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Low-Code App Development Frees Up Health IT Developers

Low-code app development platforms give health IT developers tools to quickly build and deploy mobile apps for clinicians.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Low-code application development platforms are gaining popularity in the healthcare industry as clinicians are becoming more mobile and demand applications. Organizations are presented with the option to develop custom healthcare apps, tailor-made for each department.

Healthcare professionals are known for being on the move and needing information quickly. Vendor-maintained software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps go a long way toward assisting healthcare workers in their clinical workflows, but custom applications unique to each healthcare organization can be more finely tailored to individuals or departments.

Applications give users organized and convenient access to essential data, provide heightened security, and can be compartmentalized when created and stored in containers.

Currently, there are not enough enterprise app developers to meet the demand for custom apps, which app development platforms vendors are recognizing. Some vendors now offer rapid mobile app development platforms (RMADs) or low-code development options.

Low-code development platforms provide a customizable framework for apps to be built, essentially offering the developer a drag-and-drop interface to develop apps. Apps are developed at a much faster rate because they don’t need to be built from the ground up. This allows organizations to develop more apps and deploy them quicker.

Forrester defines low-code platforms as, “platforms that enable rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of hand-coding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment.”

Low-code development platforms also give non-developers the opportunity to create apps. Organizations don’t need to bid against other organizations for experienced developers because users can create their own apps with the help of a developer instead of a team of developers.

Forrester sees a drive to expand and diversify the developer talent pool as one of the forces shaping the low-code platform market. Low-code platforms allow organizations to bring in developers with non-traditional backgrounds. Organizations can bring in developers with different backgrounds such as web design, to create apps that flow and have high usability.

Apps are becoming more prominent in general-purpose usage which makes low-code development platforms an appealing choice to get apps deployed as quickly as possible. Forrester expects to see vendors enhance their platform offerings to encompass general-purpose use cases.

Forrester also outlined several crucial features that low-code vendors need to have in their platforms.

Platforms need to have visual configuration of virtual data models and integration to maintain data quality over different record systems. Developers are no longer writing custom code, so there needs to be a way for developers to embed data elements directly into forms and workflows.

Low-code platforms also need declarative tooling for implementing business logic and workflows to make it easier for developers to change in the future and makes it easier for developers to work with business analysts when workflow changes need to be made. Normally this process takes up a good amount of time, but low-code platforms allow developers to cut down on this crucial step.

Drag-and-drop components for designing responsive user interfaces are also crucial to saving development time and easing usability. Clinicians expect to access apps from a variety of different devices, making the design more important than ever. Apps need to flow well enough to be used on laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Low-code platforms need added automatic generation of UIs for specific devices to ensure the ease of use. An app that is not designed correctly will likely be abandoned in favor of something more cohesive, causing organizations to waste money on poorly designed apps.

Forrester also pointed out the importance of guardrails for managing the app development and delivery process. Low-code platforms need to include tools to manage the development delivery and update processes. This often includes automated performance testing to ensure apps are still working correctly after deployment. The automation frees up valuable developer time to focus on other projects and apps.

Low-code app development platforms give healthcare organizations the opportunity to create custom apps for users without having to spend so much time in the development process.