How low code is reducing costs and empowering innovation in healthcare

Healthcare providers must deliver modern, digital services, but many are held back outdated legacy systems. Here’s how low code can help close the gap.

Electronic health records (EHR) and the exchange of digital information underpin the delivery and management of any modern health service. Yet despite recent advancements, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many of today’s EHR systems are outdated, existing on legacy architecture that results in delays in – or even a lack of – the exchange of essential health information between services.

Addressing these issues has long proven extremely challenging and expensive, with projects frequently going over budget and taking much longer than anticipated. For example, in 2013, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) abandoned patient record system was described as the biggest IT failure ever seen, ultimately wasting approximately £10 billion. The cause of the debacle was put down to the government’s inability to successfully manage large IT contracts.

Cases such as these are why the healthcare sector has been relatively slow to innovate over the past decade. However, a lack of innovation is not the answer to mitigating risk and enabling better patient outcomes. If EHR and other vital healthcare systems aren’t kept up to date, they will be unable to keep up with demands and expectations that set the standards for a modern healthcare service. After all, in healthcare, time isn’t just money – it can also be the difference between sickness and health.

While there are many potential barriers to innovation in healthcare, arguably one of the biggest is the shortage of specialized IT skills, which has also led to a significant increase in the costs of IT projects. This results in delays and inadequate technical solutions that fail to meet their goals.

Low code solutions aim to address the technical barriers by making development much more accessible, more affordable, and much faster. By reducing the engineering effort required, the low-code approach provides an easily scalable architecture that can integrate with numerous data sources, thus facilitating seamless transactions of EHRs and other healthcare data. An open-source solution goes even further by allowing healthcare organizations to preserve total control over how they govern and protect sensitive data like patient health information (PHI).

How are healthcare providers using low code?

Healthcare providers are increasingly turning to low code to reduce costs and development time, integrate third-party and legacy systems, and get healthcare professionals engaged in the production of critical digital services. Given the meteoric rise in telehealth and telemedicine in the last few years, low-code solutions promise to play an increasingly important role in the sector.

The low-code approach can help healthcare organizations break away from being locked in to legacy solutions, albeit without actually having to replace them entirely. Particularly in the case of API-centric, open-source platforms, low-code can complement the monolithic environments of old by enabling better support for routine workflows and the immediate needs of end users, be they patients or employees.

Here are some of the ways the healthcare sector is already using low code:

  • Healthcare administration

Few things unnecessarily hinder patient experience more than excessive administration overhead. Low-code solutions let healthcare providers build fully automated workflows right from when a patient is admitted to the moment they’re discharged. That way, patients can easily fill up digital forms that capture their registration data, allowing information to be readily shared between clinics, insurance providers, and clearinghouses.

  • Pandemic response

The coronavirus pandemic saw rapid and significant innovation in the healthcare sector, since it was born out of necessity. Examples include contact-tracing apps, vaccine passports, and personal health-tracking solutions. Such systems often take months or even years to develop, but a low-code platform greatly improves cycle times and allows organizations to release a minimum viable product in less time – and that’s essential given the urgency of epidemics and other natural disasters.

  • Telehealth and telemedicine

While coronavirus clearly established the need to limit physical interaction for less urgent patient needs, that trend is likely to continue in the name of convenience. After all, most people would rather not visit a clinic if they can avoid it. Low-code is ideal for building user-friendly patient portals that provide remote care planning, easy patient booking and scheduling, and even intelligent chatbots for handling routine queries.

  • Clinical testing

Clinical testing typically requires data from many different systems, and while most healthcare software, at least in the US, follows the HL7 FHIR standard, there are plenty of exceptions. Low-code makes data integration quicker and easier to consolidate multiple data sources for more comprehensive research and development and testing. It’s especially well-suited to clinical trials that span multiple countries and jurisdictions, in which formats and standards can vary significantly.

  • Employee management

For frontline healthcare workers, technology is typically the last thing on their minds. As such, having to regularly return to a desktop computer to check patient records and other information inevitably hinders their capacity to deliver quality patient care. However, an API-centric low-code platform is ideal for developing readily accessible and user-friendly dashboards that they can view on portable devices like tablets, all whilst tending to their patients.

Accelerating the digitization of healthcare

The future of sustainable and high-quality healthcare hinges to the ability to innovate rapidly, as is the case in any other industry sector. However, healthcare faces some unique challenges and priorities, including the need to maintain strict data privacy and governance standards and innovate in a way that doesn’t disrupt patient experiences or end up going far over budget. If past failures have taught us anything, it’s that the old approach to software development is far from ideal in many common healthcare use cases. That’s not to say coding is going to become obsolete any time soon, but custom-built solutions assembled using visual environments will undoubtedly continue to play a growing role in the transformation of healthcare.

Perhaps the most important benefit of low code in the healthcare sector is how it helps bridge the gap between IT departments and healthcare professionals themselves. While healthcare professionals generally have a good understanding of what their patients need, the same can rarely be said of IT professionals. With the low-code approach, both parties can combine their expertise to rapidly deliver the solutions that patients and their carers need. In other words, it becomes possible to architect and continuously improve software from the patient’s point of view. In an often high-stress, unpredictable, and constantly evolving environment, that’s a big advantage to have on side.

Planet Crust is the principle creator behind the Corteza open-source low-code development platform. We offer training, support, hosting, and consulting services to healthcare providers seeking to enhance the delivery of vital patient services and ease the burden on employees. Try Corteza on-premises or in the cloud today.

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