously, through this feature, the patient can connect with caregivers through audio or video conferencing as a means of real-time consultation. That way, they feel as if they are meeting with a real doctor, and this helps in getting all their doubts cleared. An additional feature that you can add along with the audio and video consultation would be a ‘Record’ button so the patients can always playback the conversation and go over what the doctors instructed them all over again. 

Image Credit: MobiHealth News

7. Apps with a lower wait period

As per the J.D. Power survey from July 2019, only about only 1 in 10 patients in the US used telemedicine apps, before the Covid 19 pandemic. 

Telemedicine app usage

Image Credit: J.D. Power

So the waiting period among patients was minimal. However, with more people needing such an app, it is highly possible that the waiting period would also lengthen. The wait to consult with the doctor, whether it’s online or offline can be equally stressful, and add to the negative reviews of the app itself. The key is to develop apps that can easily handle peak hours and the load to lessen the wait time. The virus pandemic has brought on desperate times among patients, they wouldn't take it kindly if they are made to wait hours to consult a doctor. 

8. Treatment notes

Providing treatment notes would help the patient and their caregiver track and monitor progress and evaluation. With this feature added into the app, the patient doesn’t have to visit a clinic if he has the symptoms, but just enter into self-isolation and make sure he/she doesn’t come in contact with anyone else, among other rules (of self-isolation). Treatment notes improve patient and caregiver engagement and satisfaction to an enormous degree. 

9. Data security 

Since telemedicine apps deal with a lot of private information and data, it is important to incorporate the highest level of protection in them. Include as many layers of protection as possible in the form of SMS, voice or telephonic verification when you divulge information about your patients. Multi-factor authentication and biometric identification would help in securing and protecting the healthcare records of patients. When you consider developing a healthcare app, make sure it meets all protocols relating to essential security requirements and comes with important features like data confidentiality, data integrity, patient anonymity, mutual authentication, and data freshness. 

10. Easy authentication 

You can verify the app user’s identity so he can receive or send information through keys, passwords or any other automated identifier that helps in verification. By easy authentication feature, you can allow the users to navigate through the app without much ado. They can sign in with their email or phone number, but it is also important to ensure that the entire process is secure. 

In the end...

According to a Statistica report from August 2019, the telemedicine market has grown exponentially and is expected to be valued at more than 41 billion U.S. dollars by 2021. 

Telemedicine statistics

Image Credit: Statista

This was before the Coronavirus scare. Now, the growth spurt cannot be predicted by any statistic, we only know that it is going to be huge.

A telemedicine app is definitely the answer to the ongoing Covid 19 crisis because it can help reduce hospital admissions, hospital readmissions, and duration of the hospital stay, and encourage more people in active self-care. The surge in the demand for telemedicine apps is a positive sign that it would help in curbing the outbreak and contain it, while at the same time ensuring everyone gets cared for and healthcare facilities are no longer swamped with too many patients waiting for doctors. 

You can make your entry into the market with a unique telemedicine app or carve your signature with the newest features in an already existing product in the market and etch your success forever. Now’s the time to act and serve the thousands of people who might benefit from using your app. 

In order to gain a better understanding of how innovation can drastically improve the ROI of your company, and how a very important product like telemedicine app should involve, look into the market demand and get in touch with us at Cabot Technologies. We can help you look ahead, and shape the future of your product to include market demands even before they actually appear.

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