As the healthcare industry continues to gain unprecedented demand, so does healthcare software development and the many technologies associated with it. With cloud support services now more accessible and affordable than ever before, developing the right kind of software for any business need is now conveniently possible – no matter how unique. Of course, complexities abound even in the simplest of projects; further reinforcement towards the importance of having the right software development team by your side, that can intelligently strategize and scale, every step of the way.
With more emphasis now being made on automated systems and self-service, the healthcare industry is also replete with such solutions (think patient information kiosks which offer a variety of services, such as e-forms and lab test inquiries). Leading software outsourcing agencies that specialize in building products specifically for healthcare establishments and other related sectors such as pharmaceuticals offer scalable solutions that go beyond being solely cloud-based; they are flexible enough to even cater to on-premise and hybrid environments, should the situation ever require.
Vast and interconnected, the healthcare industry consists of numerous components. Integrating all of these such that data transfers are seamless and all silos are eliminated will determine the overall performance of the software in question – in turn determining whether it is reliable and worthwhile for further investment, after all. AI, machine learning, and workflow automation are other facets that can further improve performance, by making your applications more intelligent and intuitive.
The best software development companies also offer complete AI model building services, comprising everything from training to operationalization. As much as the latest advancements in technology can transform how any industry (let alone healthcare) operates and interacts with its customers, it’s useful to be aware of the basics. Here, we outline the essential components of any healthcare institution. As a natural course of events, the many applications built for the healthcare industry to date have also revolved around these very components.
On a macro level, medical practice management comprises all functions that a typical healthcare facility (be it a small family-run clinic or a chain of hospitals) will require. Depending on the size of the business and the specialties offered, the components used will vary. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of functions by any means, here are some of the most crucial.
Being the centre of focus for healthcare institutions, maintaining accurate and up-to-date patient profiles ensures all staff members have access to the right data anytime, and from anywhere. This includes all data pertaining to the patient during every step of treatment – right from the time an appointment is made, and all the way to discharge. To take things a step further, treatment planning can also be combined as part of the system, to discuss post-discharge treatment options and future consultations for following up on recovery.
Other functionalities of patient management include Transition Care Management (TCM), which ensures every detail pertaining to a patient’s move from one facility to another is recorded and is compliant with relevant regulatory bodies. Patient education tools also fall under the wing of patient management, thereby providing staff members with all the resources they need to take care of patients without having to toggle between multiple applications.
Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) and medical billing
Being able to settle customers’ claims with government or private insurance providers is the cornerstone of a healthcare facility that is financially stable. Settling insurance claims on time can ensure smooth cash flow which can then account for expenditures, therefore maintaining balanced receivables and payables within your clinic’s operation. Revenue cycle management, therefore, coordinates closely with both state and private plan providers to verify patients’ credibility, validate documents, comply with regulatory bodies, and transfer funds.
Being a vital part of any facility that offers healthcare services, revenue cycle management goes beyond regular billing services. While medical billing focuses on filing insurance claims on behalf of patients and then following up on them, RCM additionally focuses on other aspects such as dealing with extra stakeholders (drug and equipment suppliers, for instance) and even analyzing the overall financial position of your healthcare operation.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Although EHRs are usually integrated with all-encompassing medical practice management applications these days, it is worth an exclusive mention. EHRs profile patient information such as medical history, diagnosis, laboratory results, and treatment plans into one centralized environment, so every healthcare professional has access to the latest information. Other capabilities such as medical charting are also integrated with EHR systems, to record other key information such as allergies, medications, and ailments.
As its name suggests, eRX handles digital prescriptions. Automatically fulfill any prescription by transferring it to a relevant pharmacy. Refills can also be processed in the same way, thereby eliminating the need to contact a pharmacy for repeat restocking of medicines. Scanned copies of handwritten, physical prescriptions can also be uploaded, with automatic text capture then transcribing contents for fulfilment.
The eRX system is one of many key capabilities which online pharmacy retailers depend on. By uploading a scanned copy of your prescription or by having an e-prescription directly forwarded by a member healthcare facility, online pharmacy retailers are now part of a highly competitive eCommerce niche that fulfils any medical prescription, with some retailers also offering a contactless delivery right to customers’ doorsteps.
Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)
From maintaining up-to-date databases of patients and samples to standardizing workflows for tests, laboratory management software ensures all processes taking place herein are done in a controlled and compliant environment. While laboratory management systems may be required at full scale for healthcare establishments that have a functioning laboratory within their premises, smaller clinics may only need a fraction of the total scope that a LIMS provides. For example, only test ordering and case tracking should suffice for a small clinic that is run by a specialist and a few staff members that cater to only a handful of patients each day.
