After whooping $29.3 billion the healthcare industry startups gained for funding in 2021, 2022 became a reminder that, while necessity (read: the COVID-19 pandemic) drives the innovation – and investment, – that period, is often followed by decline. In 2022, healthcare startups didn’t gain even half of the last year’s funding, attracting only $15.3 billion.
Don’t take it as a discouragement and a reason to not start or continue building your digital health solution, though. Digital health tech is still needed and wanted: only now, the demands for quality and proven value for patients and institutions startups are wanting to sell to will drive the market and investments.
Source: Rock Health
So, in 2023, the solutions for digital transformation you’re offering to healthcare organizations or individuals have to be rooted in understanding what those really need. In this article, we’ll talk about the specifics of digital transformation in healthcare and the technologies that the industry will continue to adopt through this year. We’ll also highlight the most crucial aspects to pay attention to when building digital health apps.
Why Healthcare Digitalization Is Important
The digital transformation in healthcare has been slow. The pace of adoption began to pick up only three years ago — when the pandemic hit. Before that, hospital stakeholders, for the most part, have been reluctant to adopt ‘fancy tech.’ After, technologies like remote patient monitoring systems and telemedicine received a chance to prove themselves in rather dire circumstances.
Part of the reason for this past hesitation is that adoption of new technology for a hospital — even if it’s just updating PCs’ operational systems — puts a strain on the entire system hospital operates under. That might result in consequences for patient care. (Ransomware cyberattacks on hospitals are so dangerous exactly because of that: with a virus closing up a patient’s health info within encryption, there’s no way to provide care safely.)
Consequently, software that wasn’t designed around easy adoption, security, and healthcare regulations brought more risks of disruptions than benefits in stakeholders’ minds.
Apart from that, solutions like patient portals often weren’t designed around doctors’ or patients’ needs and lacked the features they truly wanted to use (like scheduling appointments or viewing their patient data). The retention rates for these were quite low.
The pandemic, of course, forced stakeholders to reconsider their approach. Digital health solutions became the only way some people could receive medical help. It occurred that they hold immense potential if implemented with caution and care.
For healthcare organizations, digital transformation:
- Makes care delivery more timely & precise
- Enhances capabilities for patients’ health monitoring
- Introduces new methods of patient-doctor communication & collaboration
- Reduces the time hospital employees spend on routine tasks – saves time and money
- Helps secure sensitive patient data.
In other words, digital transformation in healthcare leads to the rise of more accessible and effective ways to provide care services. It also significantly cuts the cost of healthcare both for patients and doctors and provides opportunities to protect patients’ personal information better.
Technology Trends to Use in Health App Development
Cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented reality (AR), and other technologies that are already widely utilized in other industries like travel and entertainment have demonstrated their huge potential within healthcare, too. Let’s talk more about these healthcare mobile apps trends that can be useful for medical professionals in 2023.
Wearable Devices with Integrated Apps
Wearable technology has already gone beyond step tracking or pulse measuring — now, wearables can be integrated with the system of electronic health records (EHR). It helps healthcare providers to observe patients’ health metrics remotely to generate health projections and forecasts, detect anomalies, and alert patients’ physicians if something is going sideways. Wearables also have the potential to be effective in detecting early-stage symptoms of diseases — for instance, symptoms of coronavirus.
Researchers can analyze data provided via wearables to find new underlying patterns in the disease’s progression and ways to detect them. Plus, wearables are a part of the Internet of Things ecosystems within healthcare. We’ll talk about data analytics and IoT in clinical settings a bit later.
Telemedicine for Virtual Visits
Since the start of the pandemic, telemedicine has gained in popularity because in-person appointments have been risky.
In the past, telemedicine was considered any technology that enabled providing medical care remotely, e.g. via telephone. Right now, phone calls are still a thing, but the term mostly covers mHealth apps that have video conferencing features or chats for at-home remote consultations with doctors.
Telemedicine is not a solution for urgent medical needs such as wounds, broken bones, or heart attacks. But as a doctor on-demand service, it majorly helps diagnose a disease and figure out a treatment for it or conduct pre-visit screenings. Telemedicine is also widely used for senior-focused care, mental health, and chronic conditions care services.
Telemedicine solutions are not complicated in development and integration. They help provide care for underserved people who don’t have the means for transportation or insurance – and people who want to save time and get help quickly. Many companies in the niche offer one-time payment consultations and affordable subscription options — that’s valuable for those who struggle with money, live in rural areas, or constantly postpone getting appropriate medical care.
