The Covid-19 crisis fuelled the growth of digital care and remote patient monitoring. With the continuous rise in healthcare expenditures and associated costs for citizens, maintaining the status quo of regular care delivery models is no longer affordable. The future of a sustainable healthcare model needs digital applications and services.
The advantages of virtual care highlighted in recent years include less travel, less waiting and less risk of infections. Nevertheless, development has always lagged far behind expectations. This has changed significantly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The use of digital applications in communication, monitoring and treatment increased rapidly, as did the demand for new applications.
More and more patients and healthcare providers are opting for “at home when possible and at the healthcare provider if necessary”.
There is an urgent need for scaling up the use of new digital solutions. These solutions need to be cost-effective, easily adaptable and designed for scale. These dynamic requirements are at odds with how monolithic IT development in healthcare has been known thus far. Therefore, it is time to shift gears and take on a different approach.
Low-code platforms can provide a solution. They are known for being fast, delivered at much better costs and flexible. This article uses six examples to illustrate how low-code application platforms (LCAPs) can make healthcare more digital in a versatile way.
Now more than ever, digital healthcare delivery suffers from complex and costly IT development processes. These will ultimately result in cumbersome solutions over time. On the contrary, applications that are easy to use and can have a proof of concept within weeks can hit the ground running. Patients and caregivers can quickly use them during care delivery and, thanks to an Agile way of working, the solution will continue to improve. If care provision changes, rapid and controlled adaptation of care is a must. This also helps to prevent us from reverting to old behavior.
Healthcare lags behind
Low-code is intuitive, iterative and flexible. It lends itself to (patient) portals, apps or even complex back offices. In contrast to other sectors, it is striking just how little is developed with low-code in healthcare. Developers do not need to master a programming language, but only need to know a program where they set configurations in a graphical user environment. Low-code is therefore fast and adaptive: developers can test the (new) needs of healthcare providers and/or patients directly during development. Another advantage is that it is extremely versatile, so new functionalities are added to the existing applications without disrupting the current operation – following an Agile way of working.
Leading research firm Gartner expects that by 2024, 65% of all applications will be co-developed or managed with low-code .
Well-known players are OutSystems, Mendix and Betty Blocks, who already have various applications in healthcare, especially internationally. One of the leading partners for IG&H is OutSystems, who outlines significant benefits of low-code as follows:
Six examples of how low-code is used in the healthcare sector around the world:
1) National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (The Netherlands)
Shortly after the gravity of the Covid-19 crisis in the Netherlands became clear, the National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (LCPS) was established. LCPS aims to spread the patient care workload as effectively as possible throughout the Netherlands. To perform this assignment properly, insight is required into the most up-to-date information about available beds and transport capacity. In less than two weeks, an application, the coordination platform, was developed and made operational with low-code to provide this insight into all hospitals in the Netherlands and some in Germany. The coordination platform was used to process the transport movements of patients on request by matching supply and demand. Part of this is finding the best hospital and suitable transport for each patient based on 90+ different input variables. In addition, the platform provides reports that are used nationwide.
What? Patient coordination platform
Time stats: Application created in less than two weeks
2) Medtronic (United States)
Medtronic has been one of the market leaders in medical devices such as heart implants for years. These implants are constantly collecting data from patients all over the world. It is very complex for healthcare providers to extract timely and actionable insights for the care and well-being of patients from the enormous amounts of data. Therefore, Medtronic built FocusOn in six months based on low-code, which filters 80% of the data for healthcare professionals. In addition to the fact that healthcare professionals can now deliver faster and better remote triages, the application of the low-code platform has also resulted in 50% IT budget savings. The platform makes it quite simple for new clinics to join this new technology: Within 15 minutes, new customers and end-users are set up, and ready to use the application. Since its launch in 2018, more than 335,000 triages have been performed through FocusOn, saving clinical staff time expressed in 27 working years.
What? Platform to collect data from heart implants
Time stats: Application built in six months, new customers and end-users are set up within 15 minutes
3) Kermit PPI (United States)
The American Kermit developed a low-code analysis platform for medical implants such as pacemakers and insulin pumps within nine months. The application manages contracts and invoices and monitors supplier compliance. The entire process is transparent: from unpacking the material during the treatment to sending the invoice and payment to the supplier. The data-driven platform maps trends to optimize processes as well as provides buyers with information about possible fraud and price. Furthermore, it provides specialists with information for treatment choices. The Kermit platform is now running in 23 hospitals, saving on average 30% of their costs for medical implants.
What? Analysis platform for medical implants
Time stats: First iteration developed in nine months
4) Saga Healthcare (United Kingdom)
Years ago, the English Saga entered the homecare market in its own country. The big difference from other healthcare providers was that Saga focused on an agile technology platform. The IT team of Saga was able to deliver SACHA, a homecare planning system, within six months. The built application automates a huge amount of manual tasks so that caregivers can use this time for personal care of clients. Buildin with low-code was mainly of added value for Saga because the expertise was immediately embedded within its own IT department. As a result, it kept control in its own hands without having to commit to third parties.
What? Homecare planning system application
Time stats: Delivery within six months
5) Kuwait Maternity Hospital (Kuwait)
Kuwait Maternity Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in Kuwait. The biggest problem for the hospital was the lack of insight into patient and capacity information due to the paper administration. Within twelve weeks, an external party put a Hospital Management System (HMS) live on low-code. This system offers the user a uniform patient view and provides real-time information for care managers: from the number of occupied beds and appointments to the number of operations and emergencies per day. Within a few weeks of implementation, the total registration time per patient decreased from 45 to 15 minutes. The number of errors in the patient file has also been reduced by 60 percent and communication between hospital departments has improved significantly. Due to its success, five other hospitals are now also using the system.
What? Hospital Management System
Time stats: Live in 12 weeks, total registration time per patient decreased from 45 to 15 minutes.
6) National Health Service (United Kingdom)
The National Health Service (NHS) is known as the United Kingdom’s public health system. Especially for doctors with mental health problems, there is a Practitioner Health Program (PHP) within the NHS with free confidential care. The idea behind this is that doctors feel more revitalized after treatment and can return to work faster. The NHS started the program for doctors in the London area but wanted to expand across the country in 2016. To also be able to offer the same confidential service nationwide, PHP has built a mobile app and a fully automated GP care system in seven weeks in low-code. With the app, healthcare providers can find therapists in their area and make an appointment anonymously. The app has now been used by more than 2000 doctors.
What? Fully automated GP care system
Time stats: Application built in seven weeks
The development of virtual and connected care solutions is complicated enough for healthcare providers. The main questions are: