Telemedicine in Rural Areas: Comprehensive Overview
ScienceSoft brings in 17 years of experience in healthcare software development to design and implement telemedicine software for care delivery to rural residents.
Telehealth enables virtual end-to-end healthcare services for rural residents. It provides access to necessary healthcare services (e.g., primary, acute, specialty care, chronic disease management), improves self-monitoring, and reduces avoidable travels to a healthcare provider’s office.
$150,000 - $400,000, impacted by the system complexity (e.g., advanced features, legacy software integrations).
App for rural patients
- To schedule and visit online consultations with medical staff (a physician, a nurse, etc.).
- To consult a doctor on disease symptoms (e.g., cough) via messaging.
- To log vitals and symptoms in the app.
- To access and use educational materials on self-monitoring, home care, and rehabilitation.
- To schedule necessary offline screenings and tests, etc., and receive notifications about them.
App for medical staff (physicians, nurses, etc.)
- To conduct online appointments and regular health checkups for rural patients.
- To manage patient treatment and medication plans.
- To schedule remote consultations with other specialists for rural patients.
- To monitor patients’ health state.
Video streaming server
For real-time audiovisual communication between medical staff and patients.
Cloud data storage and processing module
- Patient-doctor video appointments history and recordings.
- Messaging history.
- Shared images (e.g., photos of wounds).
- Patient data (e.g., health parameters remotely collected by medical devices, logged symptoms and vitals), and more.
Admin web panel
For hospital supervisors, telehealth program administrators, etc., to:
- Process emergency care requests from rural residents.
- Edit the list of rural telehealth app users (e.g., add users from new service regions).
- Manage access rights of rural telehealth app users.
- Manage medical staff’s schedules, etc.
Based on its experience in healthcare IT since 2005, ScienceSoft describes common and advanced functionality of a telehealth system for rural patients.
Rural emergency care
- Emergency in-app ambulance call in case of an acute condition like hemorrhagic stroke, etc.
- Patient’s GPS location sharing with an emergency medical dispatcher or the paramedic team.
- (after the emergency call) Sharing a list of supporting activities with a patient / a caregiver waiting for the paramedics.
Communication between rural patients and medical staff
- Conducting scheduled video appointments for primary and specialty care, chronic disease management (e.g., diabetes, asthma, behavioral diseases).
- In-app text messaging (e.g., to consult on new symptoms, medication side effects).
- Image sharing (e.g., for a patient to send a photo of rash, for a doctor to send an instruction on bandage changing).
- Pre-appointment questionnaires to collect necessary information on a patient’s condition.
Medication and treatment management (for doctors)
- Treatment planning using customizable templates.
- In-app medication prescribing.
- Scheduling of online consultations for rural patients with other medical specialists.
- Scheduling of screenings and tests (e.g., complete blood count) for rural patients.
- Dashboards with patients’ treatment progress (e.g., recent vitals, treatment plan adherence).
Medication and treatment management (for patients)
- In-app medication plan.
- Requesting in-app prescription renewal to avoid lengthy travels.
- Prescription sending to a selected rural pharmacy.
- Notifications on and rescheduling of scheduled medical consultations, screenings and tests.
Home rehabilitation of rural patients
- Online rehabilitation sessions (after stroke, heart attack, surgery, etc.).
- Home care training sessions for a rural patient’s caregiver (e.g., a relative).
- Follow-up appointments with a doctor or a nurse to check the home recovery process (e.g., after a surgery).
Continuous health self-monitoring
- Logging symptoms (e.g., headaches, shortness of breath) and vitals (e.g., blood pressure, temperature) collected manually or via connected medical devices.
- Medication intake tracker with alerts and notifications.
- Daily activity, lifestyle, and nutrition log.
Patient knowledge base
- Interactive map with ERs and pharmacies nearby.
- First-aid instructions (e.g., for minor wounds, burns).
- Self-learning materials (e.g., articles, videos) on chronic disease prevention, management, healthy diet, and lifestyle.
Rural population health monitoring and management
- Notifications on upcoming immunizations (e.g., against COVID-19).
- Alerts on public health emergencies and natural disasters in the region with safety instructions provided.
- Recruitment of respondents for clinical trials, medical studies, researches.
- Multi-factor authentication for rural telemedicine app users (patients, nurses, doctors, hospital administrators, etc.).
- Role-based access management.
- End-to-end data encryption (e.g., of PHIs, appointments recordings).
- HIPAA and HITECH compliance.
Halina Batsishcha, MD, Healthcare IT Consultant at ScienceSoft, shares her experience:
"When deciding on the telehealth application functionality, I recommend starting with a thorough analysis of target users. For example, if a large share of your patients have chronic diseases and require continuous health parameters tracking, it may be feasible to add remote patient monitoring functionality and control health parameters via biosensors or smart medical devices."
ScienceSoft's healthtcare IT consultants find it important to integrate telemedicine software with the following systems to automate patient data exchange:
- For an integrated view of rural patients’ medical history (chronic conditions, allergies, etc.).
- For automated visit logging in EHR for streamlined billing.
