How Healthcare Software Development Shapes the Future of eMedicine
Like other industries, healthcare is developing under the influence of digital technologies. Apps for the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of diseases constantly appear on the market and help people solve health problems. Doctors have long adopted EHRs/EMRs. The use of medical image analysis software is a common practice in hospitals. Researchers predict that by 2025 the digital health market will double and reach $657 billion. We’ll explain what caused such growth and find out the benefits of healthcare software development.
Digital health market overview
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a mixed impact on healthcare. On the one hand, it suspended important clinical research and affected the diagnosis and treatment of serious diseases (cancer, HIV, tuberculosis). On the other hand, it provoked a large-scale digitalization of healthcare. In conditions of social distancing, people needed to remotely monitor their health and consult with doctors. Therefore, in 2020, about 90,000 apps appeared on the market. These included software solutions for:
- medical institutions – for better management of internal processes;
- patients with chronic diseases – for constant monitoring;
- elderly and inactive people who need home care;
- residents of remote areas with no clinics nearby.
In 2020, the demand for healthcare software skyrocketed. In some countries, people downloaded medical apps 25-135% more often.
Doctors had to take on additional responsibilities. They had to maintain the pace of work, despite the large influx of COVID-19 patients. Healthcare professionals urgently needed apps to manage data, maintain records, communicate with colleagues, monitor patients, and perform other tasks. They were ready to use telemedicine to treat patients.
Business owners see the increased demand for technology and heavily invest in healthcare software development. According to Statista, 2020 saw a significant investment of $21.6 billion. In the first 9 months of 2021, telemedicine startups received $21.3 billion in aid. And according to Bill Taranto, founding partner and president of Merck Venture Fund, entrepreneurs are increasing investment in 2022 and will continue to do so. Businesses are investing in telemedicine, data analytics, mobile health apps, clinical decision support, practice management software, and other platforms.
Apps that are transforming medicine
Medical apps are divided into two large groups according to the target audience and functionality:
- Software for hospitals and clinics.
This type includes software solutions that simplify and improve the workflow of a healthcare facility:
- EMRs/EMRs. These digital analogs of paper medical records store the necessary information about patients’ health. Electronic records are easier to maintain and share inside or outside a healthcare facility. Specialists quickly get access to medical histories, laboratory results, vaccination lists, and other information important for diagnosis and treatment.
- Medical image analysis software. Such an app “studies” CT, MRI, or X-ray images, finds anomalies, and diagnoses the disease. It compares the results of examinations of the same patient and evaluates the progress of treatment. The system is controlled by a radiologist. Healthcare software development companies are working to “teach” smart algorithms to analyze medical images on their own.
- Billing apps. The work of medical institutions is closely related to the solution of financial issues: account management, insurance, or checking the solvency of clients. Such software streamlines accounting work, simplifies the billing process, and helps to avoid serious financial errors. A platform can be integrated with an EMR system to make tracking and billing easier.
- Hospital management systems. Such software helps institutions coordinate medical, legal, administrative, and financial matters. Its functionality allows medical personnel to manage inventory, control staff, handle complaints, and perform other tasks.
- Apps for patients.
This group includes apps that facilitate doctor/patient communication and patient care:
- ePrescribing software. A prescription management platform is shared between patients and physicians. A doctor creates an electronic prescription and transfers it to a pharmacy. A patient receives their order using the app. Also, the app functionality allows the doctor to control the medication schedule. They evaluate the progress, stop treatment or correct it until the patient recovers completely.
- Telemedicine platform. Such apps connect patients and attending physicians at a distance. A patient shares complaints via video link, phone, or chat. If necessary, they attach photos or send vital signs taken from IoT sensors. A doctor analyzes the information, clarifies details, and prescribes additional tests or treatments. Under quarantine conditions, telemedicine has become an alternative to conventional visits. Statista predicts that by 2026 the technology market will grow to $41 billion.
- Doctor appointment apps. These simplify the work of doctors and improve the quality of life for patients. Such a system allows people to plan visits to doctors remotely. They can view the work schedule, choose the right specialist, and make an appointment. The platform enters the information in the calendar and warns about it in advance so that the patient does not miss the visit. When booking, users can partially indicate their symptoms and personal data, which simplifies their registration at the hospital reception and reduces the time of admission. Doctors enter the necessary information in special blanks. As a result, people need to spend less time waiting for a visit.