On the other hand, independent laboratories need a full-scope LIMS in order to carry out essential tasks, while also requiring robust integration capabilities to connect with various stakeholders that use their services, such as hospitals and other industrial facilities which require biochemical tests carried out for commercial purposes. LIMS products also have other software such as Enterprise Content Management (ECM) blended in, so documents can be maintained centrally, retrievals are efficient and all workflows take place in a compliant manner.
With the healthcare industry garnering much demand year on year, facilities and staff are inundated with cases round the clock. The fast proliferation of digital technologies can offer some much needed support, by providing applications that can cater to patients while automating many regular workflows at the same time. Telemedicine is one such advancement. Via a simple mobile app, patients can book appointments and consult doctors over a video call from the comfort of their own home – or anywhere, for that matter. Being able to connect with specialists remotely is especially beneficial for first-time concerns that are less critical, while further follow-ups and examinations can be recommended by doctors if ever required.
Remote patient monitoring is another boon for healthcare, as those undergoing care in remote facilities or even their own homes can be stringently monitored through equipment that can transfer data to a central location i.e. to doctors and other staff that are tasked with the responsibility of monitoring said, patients. Edge computing and IoT have further spearheaded this trend, as smart devices of this nature are able to function more autonomously; by being able to process data locally, smart devices can regulate outputs as required, thereby requiring little manual intervention.
Although more inclined toward the pharmaceutical industry, drug discovery and analysis still bears ties with healthcare in a multitude of ways. Once again, as AI and ML are used to connect the dots between different drugs and ailing patients, vast repositories of data from healthcare institutions are invaluable for such an endeavor. Combined with LIMS, drug discovery systems are a powerhouse of vital information pertaining to which drugs are most effective for treating different ailments, thereby casting much influence on the future of healthcare overall.
Just like any other department or category, healthcare can also make the most of data-driven analytics, workflow automation, and AI/ML to streamline operations for higher productivity and cost savings. Business intelligence software today offers a variety of analytics tools to make sense of vast amounts of raw data i.e., big data, while also being able to forecast trends through predictive analytics. By amalgamating AI and ML into this mix, models can be built, trained, and operationalized to offer algorithms that are scalable as they are intuitive. Take AI and MLOps a step further by integrating data processing systems that can ensure complete accuracy and integrity of your data, by conducting regular clean-ups, maintaining model histories as well as detecting problem areas within datasets that may be hampering the quality of results.
Workflow automation has also come a long way from simply configuring custom rules and policies in a back-end environment. Here again, AI and big data can be utilised to determine trends in the various processes taking place within healthcare institutions, to create recommendations for staff as they collaborate within a centralised workspace. Automating common, predictable, and/or monotonous processes can further amplify overall productivity, as staff are now free from spending significant amounts of their time on administrative tasks – and are now able to offer more of their attention to areas that really need it.
The healthcare industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries, owing to the high level of accountability required when dealing with patient health and wellbeing. Depending on where a healthcare establishment operates, the specialties it offers, and the level of care administered, rules from varying regulatory bodies may apply. This can also be on a state and federal level, which may also additionally include regulations for other non-medical yet crucial departments such as finance, equipment maintenance, and staff management.
While some medical practice management systems are readily integrated with compliance management capabilities that can effectively monitor whether all recorded processes are within the bounds of regulatory bodies, it is always a good idea to discuss whether the necessary compliance tools are available with vendors, well before purchasing a new product or upgrading an existing one. In case the full scope of compliance management that is required by your healthcare facility cannot be fulfilled by the vendor in question, you can either seek third-party compliance management solutions which can then be integrated, or refer to a new vendor altogether.
The industry of healthcare is an indispensable one, and augmenting its many deliverables is something that can be done with the right digital tools and technologies. Whether it’s using a custom-developed system or depending on something proprietary such as Salesforce Service Cloud, the possibilities for maintaining a smoothly functioning healthcare business are practically endless.
On the other hand, if you or your software development agency are an AWS partner, the potential to incorporate advanced technologies such as AI and ML are within reach. From workflow automation to predictive analytics, strategically built and trained models can be a worthwhile investment that can enable your business to scale in the interest of future growth, as and how required.
While medical practice management solutions aim to emulate the daily workflows that healthcare staff need to adhere to on any given day, other components such as laboratory management and drug discovery further offer greater centralization of data and valuable insight when it comes to making key decisions around drug efficacy, laboratory results and overall patient well being.
Just like any other software, ensuring your healthcare facility has the right tools to enable your various teams all boils down to knowing what your unique requirements are, and maintaining a lasting partnership with a vendor you can trust.