Software for Hospital & Patient Management
While the Affordable Care Act incentivized innovation within healthcare to lower the cost of its services in 2010, the adoption of digital systems for industry providers mostly dragged until 2020. Right now, the situation is on another level — and there are three types of software hospitals install.
Electronic Health Records systems. EHRs allow doctors instant access to a patient’s medical records, test results, X-ray scans, etc. and it stores all of these. Nowadays, EHRs can also contain conversational AI that “listens” to what’s happening during an appointment and takes notes instead of a doctor. A clinical decision support system (CDS), as another feature, shows charts about patients’ health trends, helps figure out appropriate prescriptions by analyzing symptoms against existing protocols, and, if enabled with ML predictive algorithms, forecasts the development of the disease. Most often, hospitals – at least, in America, – integrate with athenahealth, Cerner, Epic, or other popular large and popular systems, but for small clinics who don’t have resources to integrate with market giants, small EHR vendors or in-house development of one’s own EHR makes sense as well.
Practice management. Practice management software is also tightly connected to EHRs and usually linked with a patient portal. Doctors use it to manage their schedules, cancellations, and appointments, chat with patients, create and manage treatment plans, etc. Some practice management platforms also offer financial reporting, claims processing, and analytics.
Billing systems. Medical staff use billing systems to deal with the financial side of providing care services. They automate revenue cycle management: help administrative staff check patients’ insurance, send out claims and optimize them for payers, and detect errors within these claims. Revenue cycle solutions, if built and integrated right, save clinicians a lot of money. They reduce the number of errors via automation and multiple checks and, therefore, the number of denied and rejected claims by the payer.
The functionality of these hospital management solutions can overlap — and it does, in many products that exist on the market. Automated claim processing is often integrated within practice management suits, practice management suits can store and enable management of EHR, etc. The main thing about building a successful solution for hospital management is human-centered design. It should be invisible in the doctors’ workflow and enable their practice instead of taking their time and attention away from patient care.
Cloud Computing Technology
The healthcare industry adopts cloud technology at scale. It is explained by privacy and security concerns and opportunities for interoperability cloud services provide. The healthcare cloud computing market’s size is projected to reach $64.7 billion by 2025.
Here are a few advantages of cloud-based applications in healthcare:
Cost-efficiency. Delivery of on-demand cloud services online is more affordable than maintaining physical servers. Organizations prefer to employ external virtual storage with the latest encryption protections and recurrent maintenance.
High-level data security. Using cloud-based solutions can be more secure than hosting sensitive data on in-house servers. They offer better protection protocols against unauthorized access and aren’t that dependent on in-real world disruptions. For healthcare software, the choice of cloud solutions is limited to HIPAA-compliant ones, though, – they have enhanced security and are constructed according to regulations.
Great scalability options. Cloud computing offers superior scalability compared to conventional means of data storage. A service provider maintains such solutions’ infrastructure, and the volume of information depends only on your subscription option, with no physical limitations.The cost of integrating cloud services for healthcare applications varies. It depends on the scale and the way the organization plans to utilize them. Having one cloud server may cost about $400 per month.
Big Data Technologies and Predictive Analytics
Healthcare contains massive amounts of sensitive patient information, and that data is a powerful asset for analytics.
For instance, if a monitoring system would gather the first symptoms of flu appearing across the country quickly, it would help to reveal a trend and prepare for an outburst: manage hospital performance and beds accordingly. Big Data analytics enables that. It’s an umbrella term for technologies that process large amounts of data to gather insights from within them, find patterns and trends in them, and create predictions via machine learning.
Big data technologies help medical practitioners conduct evidence-based research. Driven by AI, they, e.g. analyze thousands of MRI images and detect the first signs of tumors humans wouldn’t notice or listen to speech disruptions within voice records to recognize early symptoms of cognitive decline that would have been otherwise invisible.
For real-time predictive analytics that works in conjunction with IoT networks — like voice recognition software in the last example — it’s necessary to ask for patients’ explicit consent for data sharing.
Healthcare Devices with IoT
Internet of Health Things (IoHT), similar to IoT, is a technology that connects smart objects in a network that can gather data, and transmit it to computers, smartphones, and other devices to process and analyze this data. As opposed to general IoT systems, the ones used for medical services or patient care are heavily focused on security. They have to pass an intense approval process to work with patient data. IoT in healthcare include, among others:
- Patient-centric IoT. These are systems for monitoring patients’ health indicators and biomarkers, e.g. glucose monitoring devices, connected inhalers, ingestible sensors, blood pressure, and heart rate trackers. Can be used for at-home or at-hospital care, predictive analytics, and research. Are very good for early detection of signs of illness and monitoring of patient’s health trends.
