Software solutions for healthcare have skyrocketed both in terms of demand and delivery, owing to a bunch of very strong reasons. The past two years have been particularly crucial for custom software solutions, as every software development company such as EFutures has worked to adapt with rapid and often unpredictable changes due to in-flux environments. The healthcare industry was one of the first to experience such flux, as hospitals were brought under pressure to scale up their efforts and resources to cater to various regulations set by governments, across the world. Add to this the inconvenience caused to everyday patients who depended on healthcare establishments to obtain vital medical treatment; multiple crucial factors converging to create a situation that needed reliable solutions, and fast.
Software outsourcing in Sri Lanka was replete with projects that catered to multiple unique healthcare software requirements, from local and international businesses alike. From eRX solutions to telemedicine, businesses that served healthcare solutions were focused on maintaining business continuity, especially in the wake of competitors who were also vying for customers’ attention. EFutures healthcare software solutions, for instance, were fuelled by cloud support services, especially by being a dedicated AWS partner. By sustaining long-term partnerships with a leading cloud service provider, sourcing virtual infrastructure becomes easy, flexible and feasible – a system that still serves well, and is mainstream for the very same positive reasons.
In this article, we cover the various ins and outs of healthcare software, what different components mean, and how the right combination of tools can optimise performance, while reducing costs at the same time. Albeit having many working parts involved, the below information will be a good starting point for business owners and leaders who need to build a set of healthcare applications for the very first time – or reminders of key details for those who are looking to get an upgrade done to an existing healthcare system.
Medical practice management solutions are one of the first (and most important) components of healthcare-related software, as they enable healthcare staff to manage patients effectively. From scheduling appointments and generating patient reminders, to conducting treatment and discharge planning, medical practice management systems enable control and supervision of every patient – from the moment they enter your office, to when they finally leave after multiple rounds of treatments. Other capabilities include Transition Care Management (TCM) and patient referral management, which require collaboration with other healthcare providers for patients that need to be transferred or recommended to a specialist, elsewhere.
Although both terms are used interchangeably, EMRs and EHRs have differences that make them distinct from one another. EMRs are digitised versions of patient charts that are filled by healthcare personnel, during a patient’s consultation. EHRs, on the other hand, can be a collection of EMRs that can be shared among multiple healthcare providers. With the typical patient consulting multiple specialists for diagnosing an ailment, using EMRs in collaboration with EHRs can offer streamlined workflows for healthcare establishments – while saving considerable amounts of waiting time, errors and even money for patients in the process.
Data is now also gathered via the simplest interactions – from health apps and smart devices (such as smartwatches) to appointment bookings. By centralising a patient’s medical history and past interactions, healthcare providers will be able to obtain the added context they need to diagnose ailments more accurately, in addition to learning patient preferences, such as a preferred mode of communication.
Again, medical billing and RCM have certain characteristics that distinguish the two components. For one, medical billing software manages patient invoices, while focusing on accounts receivable and payable to ensure every bill that is paid has a system in place to process and realise it. RCM solutions go beyond medical billing, by being responsible for more financial operations of an administrative nature. Medical billing is typically one out of the many components which constitute RCM software, since bills that are generated and settled are also part of the entire RCM process.
On average, RCM begins to play its role from the initial stages of patient consultation, when a patient’s insurance status needs to be verified prior to any treatments being approved for administration. AS RCM solutions help facilitate insurance status verification, your healthcare establishment will be able to determine whether your patient will be able to eventually settle their dues or not – as opposed to learning about any obstacles well after the treatment has concluded. This can help your healthcare team address any payment problems well ahead in the process, and thereby mitigate the possibility of lengthy outstanding dues.
Although telemedicine and online consultation systems were prevalent before the onset of COVID-19, they increased in popularity due to many people being locked in their homes. Consultations for minor ailments with a general physician were greatly streamlined thanks to telemedicine, and still continue to be a means of convenient consultation for patients – no matter where they are located. Psychotherapy sessions have especially made the most of the advantages that telemedicine offers; therapists were able to connect with their patients even in the height of the pandemic, thereby continuing their practice, and offering uninterrupted access to their services, to patients.
Prescription management or eRX features a digitised version of otherwise paper-based medical prescriptions – but goes beyond simply offering a soft copy. eRX solutions offer an end-to-end fulfilment system, which facilitates the purchase and delivery of said prescription to the patient. Electronic prescriptions start their journey from the doctor’s office, as they are prepared following necessary diagnosis and consultation. Pharmacy management systems that are integrated with the practice management system at hand can then enable a document transfer, which in turn, can be fulfilled by the pharmacy for pick-up or delivery.
