Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, is the provision of health services over electronic communication channels. Basically, it involves conducting a doctor-patient consultation over a video conferencing system.
Of course, there is more to it than that, making the cost of telemedicine systems a worthy investment.
Telemedicine systems can handle a much wider range of functions, such as:
- organizing appointments
- creating patient files
- storing private health details
- and more
According to McKinsey, telehealth is already worth a quarter of a trillion US dollars and is set to continue to grow.
If you are thinking of starting your own system, you should know that telemedicine startup costs vary greatly.
But what is the cost of a telemedicine system?
There are many elements of telehealth, such as hardware items, software, licensing, and data storage. This is why building your own telehealth system has so many variable costs. It really comes down to what your budget is and how you want your system to operate.
In this article, we will give you estimates of the cost of setting up your own telemedicine system.
The article will cover:
- Determining if your chosen telehealth system is a good market fit.
- How much can you expect to pay for each telehealth module?
In reading this article, it is important to remember that there is a great deal of variability in pricing that can come from your chosen approach, your vendor panel, and even your geographical location.
Will Your Telemedicine System Work in Your Market?
You might decide you want to create your telemedicine system with some functions conducted in-house, and some functions outsourced to a vendor partner.
You can configure it any way you want. A telehealth system is a collection of functional modules such as:
- Appointment booking and management
- Virtual consultations
- Imaging and visual diagnostics
- Patient file storage
- Patient accounts.
- Drug dispensing
But will the configuration you choose be a good fit for your market?
Is it realistic when faced with actual market conditions? There are several factors you will need to take into account when trying to get to a bottom-line cost.
Here they are:
- How many users will be on your telehealth team?
- How many patients will you serve?
- What type of practice are you? General vs specialist?
- Will you go in-house with system management, will you choose a managed service provider, or will you use your vendors for this purpose?
You will need to make some serious choices about what you want to do. But these choices need to be backed by actual research in order to get the best result.
You will need to go through some market development and testing before you give the green light to the final product.
Here are some of the typical research and product development steps you will need to go through before you can even launch your telemedicine platform.
These stages are applicable to all industries, hence, developing a banking app will not be very different from developing a telehealth app.
The Discovery Stage
In this stage, you are trying to find out if your system fits the market.
This might involve:
- Conducting field research to discover doctor and patient needs
- Getting detailed information and analytics about the market size and segments
- Understanding the competitive landscape
After this process, you can come up with the most important features as required by your research and findings. At this point, you will not have spent any money on the system, but you will have gathered important information.
Cost of this stage: You can spend as much as $10,000 on field research and market analytics.
Proof Of Concept Stage
Once you have decided on a solution based on your findings, you can get input from your staff, vendor partners, and potential patients. This step is designed to give you a fuller understanding of your solution and how it works in practice.
This could involve working with a focus group to help you identify any bugs or shortfalls in your appointment booking process. You are looking to end up with a conceptual platform that can be proven to work.
Cost of this stage: You can expect to spend another $10,000 as you canvas responses from your partners and patients through roadshows and testing.
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) development
Building a telehealth system from the ground up can be expensive and difficult to maintain. This is particularly true if you have not carried out important early work like debugging. This is where testing your MVP can save you time and money.
Having a working prototype of your chosen system that contains all the features that are ready to go to market will help you evaluate your system. It can tell you what changes and adjustments might be necessary.
Cost of this stage: The development of an MVP typically takes up to six months and costs at least $15,000. This process provides key elements of quality assurance testing and problem-busting.
Telemedicine System Development Costs
Developing a telemedicine system takes deep analysis and extensive planning. The final cost is highly variable. It depends greatly on the scale or size of your plan, as we have seen.
A decent idea for the average cost of telemedicine implementation is anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000.
Remember, the more complexity you add, the more your system will cost. For example, if you choose a highly advanced, feature-rich system, you could go over $200,000.
Many companies have found that they can easily get what they need for less than $100,000.
This highly variable final cost strongly depends on your system design, the type of solutions you are offering, and the size of your market.
But what are the component parts that go into a telemedicine system? Let’s find out:
Medical Hardware and Devices
The types of devices you purchase depends on what type of medicine you are going to offer and the structure of your practice.
Remember, you can always add additional devices as you load additional specialties.