We have provided a list of the most commonly used medical apps. Their functionality may differ based on the specifics of an organization, the characteristics of patients, the business goals of a company, and other variables.
Technologies driving healthcare development
The digital health market is seeing the growth of technology. The 2021 report from HIMSS claimed that 80% of healthcare providers would invest in the following innovations:
Artificial intelligence and data analytics
Accenture has high hopes for AI, predicting that it will save the industry $150 billion a year. This technology can be used to analyze medical images, diagnose diseases, invent drugs, and process huge amounts of data.
One cannot overestimate the fact that AI works with Big Data. In 2020, the industry generated 2,314 exabytes of new information. This is 30% of the world’s data. According to IDC, by 2025, the industry will be the fastest-growing source of information.
It is difficult for a human to manually collect, analyze, and use data. AI takes over time-consuming operations, providing people with processed “clean” data to make better business decisions.
The Internet of medical things
Medicine strives to become more accessible to patients who cannot attend clinics. Therefore, it is developing the infrastructure of IoT devices that monitor the health status of patients at home. This can be any device (pulse oximeter, glucometer, blood pressure monitor, or scales) that is connected to a healthcare software product. Sensors collect indicators and send them to attending physicians. Doctors remotely monitor the condition of patients, adjust the treatment, and schedule visits. Juniper researchers estimate that by 2023, medical institutions will monitor 5 million patients using the IoMT.
Virtual and augmented reality
VR and AR are used in medicine in different ways. VR headsets help students to study anatomy and see how the human body is built. Interns can gain experience performing surgical operations without harming patients. With the help of technology, patients with mental disorders overcome anxiety and fears. For people with developmental disabilities, VR helps train social skills. IDC sees great potential in the technology and claims that shipments of VR/AR headsets will grow exponentially through 2026 and exceed 50 million units.
There are two problems in maintaining EHRs:
- Patient information is unstructured. Because of this, errors occur in the records, and information is duplicated. The poor arrangement often leads to the fact that doctors make the wrong diagnoses, prescribe the wrong treatment, or are late with therapy.
- Patient privacy is at risk. EMRs store confidential information about patients: medical histories, bank details, and contacts. Therefore, healthcare is one of the five most vulnerable sectors. Due to cyberattacks, organizations have to suspend operations to restore their IT systems. IBM estimates the cost of a data breach in 2022 at $4.35 million. This is 2.6% more than a year earlier and 12.7% more than in 2020.
Blockchain can solve these problems. The technology guarantees the accuracy of medical information. The distributed nature of the database means that each transaction is registered in network nodes (computers). A network member sees up-to-date information and an archive of medical records. Information cannot be faked, altered, or hacked. To access it, you need to get permission from the owner. Thus, blockchain provides healthcare with reliable and secure data.
Benefits of custom healthcare software development
Healthcare is not a one-stop shop for generic digital solutions. Each field of clinical medicine needs software with unique features and user scenarios. After all, dentistry, dermatology, and other departments treat various diseases using special methods, they organize the workflow differently.
Only a custom medical app can fully satisfy the needs of specific doctors and patients as it will be developed for the target audience. An IT company will consider the peculiarities of the work of doctors and a particular institution. At the request of the client, it can implement non-standard report forms, create unique information processing algorithms, and seamlessly integrate the product with external platforms.
Remote patient monitoring systems can include technologies that are just entering the market. For example, solutions containing predictive healthcare features. For patients, this function means that the system collects their vital signs and predicts the development of possible diseases. Based on this, people can adjust their lifestyles to prevent serious health issues. Hospitals need this to predict epidemics or disease outbreaks. Thus, they can prepare for these in advance and hire temporary employees to cope with the upcoming workload.
Custom healthcare software meets the needs of specific users; therefore, it has great business value.
Successful healthcare development is impossible without information technology. In the epoch when almost everything has gone “remote”, healthcare software development is more relevant than ever before. Patients, doctors, and medical institutions need tailor-made solutions that will connect participants. Such systems can optimize the operation of hospitals and make medical services more accessible, both financially and geographically. They will provide remote professional care and disease prevention. Modern hospitals and clinics should embrace innovations to stay competitive.