Despite the immense size of the global healthcare market, the sector is under enormous pressure to keep up with continued technological advancement.
Healthcare industries worldwide have needed to expand and upgrade their capabilities and services to keep pace with the pressures of digital transformation, demographic factors including an ageing world population, and increased patient expectations, along with a growing trend of disruptive innovations from VC-backed startups in the healthcare technology space.
However, many healthcare providers must accomplish this against a backdrop of staffing shortages, outdated technological infrastructure and increasingly scarce organisational resources.
In recent years, we have seen the emergence of low-code and no-code platforms in general and to a lesser extent within the healthcare space, offering healthcare providers and organisations a way to significantly improve both their services and clinical outcomes and streamline outdated processes, without the huge financial and resource investment required to develop new technological solutions from scratch.
That said, how can healthcare organisations incorporate low-code/no-code technologies into their own digital transformations, ensuring they continue to improve patient and clinical outcomes while remaining efficient and cost effective?
Low-code and no-code development
Put simply, low-code/no-code development is the process of creating software and applications with no or minimal levels of coding. It is, primarily, a visual approach to development using drag-and-drop tools, visual modelling and graphical user interfaces that allow those with little to no experience with coding to create powerful applications and solutions through pre-built components, templates and modules.
This style of software and application development clearly offers immense benefits to a wide range of industries, particularly as the need for digital technology solutions continues to advance. Gartner have already predicted an increase in the worldwide market for low-code development technologies, with projections totalling US$26.9bn by the end of 2023, and it is clear to see why.
Modern, data-driven organisations are able to quickly and effectively build custom applications and software solutions that meet their particular needs, without the prerequisite of detailed coding knowledge.
Applied to the healthcare industry, low-code/no-code development is set to truly revolutionise the way the sector operates. Leveraging these platforms allows healthcare organisations worldwide to deliver better care, reduce their overhead costs, and keep pace with an increasingly tech-driven world.
Reduced development time and cost
One of the immediately apparent benefits of low-code/no-code platforms is the significantly reduced barrier to entry. The user-friendly approach of these platforms means more people within the healthcare industry can participate in the creation of software and applications, helping to drive innovation and at pace.
Healthcare organisations are no longer forced into a situation where they must hire expensive developers and coders. Instead, those who are essentially on the ground floor and intimately acquainted with what is needed from software and applications can directly develop these technologies using pre-built components and templates, making it easier than ever for medical personnel to leverage the tools they need to deliver results.
Furthermore, low-code/no-code platforms can dramatically slash both development costs and resource investment, making it one of the most cost-effective ways for healthcare organisations to build core applications. Take the example of an electronic medical records platform [EMR] – a platform used by 93% of OECD countries – one 2022 study found that on average, healthcare providers can expect to pay $1,200 per year per user for an out-of-the-box EMR system.
Combine this with maintenance costs and additional fees associated with patient portal access or lab integration, and these costs quickly add up for even small-to-medium organisations.
Many healthcare organisations, therefore, are beginning to see the value in creating their own custom systems. What might traditionally take weeks or months to build and implement can instead be created in just a few days, at a fraction of the cost.
Alongside development time, these platforms also significantly improve and simplify deployment. Traditional development means that maintenance, updates and other fixes often result in large amounts of downtime.
Putting aside the financial cost of downtime in the healthcare sector – which ranges on average between $5,300 to $9,000 per minute – there are risks of compromised data, reduced patient safety, and overall damage to reputation.
Ultimately, utilising low-code/no-code platforms means organisations can provide continuous operations without compromising on productivity or safety.
Improved operational efficiency and interoperability
The healthcare industry is replete with day-to-day tasks that require consistent iteration testing and accurate, precise documentation, and therefore need robust data management processes if they are to be done efficiently and effectively – with a prime example being clinical or drug trials.
Low-code/no-code development offers a way to significantly speed up various clinical testing by allowing the seamless automation of often complex documentation and analysis, while reducing errors and redundancies by replacing manual processes with automated workflows.
The scope for improved data management is immense, with many low-code/no-code platforms coming with templates and forms that help to streamline data collection, processing and analysis, and empower healthcare providers to make accurate, data-driven decisions that improve both operational efficiencies and crucially, patient outcomes.
Furthermore, these platforms create an environment that supports data integration and interoperability to share and exchange data across systems, including healthcare applications, EMRs and remote monitoring tools.
This is of particular importance, as healthcare is a complex area often involving multiple organisations, each with their own particular data formats and systems.
With low-code/no-code platforms often using standardised components that adhere to the regulatory landscape, it becomes much easier for organisations to create core clinical systems that enable the seamless exchange of information across various healthcare organisations.
This is key to not only the efficacy of digital healthcare solutions, but also to the adoption rates and clinical outcomes of such technologies.
Positive user experience and engagement
Patients increasingly expect a modern experience from their healthcare providers, especially when it comes to their digital experience.
Low-code/no-code platforms have truly revolutionised what is possible from a patient perspective.
By allowing the creation of custom software and applications, healthcare provider can offer increasingly personalised care, fully integrated with EMRs.
Patients are able to receive tailored health information and updates, request and schedule appointments and more from a single patient portal, with additional features and functionality easily integrated in line with the needs of a specific organisation.
Not only does this help to improve the patient experience and open clear lines of communication with care teams, but also provides higher levels of patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.
The user-friendly, intuitive approach of these systems does not only benefit patients, but clinicians and healthcare professionals, too.
A recent report demonstrated that one of the main barriers to the integration of otherwise promising digital solutions was a lack of clinical engagement.
The accessibility of low-code/no-code platforms enable healthcare professionals to be engaged in and to quickly adopt the development of the digital solutions they will use, making it possible for them to use their unique insight to create truly valuable and innovative solutions to the problems faced by the healthcare industry.
Healthcare organisations are under increasing pressure to keep up with the digital transformations we are seeing in other industries worldwide. Given the complex needs of the healthcare industry and the lack of resources faced by many organisations, creating digital solutions with traditional approaches to software development poses an extremely difficult challenge.
Low-code/no-code platforms offer a transparent, user-friendly solution, allowing healthcare professionals to build the tools they need to do their jobs, without the need of coding knowledge or experience. These powerful platforms allow organisations to streamline workflows, integrate and automate complex processes, and vitally, deliver better outcomes for patients in an increasingly digital world.
Shameem C Hameed is founder and CEO of blueBriX.
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