Lockdowns and other quarantine restrictions showed that medical organizations can no longer
perform their functions effectively without the possibility to deliver healthcare at a
distance. Naturally, the demand for telemedicine software has skyrocketed after the
coronavirus outbreak. But while most healthcare managers understand the importance of
providing remote clinical services, they usually have many questions about the cost of
telemedicine system development.
This article explains what factors can impact the budget required to create custom telehealth software. We’ll also discuss why telemedicine software development is a wise strategic investment for hospitals and clinics.
Why choose custom telehealth solutions?
If you google it, you’ll find a lot of out-of-the-box telemedicine solutions readily available in the market. Their price range is broad, too. It’s even possible to find off-the-shelf telehealth software that costs $5 per visit. However, there are more downsides than advantages in purchasing ready-made solutions for a medical organization. Let’s take a look at some of them:
- HIPAA-compliance. Healthcare providers that process patient health information belonging to US citizens must ensure that their IT systems meet HIPAA requirements. Most out-of-the-box medical software solutions don’t offer HIPAA compliance. It means that a hospital or clinic can be imposed with a fine of up to 1.5 million per year if it uses them.
- Scalability. The implementation of telehealth practice usually starts with one system. But patient expectations are constantly growing. So chances are a medical organization will need a richer telemedicine infrastructure with more advanced functionality in some time. In the case of off-the-shelf telehealth software, scalability is always limited to what the vendor offers. Custom development, on the contrary, gives you full freedom in what to build and when.
- Hidden cost. When buying a ready-made healthcare solution, you have to understand that its price usually includes many hidden costs. For example, you will pay for the functionality covered by license fees but that your hospital or clinic might not even need. Also, the learning curve will probably be quite long since all off-the-shelf systems are targeted at a wide range of organizations with different processes. Consequently, you’ll need to spend a lot of resources on staff training.
So, bespoke telemedicine development often requires higher initial investments, but it’s a more cost-effective option in the long run.
What impacts telemedicine software cost?
All custom healthcare solutions are unique, so the price is different for each of them. But you can estimate approximate telehealth software cost based on the factors that IT outsourcing teams most often take into account:
The solution complexity is one of the things that impact the cost of telemedicine system development the most. Before writing the first line of code, a development team will collect and assess your requirements. Usually, programmers factor in the number of features and their nature since the latter also affects the amount of time required to complete the project. In other words, the more sophisticated telemedicine software you need, the higher price you’ll have to pay. On the flip side, this approach prevents healthcare providers from building overly complicated systems stuffed with numerous unnecessary features.
Do you want to build a telemedicine web solution that will connect doctors and patients with the help of telecommunication technologies? Or, do you think that separate mobile applications for medical personnel and patients would be a better option? A telehealth practice can take a lot of different forms. Their choice will have a great impact on the telemedicine software cost. But since today’s digital world is mobile-oriented, it will be ideal if you have a solution for several platforms (i.e., web, Android, iOS).
This factor is closely connected with system functionality and platforms. If you choose experienced tech partners, they’ll advise you on the most optimal tech stack for your telemedicine software development project. But we recommend choosing proven technologies that hold leadership positions in the market even if their cost is higher. In case you need to cut expenses, it’s better to do it on mobile development by building a cross-platform app instead of several native ones. For instance, modern technologies like Xamarin let developers share up to 90 percent of a codebase but still build a solution that is both high-performing and user-friendly.
The number of integrations can also increase the telemedicine software cost. But since the automation of processes will lead to improved efficiency, this investment will bring good returns in the future. For instance, you may want to connect a new telehealth app to the clinic’s EHR system or hospital management solution. Such a comprehensive IT ecosystem will allow your medical organization to streamline its core workflows and build a solid foundation for delivering a better patient experience.
The number of programmers engaged in the project and their seniority levels also have an effect on the cost of telemedicine system development. If you find a reliable IT outsourcing company, it’ll help you assemble a perfect team for your project based on its requirements. Besides, it’s crucial to understand that developer rates depend on programmers’ geographical location. For instance, software engineers from the US and Western Europe charge the highest rates. Meanwhile, Asia is considered the cheapest region, but the quality of the work is often low, too. If you’re looking for the optimal price/quality ratio, try to find programmers in Eastern Europe.
Value vs. cost of telemedicine software development
The cost of telemedicine system development might seem high at first sight. But telehealth
service helps healthcare providers save a lot of money. So if you calculate the total amount
of reduced expenses, you’ll see that it’s actually cheaper to implement a virtual care
practice than not to have it.
For instance, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center states that it saves $86.64 every time a patient opts for an online visit instead of a face-to-face appointment. Another study shows that one avoided visit to an emergency department (i.e., the most expensive option of alternative care) can cut the hospital’s costs by $309-1,500. Besides, American Hospital Association published a report on the telemedicine practice that has tripled ROI for investors just a few years after its launch.
Putting is all together
Custom development of telemedicine software requires higher investments at the beginning. But, in the long run, it’s a more cost-effective option than purchasing ready-made solutions. It allows medical organizations to build HIPAA-compliant scalable systems and avoid hidden costs. To calculate the preliminary budget for your telemedicine development project, you need to consider such factors as the complexity of a system, targeted platforms, tech stack, desired integrations, and specifics of a development team. If you still doubt whether to roll out a telehealth practice or not, remember that value of telemedicine software always overweights its cost.