Many leading hospitals have capitalised on the powerhouse of capabilities that can be obtained by combining eRX with pharmacy management systems; proprietary prescription fulfilment apps are the result, giving users the ability to simply upload their prescriptions (even paper-based ones) for fulfilment and contactless delivery. Similar to telemedicine, eRX has facilitated uninterrupted access to vital medicines for patients amidst lockdowns induced by COVID-19, while also creating business continuity for the pharmacies that have operated in such a restrictive environment.
Automating diagnostics with technologies such as AI has massively benefited laboratories, since many lab tests can be processed without any manual intervention. While this significantly minimises the chances of errors, it also frees staff to focus on tasks that require their strategic and analytical attention. Imaging that is conducted for medical diagnosis purposes can also be powered with AI, to render high-resolution, pixel-based images for final diagnosis.
As big data further powers AI, algorithms can be trained to detect patterns and even make intelligent predictions. A good example is when a lab test is being processed, whereupon certain results can be used by diagnostic algorithms to predict possible ailments, to further aid clinicians as they try to offer a final diagnosis.
Medical R&D is a vital component for the healthcare industry, when it comes to formulating newer, better medicines that are effective yet affordable. Clinical trial management is a key capability of any medical R&D component, which facilitates all aspects of a trial process, such as capturing patient data, randomisation and consents. Furthermore, a variety of statistical analysis tools enable concise interpretations of data; infusion of AI and machine learning can also augment intelligent recommendations, so that medical researchers get a holistic view of the trial they are executing.
This is the greatest advantage by far; while staff are freed from running repetitive tasks around the office, the chance of manual errors are also drastically reduced. By configuring policies from an admin console, senior staff can control who has access to what kind of data, and how much. On top of that, all tasks can be supervised at a glance, through interactive dashboards.
With healthcare staff having less administrative functions to attend to, costs can be significantly reduced as staff productivity is elevated to an optimum level. RCM can further optimise cost-effectiveness, thanks to patient insurance verifications that are done well ahead of time.
With mobile apps offering self-service to users across numerous industries, healthcare is no exception. Telemedicine and eRX are two such examples, as patients can now access crucial services at their fingertips, without having to depend on an in-person visit to the doctor’s office.
Healthcare establishments of every niche and size are bound to have big data repositories at some point, as an increasingly digital landscape enables data from even the smallest of interactions to be logged. Making sense of otherwise raw big data can reveal valuable insights for healthcare organisations, in order to make wiser decisions for the future.
Identifying patterns and forecasting are some of the key reasons why organisations adopt AI and machine learning. Big data gathered by healthcare establishments can also be put to the same use, following relevant curation and bot training, to make results accurate with every iteration. Images gathered from diagnostics tools can also be inspected with computer vision, to detect potential ailments and subsequently offer intelligent predictions to healthcare staff.
Superimposing 3D holographic images through augmented reality in due course of surgery is an innovation that is being considered, and is still in the works. This way, doctors are able to keep all eyes on the patient and exercise greater freedom to move around the patient as well, as opposed to constantly referring to a screen for imagery.
With IoT, remote diagnostics have become a possibility as healthcare professionals are able to monitor vital statistics of patients, as they recuperate in the comfort of their own homes. Staff can then offer home nurses or patients themselves advice and guidance on numerous issues that may not require an in-person session.
Ask several team members questions around existing problems and bottlenecks, to gather feedback on what’s truly missing in your current system. Collate these findings into a brief, which will then serve as the main point of reference for your software developer/vendor.
Focus on the problems and bottlenecks highlighted in your brief, when having discussions with your software developer/vendor. Are the solutions suggested going to solve your existing problems, without breaking the bank? Once this is addressed, your team is ready to start building a custom healthcare software for your business and its unique requirements.
Although it may be tempting to build an intricate application in the first go, it is ideally more resourceful to start with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This will reduce the time it takes to finally implement your system, be more affordable and will also lessen the learning curve for staff – since only the most essential functionalities would have made it into the first cut. Upgrading the system can be done based on user feedback and bug reports, so your application only harbours features and functionalities which are useful for meeting the unique objectives of your healthcare organisation.
Healthcare software development can be an intricate endeavour, owing to various specialties involved along such an expansive field of expertise. Being aware of the problems that plague your healthcare organisation, as well as the trends and technologies surrounding the industry can pave the way towards building software that is patient-centric, yet feasible and scalable.