Starting a Telehealth Business: Everything to Know

4 min read

More and more medical practices are considering what impact a telehealth business can have on their larger practice goals. 

Telehealth is a huge market right now, offering opportunities for almost any practice. 

Whether a practice wants a module in support of patient payments or a full-service telehealth app that supports virtual appointments, there are a lot of options out there for those considering how to start a telehealth business. 

How can one proceed, and what are the steps you need to know to start a telemedicine business?

Start with a Business Plan

As a starting point, you need to draft a high-level outline of a business plan as it applies to your telehealth business.

Although there are any number of telehealth businesses out there, there are four main categories of businesses. Each of these offer their own advantages. 

1. Live Video Conferencing

This is the one most people think of when they think of telemedicine. This involves live video meetings between a patient and a medical professional. 

These two-way, video-based online conferences allow physicians and other medical professionals to diagnose some conditions, prescribe medication and provide care. 

It offers many advantages to patients who can receive care from the comfort of their homes. From the practice perspective, live video conferencing can also reduce infrastructure costs and overhead related to operating an office. 

For practitioners in rural areas, this type of telehealth service can be a much easier way to help patients who live in remote areas.

2. Store-and-Forward

Store-and-forward, or asynchronous video, involves the digital delivery of a patient’s health records. 

As with any form of medical care, store-and-forward must adhere to regulations that oversee patient privacy and data privacy. 

This business model, like live video conferencing, is a great option for doctors with patients in rural or remote locales.

3. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

This telehealth business model involves using the Internet of Things to engage in real-time, remote patient monitoring. 

This can be extremely useful for patients who are elderly or who have serious chronic conditions. 

Doctors and RNs can monitor a patient no matter where that patient is and receive real-time alerts when there are fluctuations in a patient’s condition or readings. 

4. Mobile Health (mHealth)

It seems everyone loves a mobile app these days, and telehealth is no different. 

mHealth apps can be used to monitor sugar levels for diabetic patients to the heart rate of a patient recovering from heart surgery. 

There is still a good deal of room in this space, so the intrepid entrepreneur has a good chance of identifying a bespoke development opportunity that can serve a particular patient community well.

Developing the App

Next, ask yourself which features you would actually need in the telehealth app you use to deliver your telemedicine solution.

What features are essential to your telehealth business? A telehealth business can leverage any of the following features in its associated app:

  • self-service patient portal
  • payment portal
  • medical records access
  • live, online appointments
  • prescription fulfillment and medication management
  • appointment scheduling
  • and more

Assess how many of these features you will need for your telehealth business. 

Remember: this will define the scale of your app development, affecting cost, timeline, and complexity. 

You don’t have to get everything in there at once. Sometimes, the best approach is to start smaller with a soft launch and then scale up. 

The right developer, however, can deliver a full-service telehealth app quickly and efficiently, however.

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Leveraging Staff Engagement

One of your best allies in this process is your staff. 

Your employees are some of the people most familiar with your existing practice and its protocols. They can help you brainstorm what is needed in a telehealth app and what value a telehealth component can bring to your practice. 

Your staff will also be able to let you know what weaknesses currently exist at your practice that can be ameliorated or streamlined by telehealth components. 

For example, a busy front desk may have a much easier time day in and day out if appointment setting is part of your telehealth offering. 

Tune into your employees’ needs and let them know that their opinions factor into your high-level decision making.

Telehealth Regulations

Learning about the telehealth regulations in your region or country is a next essential step in the process of starting a telehealth business. 

Regulations can vary greatly from one region to the next. Generally speaking, however, telemedicine regulations focus on the following issues:

  • Patient privacy
  • Medical ethics
  • Parity laws related to reimbursement for remote video visits

Make sure to review any laws in your state, region or country that relate to telehealth. Remember, too, that telemedicine is an evolving sector, and regulations are evolving, too. Keep an eye out for shifts in regulation or new regulations on a regular basis.

Telemedicine Best Practices: Telehealth Case Studies From Around the World

Norway

Norway was one of the earliest countries to adopt telehealth into their healthcare system. 

As such, looking at their history of telemedicine provides a good view on telehealth best practices. 

All four health regions in the country utilize telehealth technologies, giving the country a 100 percent adoption rate at the regional level and a 75 percent adoption at the hospital level.

As early as 2009, Norway was developing and delivering telemedicine to patients across the country, including those in rural and remote areas. Current telehealth solutions in Norway include support for paramedics via software and hardware. 

Emergency services workers can receive real-time advice from clinical staff and doctors onsite as they administer emergency medical care. 

This can better prepare patients for transit to hospitals and better ensure their chances before they reach a full-service medical facility.

Singapore

Historically, Singapore has been plagued by overcrowded hospitals due to the island city/nation’s densely packed populace. 

The government, however, is also well-known for providing social services. As such, it was little surprise recently when the Singaporean government announced a full launch of telehealth regulations via their upcoming Healthcare Services Act. The country also moved many telehealth initiatives ahead of schedule in 2020 in response to the COVID pandemic.

European Union

Telehealth businesses have been growing rapidly in the EU, with the telemedicine market expected to reach almost 22 billion Euros by 2026. 

While adoption and readiness for telehealth businesses varies from one region to the next, one factor supporting the growth of EU telehealth is the fact that public reimbursement has allowed the industry to thrive. The EU officials in Brussels, too, have been careful to align regulations and oversight with the industry to ensure growth continues.

Starting a telehealth business offers a range of opportunities. The market is there, along with the interest. As more and more patients acclimate to the new digital reality of medicine, more and more users will provide the customer base for the telehealth businesses of tomorrow.

Igor Izraylevych