Healthcare software development has skyrocketed for many reasons, as the healthcare industry works in overdrive to fulfil patient needs and advance medical research. With cloud support services fuelling the trend towards healthcare software outsourcing, cloud-based systems are now the norm, with software carefully customised to meet unique business requirements. As cloud-based collaboration and infrastructure make it possible for healthcare providers and software development companies to build tailor-made products while being halfway around the world, the trends shaping healthcare further augment the performance quotient of such applications.
From AI to IoT, software developers are constantly being challenged to build products that not only align with their clients’ objectives, but also adopt the latest technology innovations so goals are met in a competitive yet sustainable manner. Healthcare CX is one such example, where utilising AI and machine learning to train virtual assistants offers autonomous service to customers for common queries, thereby freeing up staff for more pressing tasks around the workplace. The industry of healthcare software development in Sri Lanka is no exception, as partnerships with leading cloud service providers (such as being an official AWS partner, for example) are facilitators of custom applications that are industry-specific, or based on achieving specialised business objectives.
With the healthcare industry being one of the first to deploy the most up-to-date technology innovations, it is useful to know about the many components which comprise the software systems that hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other related establishments use. If you run a healthcare business or are responsible for managing the daily operations that take place inside one, what your organisation needs will be the result of a unique mix between your overall objectives, as well as which medical fields you may specialise in.
Here is a list of some of the most important types of healthcare software. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it is a good indicator of what is available, and what may suit your particular business needs. On top of that, a quick guide on how to build custom healthcare software that is performant, relevant and scalable to your business is also included.
A medical practice management system is an all-round system which handles a variety of functions that are required for the smooth functioning of any healthcare establishment. With streamlining and automating workflows being one of the key goals of medical practice management, these solutions can either be one monolithic application, or an integration of multiple components, especially from different departments. Medical practice systems facilitate the smooth flow of patients into and out of your hospital or clinic, by recording appointments, sending reminders via email or SMS, as well as managing waitlists (if any).
Patient management is further taken care of on a more holistic level, as overall treatment and discharge planning is also handled by the medical practice system. Through workflow automation, many common and repetitive tasks can be done without manual intervention, thereby allowing staff to focus on more challenging responsibilities, while reducing errors. Many enterprise healthcare software vendors offer an end-to-end medical practice system which can be implemented without any dependence on external software.
However, if your organisation is already reliant on certain third-party components, these can be integrated to a new system in order to retain the familiarity and convenience that your staff may prefer – something which custom healthcare software can accommodate together with your software vendor, and your software development company.
Medical billing software, as its name suggests, focuses on all aspects pertaining to billing customers for services rendered, while coordinating with insurance companies to facilitate claims. RCM takes this a step further by integrating with other inter-departmental systems such as medical imaging and medical database systems, to allow additional context into payments that are due. RCM also offers stringent analytics and reporting, so your organisation can determine the health of its accounts receivables, while addressing any gaps that may be revealed in due course of reporting.
Both medical billing and RCM begin their operations from as early as the patient registration stage, which is when insurance eligibility is verified. As the patient progresses through the healthcare system, RCM systems then combine a variety of data from other inter-departmental components such as appointments, diagnoses, treatments and discharge, for timely follow-up on payments – while observing key insights that are generated by these engagements.
EMR and EHR systems both offer sources of vital patient information, but with certain key differences. While EMRs offer electronic versions of medical charts, EHRs focus on collating overall patient health information from multiple sources. Nonetheless, both applications are collaboratively used to create a comprehensive database of patient information, together with integrations from other inter-departmental components such as medical imaging and pharmacy management to ensure that a single, centralised repository is the source of all patient information.
This also offers the advantage to establish version control, which means that multiple staff members can work on one document at the same time, without having to worry about outdated versions, and while maintaining accountability for every version that is logged on a real-time basis. Another advantage lies in centralising patient data from multiple sources, including schools, offices and households, so that any silos are eliminated and no vital facts are overlooked as doctors diagnose patients – even though they may have had long histories with other healthcare providers.
LIMS systems capture, store and curate all forms of data generated by laboratories into a unified and centralised system that is accessible by staff members throughout the laboratory department, as well as the entire organisation. LIMS solutions also aid in analytics with the databases that are maintained, while also contributing to audits and compliance routines from relevant regulatory bodies. Sample management is one core feature, however, as it entails correctly recording the numerous details of a sample that is gathered, including where it is stored.
