- Healthcare applications are in high demand as organizations seek to provide clinicians with tools to give them more mobility and flexibility when treating patients. Backend as a Service (Baas) is one of the ways entities can build healthcare applications quickly and integrate them into their IT infrastructure.
The high demand for these apps means that organizations need to evaluate their resources and determine how the apps will be developed. Organizations need the apps to be developed quickly so they can be tested, deployed, and implemented.
BaaS is a tool developers can use to build apps faster and simplify how apps are integrated into the network along with other tools such as EHRs, Sravish Sridhar, GM of Kinvey and Progress GM told HITInfrastrucuture.com.
BaaS takes the features that every app needs, like sending and receiving data, and delivers it to the developers as a cloud service utility so developers don’t have to build those features for every individual app.
“Developers just pick and choose what features they want for an app, turn it on, and they integrate it to the user experience that they build,” explained Sridhar.
Building a healthcare application is much more involved than pulling together an app and deploying it onto the network. Entities need to set goals for their applications so they can be used effectively and integrate with other health IT tools.
“Every CIO, every chief digital officer tells me that higher quality apps, compliance and security, connecting to all internal systems, creating better outcomes, and reducing cost and doing it quickly are what organizations need for their app development process,” said Sridhar.
Users need to find the apps useful so they will integrate them into the workflow. Every aspect of the app needs to have security and compliance built in and the app needs to be able to connect to legacy systems, including EHRs.
The apps also need to take advantage of the data they collect so it can be used for better patient outcomes. All of these things need to be done cost effectively, which is why a BaaS platform can significantly help organizations build better apps.
When organizations try and achieve these goals themselves without an app development platform, the apps tend to fail because the process is too complicated to yield consistently successful results.
“There's no way to measure if outcomes are being improved,” Sridhar explained. “Compliance is either iffy or it takes so long to do it properly that projects go on forever. Projects get bloated and get very costly and time consuming. These are big challenges that everybody is facing again and again, and this has created the opportunity for a full-fledged health cloud to provide them answers to all these questions.”
One of the most difficult aspects of integrating apps into health IT infrastructure is EHR compatibility. Many healthcare organizations have older or customized EHRs. Even if two entities are using the same Epic or Cerner EHR, if the systems have been customized it becomes difficult for organizations to integrate apps with their EHR.
Building apps to integrate with EHRs becomes even more complicated when large health systems that have acquired multiple healthcare companies with different EHR systems integrating apps becomes even more complex which is why a tool like BaaS is needed.
BaaS helps solve this problem by decoupling the frontend digital apps from the complexity and fragmentation of the backend.
“A chief digital officer can build an app as simple as trying to find the wait time for my ER to something more complex as an entire patient lifecycle when a patient visits a hospital,” said Sridhar. “They can build this mobile app, a web app, and a chat-bot in a very concise and precise way to be a very elegant user experience for the client.”
Developers can build their apps against the platform using frontend tooling and backend capabilities without worrying if it will be compatible with the EHR or any other healthcare database that it needs to connect to.
Once the app is built, the BaaS layer allows developers to connect backend features.
“It's like a plumbing problem or electrical problem where you connect the wire from the app to the backend as a service platform, and then you connect another wire from the backend as a service platform to the EHR system,” said Sridhar. “They are two different wires, so if the electronic health record system changes or gets updated, you just have to add a new wire for that backend integration.”
“You don't have to change the frontend wire, so you've completely decoupled the frontend and the backend,” he continued. “This lets you be extremely agile and not stuck to connecting directly to the backend system.
Most BaaS providers and enterprise healthcare providers offer their capabilities as a service because once it’s ready to be used, developers can just make an account and begin to use it.
“Your developers can just sign up, start using it, put some sample data in, and build some quick applications and try it out,” Sridhar explained. “Once you get to the point where you're really happy with it and you want to integrate it into your backend systems, then there's a set of tools within the platform that allows you to stand up VPN connectivity between the backend as a service system and your internal enterprise. This allows you then to wire up the BaaS platform to your internal systems.”
BaaS platforms help healthcare organizations build successful apps based on the what the organization needs out of the apps.
“Organization should first take a step back and evaluate based on the use cases they have,” Sridhar explained. “What do you buy off the shelf? What do you build custom from scratch? Who can you partner with who's got things that are very close to what you need? What can you put together based on existing tools that you have? I think you should step back and do an analysis of what your needs are and how you can achieve them.”
Sridhar also advised that organizations not hire a development team to try and build apps on their own.
“The industry has moved significantly forward where 80 to 90 percent of what you need is available out of the box from enterprise health cloud and backend as a service vendors,” Sridhar explained. “Organizations should leverage technology versus trying to build integration and apps and backend services and APIs on your own.”
Once the app is built, it’s important for organizations to measure how effective their apps are so they can always be updated and improved, he added.
“Once you do all the hard work and launch something, the worst thing that can happen is if you're not in a position to continue making it successful,” Sridhar said.
Healthcare organizations need tools that will allow them to easily integrate applications into their network as the demand for more apps grows. BaaS can help simplify the development and deployment process of healthcare application.