The following is an exclusive guest contributed post from Courtney Schickel, Ingenious Med’s VP Marketing.
Mobile development in healthcare has taken a rocky road. Early on, mobile app development basically involved building a remote login for the desktop application. You’d just try to navigate the web apps on a tablet or phone–it didn’t really workout. There are some vendors that are still trying to go down that path. Other options involve an HTML5 application, which is really just a mobile website.
Then there’s a hybrid model, a mix of html/html5 and some native code. Technically, you can store as much data as you need with this model, but it requires a constant internet connection to be useful. Hybrid apps are nice from a business standpoint because one app runs on multiple platforms and therefore decreasing development costs, but the user can suffer.
Finally, there’s the full native route, building a full application specifically for mobile device use, essentially creating a complete, standalone portal that operates on its own, syncing with the back end as needed. The native option allows developers to take advantage of the built in behaviors and OS designed controls. Not to mention, you can run it completely offline.
There’s an extra benefit to fully native applications: it more readily allows for its own security protocols and data sequestration, which means in the bring-your-own-device world of healthcare providers, users aren’t surrendering their personal property to hospital IT. More on that later, though.
Functionally, the amount of data a native application allows you to store on the device is much greater, so if a user is in any area of the hospital where cell service and/or wifi is not terribly reliable, functionality is still there. This is critical.
Even offline, we wanted users to still be able to operate as normal. With a native application, users can proceed as normal, and the application will just automatically sync when connectivity is available, updating itself and the greater system to reflect any changes.
This goes beyond convenience, though. There are examples of hospitals going through power outages, or having hardware/computer outages where users couldn’t access their electronic medical record (EMR), or hospital information system (HIS). These are all problems that come up with any business and sometimes technical issues like that means a business has to just stop operations until it’s addressed, but healthcare isn’t like that. People need quality care regardless of circumstances affecting the providers. So, with a fully native application, users have functionality whether they can connect or not, whether there’s a power outage or not.
From a security and compliance perspective, applications can develop their own credentials and authentication protocols, which means it’s possible to protect the data within the workflow application rather than locking down the whole phone or tablet. This is the compromise that can lead to higher adoption across the board. It means doctors and staff no longer feel like they’re surrendering total control over their devices to hospital IT, and hospital IT and compliance officers can be confident in the data security. With higher adoption of fully native workflow applications like this, especially any with care coordination functionality, the dial can really move on the long-sought critical tipping point of full adoption (and therefore 100% compliant communication), protecting PHI as well as the liability of the enterprise. This is especially helpful as coordination tools are added to already highly-adopted applications. If physicians are already logged-in and performing specific tasks, they can easily touch base with colleagues without exposing the hospital, their colleagues, or themselves to a HIPAA violation.
In an industry where the business of healthcare and quality of care are edging ever closer, usability, adoption, and continuous operations become ever more critical. Taking advantage of a world with high mobile device adoption makes sense; optimizing development to keep the hospital and the device owners happy just follows the same logic.