Enhancing hospital IT’s speed-to-market capability

As healthcare providers worldwide grapple with worsening healthcare staff shortages and rising service demand, low-code technologies have proven indispensable in bridging these twin challenges while promoting positive outcomes for both patients and clinicians.

Take the case of Mount Alvernia Hospital, a 300-bed private not-for-profit medical institution in Singapore. From the usual three months, it is now putting out applications after a couple of weeks by leveraging a high-performance low-code platform.

Need for speed

As with the rest of the industry during the pandemic, Mount Alvernia was also thrown into a situation where it had to up the ante in its digital transformation. This involved the rapid development and deployment of critical solutions like health tracking and reporting. 

“We initially relied on the waterfall development model on .net and Java platforms, but the need for speed and agility led us to partner with OutSystems,” Bruce Leong, the hospital’s director of Technology and Strategy, told Healthcare IT News.

The platform provided by OutSystems has enabled their 13-individual IT developer team to build solutions with references from pre-built templates and plugins “in record time.”

Their pivot to no-code technology was met with no resistance from the IT team; It even boosted their morale as they could do away from the often tedious and time-consuming work of traditional coding. This made them more capable of meeting constant demand from staff and clinicians to shorten the development time of new solutions to as close as 1-2 weeks.

Since the pandemic, the Mount Alvernia IT team has created 13 applications, including the Staff Health System (which was initially a contact tracing solution), Doctors Directory, Medical Records Tracking, and Electronic Meal Ordering. 

While improving the team’s speed-to-market capability, OutSystems also ensured the cybersecurity of their platform. Leonard Tan, OutSystems Singapore and Greater China region director, explained: 

“Our platform provides 500 validations from design to runtime, ensuring that every aspect built with it prioritises security. This includes automatic fixes for DDOS attacks, newly identified code vulnerabilities, and mobile threats, among others. Furthermore, enterprise IT teams can enhance security assurance by applying enterprise SAST solutions.”

“These solutions offer a robust governance model tailored for enterprise software factories and come with compliance designations like SOC2, HIPAA, and more. With these measures in place, our applications can seamlessly scale from department-level usage to handling millions of simultaneous users without compromising security, speed, or performance. Our AI-driven performance tool continuously monitors code, ensuring consistent and peak-level performance and scalability.”

Fostering innovation

“[Low-coding] not only sped up development but also allowed our team to focus on innovation rather than reinventing the wheel.”

Bruce Leong, Director of Technology and Strategy, Mount Alvernia Hospital

As part of their DNA, innovation also aligns with the hospital’s digital transformation strategy to stay agile. Currently, the Mount Alvernia IT team is developing a new patient application called Alvernia Connect. 

Sharing more details about the project, he said: “Alvernia Connect represents a leap forward in our digital engagement with doctors and patients. This app is designed to streamline and digitalise processes that were previously manual and time-consuming.

“We’re anticipating a positive response, particularly for features like digital admission forms and appointment scheduling, which significantly reduce wait times and paperwork. Our goal with Alvernia Connect is not just to introduce convenience but to offer the patient a seamless and stress-free experience.”

The first module of Alvernia Connect is targeted to be released anytime soon this first quarter of the year. 

Assisting AI development

As much as 70% of new in-house applications will be developed through low- or no-code technologies by 2025, noted Tan.

“In APAC, we continue to see more emerging use cases [of low- or no-code technologies] across various verticals, with the healthcare sector being one which we see going through significant digital transformation. With the shift towards patient-centricity, digitalisation of healthcare delivery services in APAC will continue to accelerate.”

Leonard Tan, Regional Director, OutSystems Singapore and Greater China

Low-code can be instrumental to the development of such applications as patient portals and mobile apps, hospital management systems, medication management systems, and monitoring and triaging systems.

In the ongoing AI revolution, low-code can also assist with developing AI-powered tools for monitoring patients’ conditions, managing medications, and providing convenient interactions through chatbots, among other use cases. “With the rise of AI, low-code can help healthcare players build AI-powered applications efficiently and enhance customer experiences, without going into the complicated coding work,” Tan said. 

Staying agile

Today, people over the age of 60 make up 14% of the region’s population; by the end of the decade, they are expected to rise to 18% and then comprise a quarter of the population by 2050. Alongside this rapid pace of population growth, demand for healthcare services that are more convenient and personalised is also projected to rise. 

“In the years ahead, we are anticipating an increased demand for healthcare propelled by the ageing population in Asia, with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan leading the pack. As a result, healthcare providers will find it increasingly challenging for nursing manpower to keep pace with the demand growth.”

“Additionally, rising consumer demands for omnichannel experiences are pushing the healthcare sector to increasingly adopt new innovations such as digital tools and AI.”

“With more healthcare players developing new applications for both internal use and patients, there’s also an increasing demand for shorter development cycles, with IT teams expected to deliver applications within one to two weeks.”

Leong advises the healthcare industry to “remain flexible and agile enough to tap into new solutions to meet these demands.”

“To combat the healthcare manpower shortage, it becomes even more pressing to increase productivity and efficiency, and this is where technology and automation come in as a key solution.”

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