Application Development in Healthcare
In this blog, we’ll demystify the art of application development in healthcare. Before, I go into details of the topic, I’ll dissect the title into two parts, “application development” and “healthcare.”
Technology and innovation keep on simplifying things, but at the same time brings new challenges and is key aspect of a typical software application development. Decades ago (pre “as-a-Service” era), one had to write everything from scratch, assemble different software components and use some framework to develop applications. When I started programming, luckily, we had various frameworks though most of them targeting specific use-cases. As a developer, we need to go to all technical details of those frameworks, and libraries and figure out the right fit required for the application.
Fast forward to today, we’ve various “as-a-service” offerings from different vendors to choose from along with added benefits of ease and flexibility. Platform provides services, which range from purely technical, integration, cross-domain, and industry-specific services. With platform and offered services, it’s easy to develop an application. It provides you with all the necessary ingredients like persistency, APIs, transaction, security, events, logging, cloud qualities, analytics, and so on, to mix and match and build your application.
Now that I’ve talked about the basics of application development, summarising it with one key takeaway in today’s technology era:
“You don’t have to start from scratch as all the heavy lifting is done by the underlying platform”.
Coming to the second part of the title that is “Healthcare”. One of the oldest, even when it wasn’t formally called “healthcare”. One of the complex industries as it deals with one of the most precious and delicate thing called “LIFE”. It wasn’t complex, centuries ago, but meant to provide care for health and a better life.
Today, we’ve numerous challenges (and thanks to digitisation and technology as well) which we need to deal with. Healthcare is highly regulated and a highly localised industry. Different countries/regions with specific laws and regulations, government reforms, policies, disparate operational aspects. There are varied ways of treatment and protocols, numerous standards, and terminologies to handle, security, and data breach aspects and the list goes on. The way radiology department works is different from Oncology, Cardiology etc., and have dedicated systems (applications) from different vendors to manage department-specific activities. But in the end, these systems also need to collaborate and hence integration is equally important.
Just look at the potential scenarios and the need for applications, which we’ve, primarily considering two broad areas.
- Healthcare care provider as a business.
- Healthcare care provider as provider for “Delivery of care”.
- Systems at the Business area need to integrate and exchange with Delivery of Care area and vice-versa. This is important for business operations and to make decisions accurately.
Key takeaway after understanding basics of healthcare industry is:
“Challenges in the healthcare industry aren’t easy and trivial to solve. There are too many disparate systems, stakeholders, and organisations in play along with localisation needs.”
Stitching the Title Together
In the two sections, I’ve tried to highlight challenges (if not all) for application development and healthcare. Literally if I combine them, it looks even more challenging and complex. So instead of talking about problems, let us talk about solutions.
Imagine a platform, which takes care of the basic needs of application development and at the same time addresses all the complexities of the healthcare industry. I’m talking about platform as a service, which is fine-tuned to understand healthcare nuances. Like domain-specific entities (patients, visits, billing etc.), extensibility and configurability to address localisation needs, interoperability with systems in standard manner, high security, and cloud qualities and resilient application and so on. All packaged together such that you don’t have to bother about “Application development in healthcare,” but let that be taken care by “SAP Health Data Services for FHIR”.
SAP Health Data Services for FHIR (Beta) – Overview
This is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering on SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP). An enterprise grade service for the healthcare industry and deeply embraced with FHIR. FHIR is a global healthcare interoperability standard, which provides various specifications and good practices. It’s in terms of APIs, information exchange, extensibility, security, bulk data and more importantly all the necessary entities for healthcare (and beyond) which are called “Resources.”
With FHIR as a base, we’re solving critical challenges for healthcare. With SAP BTP and its services as base and coupled with some specific enterprise features like extensibility, configurability, content packages, rules, which come as part of SAP Health Data Services for FHIR. This makes application development simpler and easier.
I’ll talk about more features for SAP Health Data Services for FHIR in subsequent blogs. You can have a look at the comprehensive developer guide at “help.sap.com”.
This is truly enabling our partner ecosystem and independent vendors, who also come with lots of ideas and potential use case to solve the healthcare needs. For simplicity, I would like to visualise this with a typical set up in a hospital and where does SAP Health Data Services for FHIR fit in to developing applications (including integration if needed).
Two major areas, which we can deduct from the preceding diagram:
- It’s easy to integrate and exchange with any system within hospital landscape via a communication server that is FHIR-enabled.
- SAP Health Data Services for FHIR, available on SAP BTP and integrated with other SAP BTP services allows you to develop applications. With in-built APIs, persistency, healthcare extensible and configurable domain model, security and cloud qualities and several other features.
This was just an introductory blog post for SAP Health Data Services for FHIR. I described it as the enterprise grade platform for healthcare embraced with FHIR. Leaving you with some final statements:
- SAP Health Data Services for FHIR isn’t just a typical FHIR server but also serves as comprehensive application development platform for healthcare use cases.
- Provides you with the convenient to use “content-driven” development mechanisms hence reducing development time and operations effort.
- Easy to extend with metadata-driven architecture and configure for you to adapt your applications with ever-changing business needs and healthcare regulations.
In future blog posts, we’ll dive into potential application examples and how to realise them with SAP Health Data Services for FHIR capabilities.
I would love to hear your reactions and feedback through comments.