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Comparing Methods for Developing Enterprise Healthcare Apps

Custom mobile applications better connect employees to the cloud while giving IT more control over data.

Custom enterprise applications for employees in healthcare organizations can provide efficiency, mobility, and even security benefit. Apps act through the cloud as a way to send and receive data within a network, making it accessible with a desktop or mobile device by signing in. Not only do apps connect users and their data to the cloud, they also protect electronic health data and are designed to make jobs run more efficiently.

Enterprise healthcare apps

Applications can be accessed through a web browser or a widget on both mobile and non-mobile devices. Web-accessed apps fall under the software-as-a-service (SaaS) service model and are one of the most basic cloud technologies. Many organizations are implementing SaaS solutions to manage data, allowing for remote access and backups files if there is a hack or natural disaster. This gives healthcare workers access to the EHRs they need and requires less time spend searching through files stored on a device.

An organization’s embracing apps also comes with challenges. Often desktop apps that are accessed through a web browser will not work the same when accessed on a mobile device (e.g., a tablet, smartphone. Web apps aren’t always meant to be used on smaller devices, making them difficult or even impossible to use. Buttons may be too small and some features have no support whatsoever, rendering them useless to mobile users.

However, developers can redesign desktop apps to suit the needs of mobile users via a process called app transformation, but this is generally used as a temporary stopgap. App transformation allows a developer essentially to “draw” a mobile interface over a desktop app. Some features from desktop apps won’t be needed for the mobile version and would only end up unnecessarily impeding navigation and efficiency. Apps that aren’t typically used on mobile devices can sometimes get away with a simple app transformation interface.

Custom apps built specifically for an organization allow IT to have greater control, making it possible to add additional security features. Custom features can also be added, like menu shortcuts and messaging functions.

Building and designing apps often takes place within the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) service model of cloud computing. SaaS apps are maintained by the vendor and are most likely configured for both desktop and mobile use.

What makes custom apps more secure is the unique code they are built with. While they can be customized, SaaS applications are often built with the same code as every other organization using that service. Security measures are in place, but there is a chance that a hacker can break into a network because they are familiar with the code used in the SaaS application. Most vendors safeguard against this, but for institutions that desire something more hack-proof, building a custom app can lead to added security.

Usability of an app will ultimately determine its success. Like with consumer apps, users tend to open most apps once and then never use them again. The same concept applies to enterprise apps as well; if employees don’t like an app, they won’t use it, wasting money as posing a security risk. The security measures surrounding a custom app only protect the data if it’s being accessed using that app. Bypassing it and using the web browser version of the desktop app on a mobile device could leave data vulnerable if the mobile browser settings aren’t regulated by IT.

Because the surface area of mobile devices is much smaller and the instrument used to interact with the touchscreen is much bigger, designing the user interface for a mobile experience becomes a more significant priority. It goes beyond making the app look pleasant — features that are most used by healthcare professionals need to be easily accessible and the features that aren’t as popular need to be easy to find.

Most PaaS vendors include a software development kit (SDK) to build these apps with. There are also vendors who specialize in low-code or rapid mobile app development platforms, so a specialized developer doesn’t need to be hired to build the app. These platforms also allow app users to work with developers to design an app that is secure, functional, and usable.

Apps go hand in hand with cloud technology and custom apps can be key to making sure operations run smoothly in both the backend and the frontend. The control an organization has over a custom app gives custom scalability and can be changed and monitored depending on the growth of an institution.

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