Healthcare costs are on the rise, as well as the need for preventive care. Therefore, today we share some thoughts about how telemedicine fits into this picture and what you need in order to develop successful business models for WebRTC telehealth apps.
The main goal behind Telehealth is to provide health care services from the distance using telecommunication technologies. These type or services are divided into four categories:
- Live video
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM)
- Mobile health (mHealth)
Live video is when a patient connects with a provider in real-time using his computer or cellphone. This type of services can be used to supply immediate first contact consultations, on which physicians evaluate patients in order to determine if some sort of traditional healthcare service is required, or as a follow-up to review the evolution of a patient’s treatment.
Store-and-Forward is the delivery of patients’ medical records from one provider to another, outside of the real-time channel. This type of service can be used when a physician requires of the insights of a specialist on a remote location.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is the collection of health data from a patient in a remote location by a provider. This type of service is useful in senior care or in any other condition where moving the patient is complicated.
Mobile health (mHealth) refers to the use of smart devices, such as smartphones or smartwatches, for tracking vitals. All this usually done by the patient without the intervention of a provider.
These types of services play an important role in the prevention of diseases and following-up treatments, which in turn can help to reduce costs and extend medical coverage.
WebRTC suits perfectly not only as the realtime channel that delivers information from one side to the other, but it also adds the security component that ensures that non-authorized entities are not able to access such information.
Building a Business Model in 3 Steps
The benefits of a WebRTC Telehealth application are evident, however there is a slow adoption among providers and payers. This is mostly due to the existence of some legal and regulatory challenges that, without proper handling, could affect the profitability of any project.
A key factor that helps to guarantee the success of a Telehealth project is the correct formulation of a business model that allows to sustain its operation.
There are 3 questions you should consider when development a successful business model:
- How to create value?
- How to provide the value my users’ needs?
- How to create revenue?
How to Create Value?
Let’s clear up things first, what patients want is not live video, chat or file uploads per se. These are nice features that can you can offer, but that’s not what they’re looking for. So, let’s put these aside for a moment and focus on what they really want, we’ll get back to them in a minute, I promise.
What patients really want is (drum roll): you guessed it, captain obvious – Medical Services!
Once that is clear, it’s time to get the most out of it. And for that you first need to identify who your users are, what they do, what they want and what are their problems. Medical services are not the same for seniors than for millennials, neither are the channels through which you’ll be able to reach them.
Millennials are technology-based, most of their activities already depend on a screen and a smart device (tell me about it!). Their lifestyle makes them vulnerable to numerous health issues, and because they’re always running here and there, they don’t regularly see a doctor.
For seniors on the other hand, technology is not exactly their cup of tea, however if it means to ease considerably their lives, they are eager to adopt these kinds of habits. This could be helped with a well done UX/UI that brings technology even to people with physical limitations.
Millennials and seniors are just two examples of the type of users out there, your market may be a lot more complicated, but I think you get the idea. Basically, you need to know your users’ problems and what type of technology they are using.
The next step is to know how to create value for them. What do patients, in general, look for in medical services? That is better convenient care. Convenient as in “I don’t want to wait one week to see a doctor” and “I don’t want to wait 3 hours in a hospital when I go”.
And you as a provider, what is the value for you? Lower efficient costs. Efficient as in “I don’t want to readmit my patients one week after I’ve released them” and “I want to increase my capacity of attention”
Now let’s get back to the cool stuff we put aside early.
Technology enables the ability to provide the value you are creating, for example, live video and chats allows patients to contact a doctor immediately no matter where they are, and file uploads let them send family history records or results from previous medical exams.
WebRTC is the technology that is leading the remote services revolution, as it provides native video/audio capabilities on top of a secure channel.
How to Provide the Value my Users Need?
Ok, now you know how to create the value your users need, the next thing to think about is how are you going to give it to them.
Here you need to consider two aspects: the technical side and the organizational side.
The technical side is the definition of the IT infrastructure that is going to support the services you provide, and the actual development of the product.
The organizational side is the group of procedures and policies that your company needs to put into practice in order to provide those services.
Let’s review each aspect separately
IT Infrastructure: CPaaS or self-hosted
WebRTC requires an IT infrastructure that supports the initial negotiation between the participants of a call, in this case patients and providers. This involves at least a signaling server and a pair of STUN/TURN servers. If you require advanced capabilities such as multi-party calls or recordings you’ll also need a media server.
You need to define whether you are going to rely on an external provider (a.k.a CPaaS provider) to host the infrastructure or build it by yourself.
By relying on an external provider, you are essentially paying a monthly fee for using someone else infrastructure. While this simplifies significantly the development process, it limits the control you have over it. Some popular CPaaS providers are Tokbox, Agora and Vidyo.
If you decide to build it by yourself, you’re in charge of provisioning the servers and maintain them. This approach gives you full control but requires both knowledge and expertise.
Servers can be hosted either on-premise, on your own datacenter, or in the cloud.
Development of the Product
Once you have the infrastructure, the next step is the development of the actual product, the vehicle that would bring services to your end users. Remember when we said that you need to know what your users are using? Well, here is where such knowledge is useful.
The first thing you need to define is what platforms do you want to support, or in other words, where do you want your app running? desktop and laptop computers? Smartphones and smartwatches? other type of specialized instruments? a combination of these?
In this regard is also important to have in mind that different devices have different operating systems. Most smartphones come with the Android operating system, but iPhones comes with iOS. Such difference will define the kind of technology to be used.
After you’ve defined the supported platforms, you need to consider whether your product is going to be web based or native. Web based, means that your users would only need a browser to access your application, while native means that your users would need to install an actual application.
It’s also possible to adopt a hybrid approach that combines various of the options above mentioned.
On top of all the above, don’t forget the security layer that will ensure to your users that their information is well secured. Consider also that some countries have specific regulations and requirements.
The other aspect is the organizational, which comprises the creation of procedures and policies, partnerships and staff involvement required to carry out the development of a new product.
The most important thing here is to design a well-formed process that coordinates both technology and organization procedures to work together in order to provide the value your clients need. If you want to know more about this, read our post on how to implement a telemedicine solution.
How to Create Revenue?
The profitability of your project will depend on the pricing model. The pricing model will be defined by the impact of the value you’re creating a.k.a the willingness of your users to pay for its vs the costs of providing it. Costs that include the development of the product and the provision and maintenance of the infrastructure.
Also, we need to talk about one of the main concerns that exist among most of the telehealth current players: reimbursements and current regulations (or lack of it). While some advancements have been made, the scene looks still uncertain.
However, some of the big players on the Telehealth field have experienced good results by making a change of mindset, which consist on looking for different strategies that would allow them to transition from a government-funded paradigm to alternative practices that generates revenue.
Some simple examples could be the creation of a customized network of specialists available to extend services in rural or remote hospitals at a monthly fee; work with ACOs; or the leverage of some sort of remote workforce outsourcing.
Telehealth can be the force that, in conjunction with the right technology, ends with the “provider-health insurance-patient” model, in favor of a system that would also include telecommunication providers, equipment manufacturers, software providers and even national agencies.
At the end of the day, we must keep in mind that the current reactive vision of healthcare needs to evolve towards a preventive approach, and Telehealth provides all the means to achieve it.
Perhaps it’s time to start looking for the patients instead of waiting for them to come.
A well-formed business model is a key factor in determining the success of a Telehealth application. Knowing the importance of the value that such product is creating and selecting the right technology will allow to have an appropriate pricing model.
At WebRTC.ventures we are experts at providing your telehealth product with the technology it needs. Contact us to learn more.