If there is one benefit of the Covid-19 crisis, it is the growth of digital remote care. Resuming regular care in a 1.5-meter setting is simply not possible without digital applications. However, new solutions are needed quickly. These are preferably also affordable, easily adaptable and scalable without any problems. This is at odds with how we have known IT development in healthcare up to now and therefore a different approach is needed. Low-code platforms can provide a solution. They are known for being fast, cheap and flexible. This article uses five plus one examples to illustrate how low-code can make healthcare more digital.
The advantages of remote care such as less travel, less waiting and less risk of infections have often been highlighted in recent years. Nevertheless, development has always lagged far behind expectations. This has now changed 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“.
Now more than ever, healthcare does not benefit from too complex and costly IT processes, which will result in a cumbersome solution after a long time. On the contrary, applications with high ease of use are needed within weeks so patients and caregivers can use them quickly and care delivery can continue and improve. If care provision changes, rapid and controlled adaptation of care is a must. Also, to prevent us from reverting to old behaviour.
It is striking that, in contrast to other sectors, little is developed with low-code in healthcare. While low-code is intuitive, iterative and flexible and lends itself to (patient) portals, apps or even complex back offices. 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 easily integrates with existing IT systems and standards (such as HL7), so new functionalities are added to the existing systems without disrupting the current operation. 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, which already have various applications in healthcare, especially internationally.
National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (The Netherlands) Shortly after the seriousness of the Covid-19 crisis in the Netherlands became clear, the National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (LCPS) was established. The aim of LCPS is spreading 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 is 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 in the news nationwide.
Kermit (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, provides buyers with information about fraud and prices, and provides specialists with information for treatment choice. The Kermit platform is now running in 23 hospitals, saving on average 30% of their costs for medical implants.
Saga Healthcare (United Kingdom) Years ago, the English Saga entered the homecare market in its own country. The big difference with 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. Building 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.
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 ready to use. Since its launch in 2018, more than 335,000 triages have been performed through FocusOn, saving clinical staff time for 27 year.
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.
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 can return to work faster and more vital after treatment. 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.
Conclusion The development of remote and connected care is complicated enough for healthcare providers. Who provides which care and when, who bears what responsibility for the quality of care and who pays for which care? Technology should therefore not be the problem. The development of low-code applications may be easier and faster, but not happens automatically. That is why we end this article with 5 tips to be part of the low-code revolution:
1) Start small and finish big: start with the (agile) development of a working prototype in a pilot and discover the value of low-code development (proof of value);
2) By the patient, not for the patient: design continuously from the patient’s point of view and experiment with the flexibility of low-code development;
3) From do–it–together to do–it–yourself: get advice on the right platform, acquire the right low-code competencies and experience and then build them yourself;
4) Complexity is failed simplicity: work under architecture and don’t allow IT to add unnecessary complexity;
5) You go faster alone, you go further together: never develop alone, but learn from each other by working together.
Contact Walter Kien E: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article has also been published on: ICT&health
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