Cloud News

Offline Apps Provide Healthcare Orgs Continued Connectivity

Developing healthcare apps with offline functionality gives users access to critical healthcare data in the event of a service outage.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

Connection outages and downtime represent major drawbacks for healthcare organizations considering implementing a cloud service solution or mobile applications. Service interruptions — scheduled or spontaneous — can cripple a healthcare organization primarily depending on cloud.

Offline apps service healthcare

Healthcare organizations are especially sensitive to outage risks because of patient safety with patient’s well-being depending on a provider’s ability to provide the most appropriate care. If an organization is fully functioning on software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps or other infrastructure tools dependent on an internet connection, a service outage is potentially hazardous to patient health.

For healthcare organizations using them, enterprise mobile apps play an impactful role. The authors of the study Mobile Devices and Apps for Healthcare Professionals: Uses and Benefits found that mobile devices have greatly improved communication and information gathering at the point of care. The study groups the main uses of apps in medical organizations into five categories:

  • Administration
  • Health record maintenance and access
  • Communications and consulting
  • Reference and information gathering
  • Medical education

“Mobile devices and apps have provided many benefits for [healthcare professionals], allowing them to make more rapid decisions with a lower error rate, increasing the quality of data management and accessibility, and improving practice efficiency and knowledge,” the study concluded. “Most importantly, these benefits have been shown to have a positive effect on patient care outcomes, as evidenced by a reduction in adverse events and hospital length of stay.”

Despite the benefits of healthcare apps, but organizations are likely to pass on them for fear of outages.

Outages of critical resources are always a threat to healthcare organizations. While most organizations have contingency plans for power outages and other disasters, including to protect the immediate safety of patients, the loss of wireless network connectivity isn’t strictly in the institution’s hands.

If the service outage is caused by the vendor, it will likely take time for users to regain connectivity.

In the event of wireless denial of service (DoS), users can’t connect to the network for a period of time. Even if the outage only lasts a few minutes, healthcare professionals using apps fall behind schedule, causing delays throughout the day.

Taking online apps offline

Outages for critical applications are unacceptable for any institution and several app development platform vendors have recognized the need for offline apps. Offline apps do not function offline exclusively but have added functionality built in during the development process.

Offline apps use application caching to save a cached version of the user’s frequented pages and makes them available offline. For medical professionals this could be daily schedules or the records of patients with appointments that day. Medical professionals are able to edit the cached version of the record which will be officially updated when a connection is re-established.

Organizations susceptible to turbulent weather such as hurricanes or tornadoes should seriously consider apps with offline functionality in addition to other traditional methods of emergency planning and preparation.

Offline apps are useful for more than just contingency planning. Mobile workers such as EMTs or home-care professionals are able to utilize offline functions by accessing and modifying patient records and other sensitive health data which will be saved and updated on the server once the user comes into range of the healthcare network.

Automated file updating and offline access prevent users from needing to connect to unsecure networks to access health data when away from the facility, adding an extra layer of security.

It’s important for healthcare organizations to perform to the highest level possible during an emergency because they are often charged with helping people in an emergency. Having access to all resources during a service outage is critical for the safety and well-being of patients.

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