- For EHR-enabled integrations with accounting software, e-prescribing software used by pharmacies in the service region, etc.
Smart medical devices or biosensors
- To enable collection and processing of rural patient’s vitals (e.g., blood pressure, body temperature).
- To enable in-app monitoring of rural patients’ vitals by medical staff.
Medical imaging software
- For in-app access to patients’ medical images by medical staff.
Laboratory information system
- To provide doctors and patients with direct access to patients’ test results (HbA1c level, blood glucose, etc.) issued by any partnering local laboratory.
Practice management system
- To enable in-app access to medical specialists’ schedules for an administrator, a doctor, or a patient.
- For automated medical services billing, accounting, etc.
According to Statista, about 20% of Americans live in rural areas and face the challenge of the acute shortage of healthcare providers. ScienceSoft considers telehealth a promising solution to this issue, especially when implemented according to the following principles:
– to tackle remote communication disadvantages in the rural regions and ensure efficient remote consultations. For instance, if the internet connection is poor, software should be able to switch to audio communication using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or cellular network. If the audiovisual communication is still poor, the doctors can opt for consulting via messages.
Smooth integration with healthcare IT systems
– to provide medical specialists with integrated health data view and timely access to all needed information from EHR, LIS, medical imaging software, etc., for remote diagnosing and efficient care delivery to rural patients.
Enhanced telehealth software usability
– to enable both expert and novice rural users to get remote healthcare services without training on software use.
The development costs of telemedicine software for rural areas with a general feature set (video appointments, audio calls, text messages, treatment planning, medication tracking, etc.) start from $150,000. The advanced features like patient data analytics, remote patient monitoring via connected devices/sensors, etc., impact the necessary investments and can increase them to $400,000. Depending on the number of telehealth visits, the number of medical staff members offering telehealth services, rural telehealth solutions can reach 100% ROI in ~6 months.
Key financial benefits
Expanded service area due to the ability to deliver care to hard-to-reach population groups, underserved regions, etc.
Decreased length of postoperative hospital stay for rural patients and lowered readmission rate due to telehealth-supported home care and rehabilitation.
Mitigated medical staff shortage in the service regions due to improved medical specialists’ efficiency, optimized schedules and decreased travel time.
Reduced operational expenses per rural patient (including efficient bed allocation) for hospitals due to decreased hospitalizations of remotely monitored patients with chronic diseases and other conditions.
Improved visit attendance (for patients with chronic conditions, mental health conditions, etc.).
Examples of Telemedicine for Rural Areas
- Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center located in rural North Carolina implemented a patient-provider telehealth network. It enabled nurses to monitor patients’ data via the system’s dashboard and contact patients with abnormal readings to conduct a nursing assessment and provide professional advice.
- Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin, Minnesota, quickly deployed a telehealth solution for the virtual treatment of patients during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the center has rolled out the new model of care to its family physicians and specialty providers and rehabilitation therapists.
ScienceSoft's healthcare IT consultants recommend that you choose custom development of a telehealth app for rural patients if you need:
Functionality tailored to the needs of a healthcare organization and rural patients
Software covers a wide array or a specific set of healthcare services and precisely fits into the healthcare organization’s workflows. For one of our customers, we combined a telehealth solution with a practice management system to ensure convenience for medical staff.
Advanced data analytics
Analytics of patient symptoms and vitals to predict the course of the disease, potential complications, and risks, optimize the set of required telehealth services for rural patients.
In healthcare IT since 2005, ScienceSoft has gained first-hand experience in healthcare software consulting and development and is ready to design and implement telemedicine software tailored for the needs of rural residents.
Consulting on telemedicine software for rural areas
- Requirements elicitation for rural telehealth software.
- Elaboration on telehealth software features.
- Design of architecture, integrations with the healthcare IT environment (e.g., EHR, practice management software).
- Reliable tech stack selection.
- Development investments and ROI estimation.
- Design of a project risk mitigation plan.
- Mapping regulatory compliance requirements for rural telehealth software (e.g., compliance with HIPAA, HITECH, NCPDP D.0 regulations).
Implementation of telemedicine software for rural areas
- Business and operational requirements gathering for rural telehealth software.
- Software features mapping and prioritization.
- Architecture design for rural telehealth software.
- User journeys planning and UX design.
- Sleek UI design of rural telehealth software.
- Implementation of integrations with healthcare IT systems (e.g., EHR, LIS).
- Telehealth app development and testing (featuring performance and HIPAA, HITECH compliance testing of the app).
ScienceSoft's Customers Say
We engaged ScienceSoft to build an Android telehealth app for various medical specialties that complements our web-based platform for patients. They advised and successfully lead the way from end to end through the technical challenges and considerations with development of the app. We have also engaged them to introduce a few enhancements to the app and would certainly consider ScienceSoft as a technology partner in further software development initiatives.
Justin Turner, CTO, Chiron Health
ScienceSoft is a US-headquartered international IT consulting and software development company founded in 1989. With 17-year experience in healthcare IT and ISO 13485 certified quality management system, ScienceSoft is ready to deliver reliable telemedicine solutions for efficient care delivery in rural areas.