Healthcare Software Development: Current Developments in 2021 & Future Trends

Published: 23 April 2021

The health industry continues to undergo massive digital transformation, powered by major internal healthcare software development efforts, market-specific cloud service providers and expanding end-user adoption of apps and productivity tools. As the drive for efficiency and positive health outcomes continues, decision-makers looking for the next boost from technology. 

Healthcare continues to digitise at speed. We see high-profile use of AI tools to detect abnormalities in scans and virtual doctors acting as the first port of call to save GPs’ valuable time. In the back office, there are large-scale efforts to link siloed services and build comprehensive electronic health records that improve productivity and speed up the delivery of services.

BlueOptima’s “Key Trends in the Global Software Development Industry” report highlights that healthcare is the second-largest global employer of enterprise software development engineers, with 1.6m software developers present in the healthcare services and equipment sector.

Developers in the healthcare services and equipment sector saw productivity increase significantly between Q3 and Q4 during 2020, but this coincided with a decline in code maintainability. All of which paints a challenging picture for the healthcare software development industry going forward.

How Has Software Development Changed The Healthcare Industry?

Healthcare has become too large and complex to run in the manual or locally-siloed data manner that many healthcare providers still use. A joined-up approach is key to delivering services efficiently with many developers working for healthcare services and their IT partners and providers to deliver results.

Custom healthcare software solutions enable many healthcare organisations and clinicians to offer patient-centric services, reduce costs, and operate more efficiently. By enhancing internal and partner accessibility, productivity, portability and scalability, healthcare software development can provide huge value to the sector.

The primary objective of many developers is the delivery of electronic healthcare records (EHR) that digitize and unify patients’ existing health history. They provide key information instantly and securely to authorised users, and into the future will help with predictive healthcare to prevent patients from becoming seriously ill and avoid costly procedures.

Link the EHR to mobile health applications, and healthcare professionals can remotely monitor existing conditions. While the general population is alerted to potential health issues and can seek advice before they have a major impact.

As more parts of the health system link up with advice centres and insurers, patient health apps can provide better lifestyle advice directly when it is needed. Appointments can be booked with the most efficient provider or specialist to maximise the use of specialist equipment or knowledge, all reducing the cost to governments, insurers and patients.

What Emerging Technologies Could Impact Healthcare In The Future?

With the volume of information in the system, manual analysis is becoming impossible, which leads us to the use of software automation tools. General business automation efforts will transfer well to the healthcare market, enabling professionals to build tools rapidly that can scan or update large amounts of data. BlueOptima developer analytics tools will support efforts to measure and benchmark revision data, supporting engineering efficiency in building these tools.

With automation services powered by machine learning or AI, (systems can analyze huge quantities of data from x-rays and scans to millions of healthcare records for valuable insights and data. Research from John Snow Labs shows “AI has become an integral part of healthcare, with usage shifting from data scientists and technical personnel to clinicians and patients.”

The health AI industry valuation has exploded from $600 million in 2014 to an estimated $150 billion by 2026. AI healthcare applications that can do everything from creating designer drugs to identifying conditions and outbreaks among the population before health systems would otherwise be aware will create many fresh advantages.

Add in niche use cases like robotic surgeons for remote operations, drones delivering supplies to patients of distant health centres and, greater automation of efforts like COVID vaccine rollouts, and automation and AI will fast become a key part of all health systems.

McKinsey’s 2019 study collection explored where automation could benefit the insurance/payer arena, saying it can deliver “greater workforce efficiency, lower demand for manual activities (through improved auto-adjudication and self-service capabilities), increased revenue (by refocusing employees on new activities), and often higher consumer satisfaction [especially in] data collection and processing.”

Emerging technology fast becomes commonplace in the health sector, and these tools will combine to deliver an improved service at an ever-faster cadence. But it will only work well when all data is visible and solutions interact with each other. Until then, healthcare will struggle with siloed data and bespoke applications that put their own importance above that of patients and professionals.

Final Thoughts

As software development continues to impact the healthcare industry, witnessing the positive changes it brings and how the transformation will continue to shape the industry’s working processes will make for fascinating analysis among developers and technology buyers.

We explore more about the rise of technology within the healthcare industry in our “Health and Technology: The Future Of The Healthcare Industry” article here.

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