- The current explosion of medical applications pushes organizations to plan for how they will develop and deploy digital tools. Healthcare PaaS applications give entities a reliable and secure platform on which to develop compliant applications.
Healthcare organizations have several development models to choose from when building apps and platform as a service (PaaS) lies in the middle of control and customization compared to the other popular choices: software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
PaaS provides developers with a framework to build applications on in-house and often includes a software development kit (SDK). Applications are created using the software framework, which is built into the PaaS tool.
PaaS solutions give organizations flexibility, scalability, and availability, while reducing the amount of coding needed to develop the app.
Developing apps with a PaaS solution gives users and developers all of the usability advantages of SaaS, but has the added benefit of developing apps all on the same platform, which increases interoperability. EHR applications developed on PaaS solutions will be more compatible with other applications so clinicians can use more digital tools collaboratively.
SaaS applications are already developed on whichever platform the vendor chooses so applications from different vendors may not be compatible. PaaS solutions give organizations control over how the apps are developed so they will be compatible.
PaaS is also beneficial to organizations that want to produce a lot of apps and introduce them into their IT infrastructure quickly. Not as much coding is needed so the app doesn’t have to be built from scratch. This allows developers to produce more apps using the same platform that can work separately or together, depending on what the application is needed for.
Organizations can build both employee facing and patient facing applications that they have control over. Developers also have access to new updates and development tools so apps can be updated and improved as the tools used to access them and store the data they use also evolve.
Despite the obvious benefits of PaaS, there are several drawbacks that organizations need to consider before committing to this type of app development strategy. While there isn’t as much coding involved with building apps on a PaaS solution, developers are still required to build them in most cases.
The demand for custom healthcare apps is high and there aren’t enough developers to meet the demand. The lack of developers means that these employees are more expensive to hire, which can negate the money organizations save by developing apps in-house, rendering the PaaS solution useless.
However, the demand for healthcare apps is so prominent that app development is still expected to grow despite limited budgets and shortage of developers, according to a recent Red Hat survey.
The survey found that 82 percent of healthcare organizations have implemented a mobile strategy, with 78 percent receiving a positive ROI from mobile applications. The generally positive financial outcome of healthcare mobile applications indicates a spike in future healthcare app development, with 36 percent of respondents intending to develop additional apps over the next year.
Entities must have the staff on hand to not only develop the applications, but to manage them once they are deployed. More control over development also means that IT is responsible for making sure updates are implemented in a timely manner.
The extra time and staff needed to develop apps in-house may cause organizations to look to alternative solutions as a way cut back on developer staff, the time needed to build an app, and over-all costs.
Low code app development platforms are emerging in healthcare as entities seek out a consistent and compliant platform to develop apps. These platforms offer a more simplistic interface than traditional low code platforms and often don’t require developers to build out the front end of the application.
Similar to traditional PaaS solutions, the application building, the infrastructure, and the compliance requirements are handled by the vendor so the organization can focus on the applications it is trying to build.
Developers aren’t responsible for building out an entire app any more on a low code platform, which frees them up to work on the backend and make sure everything is working the way an organization wants it to.
Low code platforms also give smaller healthcare providers that can’t afford to hire or contract a developer the opportunity to create custom apps for clinicians and patients.
Healthcare organizations can benefit greatly from building custom applications, but they need to have a clear strategy and understand where potential costs can become unmanageable.