- In-hospital IoT. Systems for monitoring patient flow within the hospital, smart bracelets for hospital check-ins, alert systems for nurses, and so on. Used to optimize clinical staff workflow, accelerate hospital admissions, and analytics. We’ve crafted a solution just like that: an app for doctors that collects patient data from different sources, including medical devices, and allows them to assess patient’s health more comprehensively and come up with more precise diagnoses and treatment programs.
- Lab-related IoT. Systems for monitoring temperature, humidity, and other conditions around sensitive compounds like vaccines or blood samples, tracking medications across supply chains, and so on. Mostly used for safety & preservation purposes.
The most known examples of IoT systems utilized in healthcare are wearables, integrated with Apple HealthKit and Google Fit that doctors and patients use to monitor a patient’s well-being. One of our solutions does just that: helps coaches guide patients towards a better, healthier lifestyle on the basis of the data reported by them and collected via their wearables.
Apart from this application of IoT in healthcare, on a scale, data collected from wearables turns into big data and can be an asset in scientific research and clinical trials.
VR and Gamification in Health Applications
Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology for generating a digital virtual environment users can interact with wearing a VR headset or helmet. It’s just recently started to become recognized within healthcare. Here are a few examples of how VR assists healthcare:
- Patient rehabilitation. Patients may have difficulty performing basic actions after strokes, car accidents, or other traumas. VR-based rehabilitation helps them to make exercise routines. Similarly, VR solutions can provide patients with a comforting and relaxing environment they can use to work through some situations they fear or feel anxious about.
- Pain control. Perceiving a virtual environment reduces discomfort from chronic pain by 30%. In combination with medications, VR solutions can help patients minimize pain or at least provide relief from it.
- Medical training. The technology helps to prepare medical staff in a controlled, error-tolerant environment. VR devices are used by medical students when they are training to perform surgeries.
VR already benefits the healthcare industry, but its potential is even higher — especially for training simulations and chronic conditions management.
Patient-facing VR solutions are almost always gamified: immersing a person in a virtual world makes it possible for them to work through, for instance, their trauma and anxiety in a safe, low-stakes environment. Gamification, in general, can be a powerful tool both for patient treatment and research. At Diversido, we’ve created several solutions that employed gamification: e.g., one tracked children’s behavior when they played games to help doctors better monitor and analyze their brain health, and, with the other, users completed tasks that were designed for them to obtain a more positive perspective on life.
How to Minimize Risk of Failure and Meet Patient Expectations With Your Healthcare App
Mobile healthcare app development is different from other niches. You need to consider additional factors: government regulations and requirements regarding patient safety and privacy, accessibility (which is important in all apps, but necessary in digital health), and so on.
Moving fast and breaking things approach that is somewhat acceptable within tech won’t work in healthcare. Following it is one of the most common mistakes young businesses within the industry make — and here are some of the others:
- Non-patient-centric or just complicated design
- Unnecessary features
- Not having clinical evidence the app helps if it’s to be used for medical care
- Neglecting product testing among patients and hospital staff
- Absence of features for accessibility
Now, let’s discuss what will improve your chances of success.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) is a US regulation that sets up the standards of interactions with patients’ data, protecting its privacy, integrity, accessibility, and security. Developers have to comply with it. HIPAA prohibits the disclosure of patients’ identifiable data like names, photos, phone numbers, test results, diagnoses, and so on. It outlines safeguards everyone who interacts with this data should employ. For software developers, it translates into, for instance, not putting patients’ names and summaries of test results into push notifications — and much, much more. The violation of HIPAA may result in up to a $1.5 million penalty and even a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Make User Design Engaging
Patients, like any other customers, expect the user interface to be pleasant and simple to use. Here are a few tips on how to do that and drive up engagement:
- Make sure the text is simple. Even if that’s an app for doctors — a practice management software or a revenue cycle management tool — there’s no reason its navigation elements should use overly complicated, cluttered text. That aspect is especially vital if it’s a patient-facing app.
Optimize UI’s flow, order, and grouping. Make the main features immediately visible and recognizable. Remove non-essential fields, cluster the ones that are related, and order them logically. To find out the most beneficial layout of a clinical staff-facing app, get them on board with the UX research process.
- Lean into what’s familiar in terms of UI. Healthcare apps have one of the biggest drop-off rates among other apps, which is why to avoid being deleted, an app should be extremely easy to pick up and use. One of the ways to do that is to use interaction design and navigation patterns other apps people use have: messengers, social media (not Meta), email apps, etc.
- Incorporate accessibility features. Supply color-coded elements with text. Add customization options for design. Make sure it’s possible to change font size and contrast settings.