Combined with instrument control, certain laboratory equipment can be configured to function autonomously, so test processing can be automatically done, as results are forwarded to relevant parties accordingly. Again, this reduces the margin of error, while streamlining staff duties to instead focus on tasks which require more of their strategic attention. With LIMS solutions paying deep emphasis to the integrity of all data generated by a laboratory, many data and document management capabilities are also included.
Electronic forms are a popular feature, as both staff and patients need not depend on paper to share information, and enter it manually into the system. With Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems now more advanced thanks to AI-powered computer vision technology, manually composed documentation can still be accurately captured, thereby further reducing manual work. Combined with other capabilities such as file sharing, classification and e-signatures, data and document management ensures no data falls through the cracks, while ensuring quick turnarounds.
Medical imaging and processing systems help healthcare professionals understand and diagnose scans better, with tools such as 3D modelling, measurements and anatomical segmentation based on AI and machine learning. Digital imaging capabilities such as cropping and filtering help render images of a higher resolution, so doctors have a clearer view of scans during diagnosis. Modelling based on 3D technology can significantly also help with other uses. This includes, but isn’t limited to 3D printing models, or combining other 3D images with scans (such as that of medical devices) to gauge placement and positioning, prior to surgery.
Pharmacy management software runs all operations for any service that dispenses medications based on prescriptions from a healthcare professional, with supplementary functions such as pick-up and delivery. Just like any other information management system, pharmacy management applications also benefit from virtualized document systems, with e-forms and e-prescriptions that can be shared between doctors and pharmacists, for accurate and punctual fulfilment.
With e-commerce and online shopping now being popular for fulfilling medical prescriptions as well, virtual documents make the entire supply chain (from initial prescription to final delivery) better streamlined. On top of that, prescriptions which need to be regularly replenished can be done so automatically, by simply informing your pharmacist or by selecting an option online. This way, no medications are missed, and all prescription fulfilments happen on time.
CX for the healthcare industry is specialised to attend to services that are unique to the needs of hospitals, clinics and their patients. Implement easy and quick self-service for patients and visitors, to schedule doctors’ appointments or to check the status of health insurance claims. In fact, capabilities such as conversational AI can further improve interactions, as trained algorithms can offer intelligent recommendations based on context (such as need, urgency and even mood).
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solutions are just as viable for attending to the customers of healthcare establishments, as a centralised platform is now available for service teams to engage with customers across any channel, without having to toggle between multiple applications. For example, Salesforce service cloud offers all these capabilities, so that customers can rely on assistance that is precise yet doesn’t cause any downtime.
In order to understand which features and capabilities need to be incorporated into your custom healthcare software, you and your business teams first need to know which problems and shortcomings exist. Start by gathering relevant team members (including end users of the system) to discuss the problems and bottlenecks being faced. By collating these findings into a brief, your assessment can then be shared with your software development team. This will serve as the main point of reference, and eventually help determine which capabilities and technologies need to be included in the final system.
By focusing on an MVP, only the most important features will make it into the first release of the software. This thereby takes pressure off of software development teams, and instead allows them to focus on the core capabilities of the software. Software can be released sooner this way, and will be simpler to use for staff. By reducing complexity as well as the learning curve, MVPs are great stepping stones for building more intricate products in the long-term, as features are incrementally layered in order to build something which truly meets requirements – as opposed to beginning with a long list of functionalities out of which only a few are eventually used.
Iterate as you go.
After implementation and initial use, feedback from users and customers can then be used to upgrade the software, so that successive iterations are data-driven and based on real-life preferences. By gradually accumulating features with every upgrade, your healthcare software will only consist of what is essential, thereby making it productive yet cost-efficient at the same time (since resources for unnecessary features won’t be utilised).
The healthcare industry is replete with complex functions between healthcare establishments, insurance companies, laboratories and a whole host of institutions that help facilitate medical treatments for the public at large. Healthcare software, as a result, needs to accommodate all these functions so that timely treatment is provided to patients, while being mindful of costs and legal compliance. Building a custom healthcare solution requires stringent business assessments before development begins, so the software is aligned with the many objectives pertaining to the healthcare organisation.
Numerous components entail the typical healthcare software, from niche ones such as electronic medical records to a more holistic medical practice solution. However, the movement and management of data are paramount irrespective of software type, since the accuracy and integrity of data will subsequently determine the quality of results from analytics tools, laboratory tests, clinical trials or any other endeavour. Telemedicine and online prescription fulfilment is also gaining momentum, as patients utilise healthcare services as and when they need it – signalling great demand and potential, in turn.