Common devices that can be integrated may include a virtual stethoscope or a high-quality camera. The list is long and varies between practices. Ideally, for this stage, you can expect to pay between $8,000 and $12,000.
Telemedicine Platform License
You might choose a third-party telemedicine provider over developing your own platform from scratch. There are many third-party telehealth platforms on the market. Chiron Health, eVisit, and Healhtie are just a few players in this expanding market.
These platforms will require a license that you can buy as a once-off, but most likely on a monthly fee, with variable costs per file/patient.
In this emerging space, there are many approaches. Some vendors provide comprehensive services such as appointment booking all the way to an accounting package.
Other vendors prefer to concentrate on key elements such as video conferencing. Yet more platforms try to differentiate themselves through value-adds like instant messaging.
Some solutions, such as Miaoshou Doctor, are pushing the boundaries of telehealth by handling the medical visit, as well as drug disbursement and even medical insurance, all in one app. The variability of costing is very high, and this will form part of your research.
Whatever platform you select, your monthly subscription fee will be linked to the following factors:
- How many team members do you have?
- How much data do you store and record?
- How detailed and feature-rich is the software?
This software as a service (SaaS) solutions operate in the cloud and are available in pricing tiers according to utilization.
Video Conferencing and Communication
This is a key part of any telehealth solution. It is often a good idea to save money by using systems you have already invested in by adding them to your communication platform.
You might already have a high-end desktop or laptop that complies with system requirements, meaning you won’t need to invest in a new one. The same goes for video capabilities such as a webcam, headsets, and a microphone.
Lighting for your consultation area is also an important consideration. As are handheld devices such as tablets that carry patient records and can be integrated with medical insurers for treatment approvals.
It all depends on what you have already, but if you are starting from zero, a new communication installation can cost as much as $10,000.
Internet Connection Recommendations
You will need the necessary bandwidth capability to handle the volume of information you will be generating and storing. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) must be created, sent, and saved. These frequently contain multiple images and documents.
It’s a good idea to find a reputable internet service provider that can give you an enterprise-grade connection. To ensure patient satisfaction, your connection needs to avoid latency and lag.
From a hardware point of view, you will need networking equipment hubs, routers, switches, cables, and connectors. A good internet plan will cost you less than $1000 per month, while the networking hardware will also cost about $1000.
Telemedicine Equipment Costs
The best virtual consultation rooms can look like professional studios. After all, you do not want your patients to lose confidence in your practice because it does not appear professional.
Some items you might need around setting up a telemedicine system include tables, props, posters, charts, and the like. Equipment is important, but don’t forget the look and design of your practice.
You also need to be able to ergonomically move between the different components of your virtual rooms. Setting up these systems starts at $10,000, but you could pay as much as $20,000.
Support costs for telemedicine can vary significantly. You might be a small family practice or part of a large hospital network. These will need different levels of support.
As you cannot afford communication failures or outages of any kind, your software systems are the face of your operation, this is why you will need to have the right amount of IT staff support.
You could be paying a few hundred dollars per month or as much as $10,000 for a large enterprise.
Don’t forget that you will need to train your employees. This could take a few weeks depending on the complexity of the solution.
Besides theory-based training, you are advised to carry out live tests with patients. Are you going to conduct the training in-house, or is it going to be conducted by training vendors?
Depending on the complexity of the solution, the number of users, and such, you can expect to pay anything from $200 to $2,000 per site.
Compliance is very important in medicine, and telemedicine is no exception. You will probably need to seek legal advice on the prevailing laws in your area of operation.
In some countries, offshoring sensitive patient records from your practice to a remote cloud is not permitted. Any transgressions could be very costly.
Depending on your market, you could find this means you need to seek legal advice. Naturally, costs for this service will be highly variable.
Security and Privacy
As you will be sharing Personal Health Information (PHI), data security is of the utmost importance. You will need to invest in network security from the outset in order to avoid any costly information breaches.
Cyber security comes at a cost. You will have to do your research and factor this in.
As with many industries that have taken off after the pandemic, telemedicine is here to stay. Projections of continued growth in this space cannot be ignored.
It is important for you to plan your telehealth system well and build it according to your own requirements and budget.
You can keep many operations in-house, or you can speak to an external partner in an area like software development, should you choose to create your own system.