Major challenges in Telemedicine Software Development

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Note: This is a guest post written by Marie Annington

Healthcare is one of the most complex and regulated industries. Consider these factors before you start to build your telemedicine app.

Virtual care is here to stay

As an aftermath of the pandemic, telemedicine is experiencing a boom and is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Leaps have been made when it comes to delivering treatment remotely.

Telemedicine has made healthcare more available, not just during the pandemic, where millions had to be confined within their homes. At the touch of a fingertip, patients are able to reach out to their doctors and continue to receive treatment despite the great distance.

Furthermore, advancements should add more to the benefits telemedicine already brings, like saving on transportation costs due to reduced clinic visits, instant correspondence with the medical practitioner through text messages and/or e-mails, and remote monitoring.

Nonetheless, the field is not perfect and has long ways to go to further improve the overall experience of patients. In this article, we discuss some problems with telemedicine software development that need to be resolved.

Lives and personal information are at stake

While telemedicine has been a significant innovation, the system is not foolproof. There are still several telemedicine challenges, especially when it comes to developing mobile applications, that need to be addressed.

First, among the biggest telemedicine issues are security, privacy, and compliance. Since these types of applications deal with enormous amounts of sensitive health data, patients are justified in their worry for any leak of information. However, it should be noted that there is no universal law that holds all violators accountable. In lieu, companies have to contend with varying standards and regulations in different countries, which makes the process of developing medical apps more complicated.

For example, in the US, mobile healthcare applications must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). In the European Union, there is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Compliance to these regulations means increased expenditure for healthcare firms.

High availability is also a must for telemedicine applications, as any delay or interruption in treatment could bring about severe health risks. The system must be able to maintain outstanding performance and short response times while user base increases. Using a microservices architecture can help the application to scale faster and minimize downtime caused by unexpected errors, however this approach may require additional budgets.

Data collection and processing is another challenge for companies developing telemedicine solutions, especially when large amounts of information are gathered in real time. For example, remote patient monitoring systems generate massive volumes of telemetry data (e.g., heart rate, blood glucose level, oxygen level, arterial pressure, etc.), which can sometimes impede the performance of applications and/or databases.

Integration with existing devices, systems, environments, and workflows is also a bottleneck in medical software development. Wearables and sensors from different manufacturers can use different APIs, communication protocols, etc., adding a significant degree of complexity to the project. Integration is further complicated when working with legacy systems that use outdated technologies and architectures, leading to performance and maintenance issues.

Data unification becomes more of an issue when a telemedicine system grows to incorporate more sources of information. If patient monitoring, video consultations, and other aspects of remote care are handled by different apps, the system will have to handle a mix of structured and unstructured data in a variety of formats. Before uploading to electronic health records (EHR), the information needs to be unified.

Finally, the lack oftraining is often cited as one of the main inhibitors of telemedicine adoption—for both medical staff and patients. This is especially important for a growing number of people older than 65 in the US, accounting for over 54 million (~16%) of the whole American population, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Anyone who belongs in this age bracket may have a harder time maneuvering through a healthcare platform, thus it is crucial for organizations to create applications that are convenient and intuitive. Enabling doctors to use a telemedicine system effectively can involve providing video tutorials or in-person training.

Bottom line

These challenges can make navigating through the complex world of healthcare app development tricky. As telemedicine software can have a direct impact on people’s health, additional effort is required for developing, scaling, maintaining, and securing it. This results in strict regulations that can’t be ignored, so organizations must ensure compliance with numerous standards and acts. While Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and other vendors provide platforms that are compliance-ready, it may also be helpful to work with a company that specializes in building custom medical software. Hiring dedicated telemedicine app developers who have the relevant expertise can compliment your in-house team with resources needed for strengthening security, improving performance, or fixing other bottlenecks.

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