Like most, the healthcare industry has been undergoing a steadily-paced digital transformation for the last decade. Healthcare providers in public and private sectors have adopted new technology to keep up with an ever-growing need for faster, more affordable, and transparent healthcare services.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this transformation has shifted into overdrive. The need for contactless evaluation and treatment of non-life-threatening illnesses, for example, has become essential in combating the pandemic that has raged alongside the common ailments requiring physician supervision and treatment.
The demand for telemedicine— that is, the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients through telecommunications technology —has grown at a pace with which the healthcare industry is now struggling to keep up.
In 2019, the global telemedicine market size hit a peak of $41.4B US Dollars and is projected to grow by at least an additional 15.1% by 2027.
More recently, a MERCOM Capital Group report found that the top-funded categories in digital medicine in Q1 2021 were: telemedicine with $2 billion, followed by mHealth apps with $912 million, analytics with $906 million, clinical decision support with $661 million, and wellness with $559 million.
Consequently, the demand for software development talent in the healthcare industry has skyrocketed. In addition to telemedicine, many other areas of digital healthcare require more— and better —software development.
According to Ukraine-based software development outsourcing giant N-IX, the primary software types for healthcare are:
- electronic health record (EHR) software;
- medical diagnosis software;
- imaging and visualisation;
- medical database software;
- e-prescribing software;
- appointment scheduling;
- medical equipment management;
- hospital management software;
- medical billing;
- medical research.
These primary areas will continue to grow as healthcare transforms to meet the digital demand of the moment.
As expected, there are immediate and long-term positive changes to the healthcare industry due to software development in digital medicine. There are, as well, quite a few challenges that are currently facing both industries as they arrive at crucial points of cooperation and evolution.
The positive aspects of the introduction of new technologies in the healthcare industry are abounding.
Understanding the positive impact of software development on the healthcare industry means recognising that the core of most issues involves fixing problems endured by both providers and patients. Those issues are sometimes standalone, but they regularly intersect.
One specific example is healthcare CRM software, which supports healthcare providers in maintaining better client relationships while also managing patient data in a practical way for both parties. These CRMs, also sometimes referred to as Patient Relationship Management tools (PRM), are vital in bridging communication gaps between healthcare providers and patients by automating messaging for necessary patient interactions.
Another illustrative example of a positive addition made by software development in the healthcare industry is virtual conferencing solutions, such as Zoom. These tools enable healthcare professionals to meet with patients in virtual clinics for non-physical examinations rather than meeting in person. Virtual conferencing solutions, coupled with a rise in E-Prescription and Medical Billing Software, such as DrChrono, allow healthcare providers to save time, cut overhead costs, and decrease risk when meeting with patients.
Although the benefits of software development heavily outweigh the current downsides, there are immense challenges for software developers that are building solutions for the digital healthcare industry.
One such challenge is the learning curve created when a healthcare provider introduces new technology to their practice. Whether it is a small, private practice or a large hospital, adopting any new technology in the healthcare industry requires attention to detail.
Mistakes made by healthcare professionals come at the cost of money and the well-being of patients. Training healthcare professionals to use new software while balancing patient care is a trivial task that carries a high risk of error. Software developers must collaborate with designers to develop interfaces that are easy to learn, are adapted for different devices, and are easy to troubleshoot by the user in case of a glitch.
Another substantial challenge that software developers for healthcare are facing is security. There are different laws about patient data and compliance worldwide. Companies that are developing solutions for each different market must do extensive legal research when selling a software solution to a healthcare provider. Additional to the laws pertaining to patient data is the need to focus on security first, as data breaches related to healthcare software solutions are crucial and costly.
“Be inclusive now to prepare for potential breaches later. By leveraging the expertise of individuals outside of the IT department now, CIOs can identify best practices in patient privacy, close potential gaps in security across the organisation, and be better prepared should future issues around a data breach arise.” Robert J. Szczerba, Forbes
There is no doubt that to survive in the healthcare industry, providers— large and small —will need to continue to implement software solutions. Although the growth that the healthcare software industry has seen in the past has been steady, the COVID-19 pandemic has set the pace for current and future software development at an all-time high.
“In the rapidly changing healthcare industry, keeping up with new technologies and innovations has become less of a desire and more of a requirement.” Robert J. Szczerba, Forbes
Publicly available funding data also shows that there is no slowdown of investment in digital healthcare.
“Global venture capital (VC) funding, including private equity and corporate VC into Digital Health companies in Q1 2021, came to a record $7.2 billion in 179 deals, up 60% compared to $4.5 billion in 139 deals in Q4 2020. VC funding in Q1 2021 increased 100% compared to the same quarter of last year when $3.6 billion was raised in 142 deals. This was the single largest funding quarter to date for Digital Health since 2010.”
Additionally, the growth of health and wellness applications for individual use, such as Apple’s Health app, has empowered individuals to be proactive in taking care of themselves. These software solutions have created a massive market opportunity for mobile software developers. These applications empower anyone with a smartphone to be proactive about their wellness; they also collect data the user can supply to a healthcare provider if they become unwell.
Digital healthcare is a multi-faceted industry that, due to necessity, maintains a high level of innovation in software development. Challenges that the digital medicine industry and software developers face while solving its problems are now met with massive cash investments that were unseen in the past. The adoption of software solutions in digital medicine has proven itself helpful in streamlining better healthcare for providers and patients alike. It will continue to improve as developers innovate in this field.
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