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Why are healthcare providers increasingly adopting a digital health platform approach?

By Alastair Allen, Chief Technology Officer, Better



One thing the pandemic taught us is that accelerated digital transformation in healthcare is possible.

Those organisations that were able to respond quickly to the initial wave and subsequent variations were often those that had the technology platforms that enabled innovation in areas such as patient engagement, data analytics, and virtual care.

The reason technology platforms enabled organisations to do this was independence.

Well implemented platforms put organisations in control of their transformation without being dependent on third party vendors for change.

Typically, good data was at the core of this, with supporting platform tools that allowed organisations to use this data — in a secure, governed way — to solve business problems quickly.

However, as we move into a post-COVID era, it’s clear that the pandemic was just the tip of the iceberg, with demand on front-line services at a record high and an under-resourced workforce facing growing pressure.

To address these challenges, healthcare provider CIOs needed to accelerate the pace of clinical and business transformation and are increasingly adopting a Digital Health Platform (DHP) approach to support this. DHP-enabling technologies combine three key elements, an Integrated Data Fabric, Packaged Business Capabilities and Composition Tools.

Integrated Data Fabric

The core goal of the integrated data fabric is to liberate siloed application data from operational systems, bringing it together into a common healthcare specific data model that is ready for business use.

World renowned information technology consultancy, research and advisory firm, Gartner, calls out a range of features that an integrated data fabric should have, including health data connectors, data curation and enrichment tools, metadata management, a health care data model, and privacy and consent controls.

To ensure consistency, maximise data reuse, and enable real-time read and write of data for all services, DHPs should be built from the ground up and based on open standards as well as open specifications.

At Better we even go a step further, as we believe that all clinical data should be persisted in a vendor-neutral, openEHR-based repository, with demographic and administrative data held within a FHIR-based repository.

As I see it, Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs) provide an opportunity for a community and eco-system to emerge where healthcare specific content can be shared and re-used.

As all content is built around a standards-based data fabric, compatibility and governance issues can be more easily managed.

To support the adoption of PBCs, customisable components should be available to be easily published, discovered, and shared to share content locally with users who work within their organisation.

These could include widgets for visualising data, patient lists for managing patient cohorts, and entire applications.

Composition Tools

The composition layer is focused on how to deliver citizen and professional facing experiences for a specific use-case or group of users.

Traditionally, tools available in this layer have been adopted by technical IT professionals and not their business peers.

However, the market is rapidly evolving towards low-code platforms that make composition tools more usable by a broader group of technology and business users, often referred to as “citizen developers”.

Low-code platforms that have been designed from the ground up to specifically support citizen developers working in healthcare, ultimately improve user experiences, so long as everything works up from the openEHR and FHIR-based data fabric outlined above.

This contrasts with many low-code tools, which start with the UI and then work back to the data, creating many challenges, including those around data management, governance, and sharing.

This approach may work in other industries but in healthcare, the complexity of data and the need for data longevity, necessitate a data-first approach that is based on a robust modelling framework.

Looking to the future

As we look ahead to the future, the need for a Digital Health Platform has never been greater.

That’s why Better is committed to the ongoing development of the Better DHP and will continue to focus on making it easier for organisations to get control of their data while providing the services and tools that allow them to use this data to solve business problems quickly.

Better Digital Health Platform is the only healthcare-specific platform which includes vendor-neutral health data fabric, low-code tools, and a portal with a design system.

The vendor-neutral health data fabric opens up the data while considering security and privacy, giving clinicians access to patient data and making it available when and where they need it.

The healthcare-specific low-code tools accelerate the development process compared to standard development tools.

With the help of a drag-and-drop UI, no coding is needed, allowing clinicians to have the applications made to their wishes.

A clinical portal and a design system truly reflect our mission of simplifying the work of healthcare professionals, and it is a continuous effort by the Better teams to create a unified experience across different products and tools.

Having recently been named a Representative Vendor in the 2022 Gartner Market Guide for Digital Health Platforms, we believe that our innovative approach to healthcare data and technology is changing the game and making healthcare more accessible and patient centred.

We are thrilled to be recognised for our efforts and look forward to continuing to push the boundaries of what’s possible in digital health.

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