Meeting these will improve the user experience of your app and increase your project’s chances of success. We wrote more extensively about HIPAA compliance before, be sure to check that installment out.
Develop for Scalability
Scalability is the ability of an app to manage more users and support extra functions without deterioration of its overall performance. Make sure to test the app under pressure.
Apps should easily adapt during updates, especially if that’s software for hospitals — lives do depend on it. Plan out flexible but robust architecture from the start. The continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) method of working with software projects helps with that a lot.
The same goes for preparing the app for interoperability. The healthcare industry is home to many disconnected systems. To be an efficient asset within it, the applications must have ways to integrate with them. If you’re building a patient portal, a patient must be able to see their patient records. If the patient portal has a telemedicine feature with paid visits, it must include a payment gateway. Test your app’s endurance when it’s connected to multiple other apps via APIs and synchronized with them.
It is essential to plan scalability options in the early stages of your project.
Choose Right Healthcare App Developer
Once you’ve planned the concept, appearance, and functionality of your app, you need a reliable dev team to build it. Here are the core competencies to look for.
- Excellent communication.
The success of your project depends on how effectively you and your software development team can communicate. Markers of good communication would be: consistent questions about details to avoid misinterpretations; phrases like “We aren’t sure, but will come back to you later”; and evidence-based statements about predictions and offers regarding the project. Also, a great indication of a reliable digital health product team would be a willingness to work and communicate with your customers — patients and doctors.
- Sufficient technical expertise
The dev team must have sufficient technical skills to complete your project. For healthcare, that might include experience with integrating Health APIs and attuning sensors for wearables; setting up solid security architecture; strong expertise in UX, machine learning, and cloud computing. It’s best to find out opinions on the tech kit you would need for your app from different vendors and compare the notes before making a choice.
- Experience in regulatory compliance in the healthcare industry. Between 2009 and 2020, there were around 4,419 healthcare data breaches in the US. They exposed more than 314 million patient records, which put a lot of people in danger. Experience in employing HIPAA, GDPR, and FDA compliance is a must for a digital health vendor, especially if you want to market your product as a digital therapeutic (and avoid penalties and damage to your brand image).
Developing Dashboard Medical Clinics Work Automation – Diversido Case Study
In Diversido, we have been developing HIPAA-compliant products for digital healthcare since 2013 — let us tell you about one of our case studies.
Recently, a client approached us to create a workflow automation platform for their clinic. They wanted a platform-agnostic software that would help them collect data about patients’ health quickly and securely, joining in the trend for remote monitoring integrated into clinicians’ work. The platform was supposed to have a patient-facing part too, so patients could access their medical info via the app, fill in surveys, f.
We’ve developed a cross-platform solution that shares the code across the website and iOS and Android apps.
We’ve added the features for prescription management to the platform and integrated a patient-facing part that connected to patients’ medical wearables via Bluetooth.
The platform, then, analyzed the data from wearables and smart surveys for health assessment and presented both doctors and patients with reports on patients’ health.
We used CI/CD to consistently test and refine the solution with the user’s feedback and added support for parse and visualization of custom markdown.
Now, a clinic uses this workflow automation solution to monitor their patients’ conditions (and be ready to respond to positive and negative changes at push notification’s notice), manage refills, prescriptions, and their practice, in general. It is a powerful assessment tool, built to gather a comprehensive view of a patient’s health dynamic. That helps to make more accurate diagnoses and create better treatment plans.
Patients, on the other hand, have access to reports on their conditions. They also learn more about them via the platform’s library with videos, podcasts, and informative articles.
Get on with Building Your Next Digital Health Product
The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the healthcare industry and forced it to evolve on both sides, among patients and providers — now, it’s up to the digital health niche to prove their solutions are not only useful and profitable when people are desperate; that they remain valuable when health consumers have time to choose and stakeholders don’t invest in urgency.
That reluctance to invest which was one of the reasons for the slowdown in digital healthcare funding for 2022 has partially stemmed from the inability of late-stage digital health startups to prove their product is profitable. While the solutions we’ve talked about in this article will become even more popular in 2023, it’s more important than ever for startup founders in the industry to build stable, evidence-based products.
In 2023, hospitals will keep learning how to adapt and change under the pressure. Vendors and startups that build for healthcare will hopefully start crafting better, more reliable solutions for clinicians — to optimize and enhance their care services, and for patients — to deliver more accurate and efficient care.
If you intend to build within the niche, check out our portfolio for our expertise in healthcare app development. We’ve developed this industry for almost ten years, and we want to create technologies that empower those who save lives and help them.