8 Great Healthcare Opportunities for Software Developers

The healthcare industry is looking for solutions to some prevalent challenges. New developers welcome.

Contrary to popular belief, the healthcare solutions market isn’t impenetrable. There’s a growing demand for solutions that deliver automation, efficiency, and accuracy. Still, dominant names may continue to intimidate healthcare software developers weighing opportunity against risk. See if these eight opportunities can tip the scales in favor of you taking your solution to this market.

1Mobility

“Digital adoption is accelerating,” says Chris Sullivan, Global Healthcare Practice Lead, Zebra Technologies. “Developers need to know that IT spend is growing faster in healthcare than in any other industry.”

One prime opportunity is providing mobile solutions for the point of care. Sullivan says clinicians (frequently) are parking workstations on wheels (WOWs) and computers on wheels (COWs).  And now increasingly they’re opting for wearable or handheld mobile solutions or deploying solutions, such as label printers, in patient rooms.

Sullivan points out that healthcare applications have largely focused on the iOS platform, driven by physicians’ preferences for their personal devices. However, physicians are only a fraction of a patient care and hospital administration team. The industry as a whole can benefit from Android, which offers a range of benefits, but Android development is lacking. “There’s a big push to speed up development,” Sullivan says.

2Interoperability

Despite broad electronic health records (EHR) systems implementation, Sullivan says the average hospital still uses more than 100 specialty and niche information systems. Integrating those systems and ensuring a seamless flow of data will improve efficiency, visibility, and patient experiences.

For example, when a patient is discharged, multiple disparate systems may be involved. Some facilitate communication with family members and physicians, others share information with the inventory management system, and some transmit data on the status and location of the patient with the EHR system. Further complications arise when data is collected as voice recordings, location data, barcode scans, device or equipment feeds, or in other structured and unstructured forms.

Sullivan comments that interoperability is becoming less of merely a benefit and more of a requirement. The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology has published a proposed interoperability rule with the goals of greater patient access to information and innovation.

Sullivan adds that Zebra is building relationships with independent software vendors (ISVs) and healthcare software developers to work to connect disparate systems.

3Growing Emphasis on Non-Acute Care

Sullivan says the problem of diverse, fragmented systems is even greater in non-acute and home healthcare — but that’s the direction the industry is moving.

“Providers are financially incented to move from hospital to outpatient and in-home care,” Sullivan says. “However, the home environment may have multiple smart devices that monitor patients, but data sets are islands of information, not integrated with the EHR. Providers lack the ability to analyze all data together to find patterns and anomalies and to predict outcomes.”

He adds, “Major health systems in the U.S. are focusing on home health and workflows that involve clinicians that travel to patients’ homes. These clinicians want simple software apps — not a mobile version of the EHR that works well on a tablet or smartphone and can be customized to their specific needs.”

4Telehealth

COVID-19 brought telehealth to the forefront, giving healthcare providers the ability to establish virtual interactions between patients and their caregivers. Sullivan notes, however, efficient ways to collect data from telehealth appointments are lacking.

“Physicians are still relying on notes or transcription to capture information,” says Sullivan. “Natural language processing has the potential to improve data capture and save time.”

5Drive-Through Testing

COVID-19 has also created the need for new methods of care that require minimal human interaction. “Healthcare software developers never planned for this use case for their mobile solutions,” Sullivan comments.  Now, and in the future, there will be a demand for solutions that enable barcode scanning, image capture, or facial recognition to capture patient ID and link that authentication to patient-collected samples.

“Healthcare providers need innovation that provides solutions for new patterns of care that are quick, flexible, and cost-effective,” Sullivan says.

6UDI Tracking

Medical devices and supplies from stents to gloves are marked with unique device identifiers (UDIs) that provide digitalized information. Sullivan says, however, that vital information is not currently available to physicians and clinicians at the point of care. “There’s a knowledge gap about using the product with the patient,” he says. For example, clinicians may not know a product contains latex and that the patient has a latex allergy. Developers could also create solutions that immediately alert a clinician that a product has expired or is subject to a recall.

Although Zebra is efficiently delivering data to the EHR through UDI Scan +, healthcare software developers are needed to connect third-party information, which will provide context to the data the system collects. “It’s an opportunity to bring valuable data from outside sources to the point of care environment,” Sullivan says.

7People and Asset Tracking

Sullivan says locationing systems have more than 100 use cases in healthcare, some of which are vital to patient outcomes. For example, solutions can track tissue samples from surgery and route them to ensure the surgeon gets test results quickly, or tracking can ensure surgical instruments are sterilized and ready for the next procedure.

“The benefits and time-savings of knowing exactly where something is gaining a lot of momentum in the industry,” Sullivan comments.

8Medical Device Security

Internet of Things adoption in healthcare is increasing, but smart medical devices are perceived as security risks. “Software development is not in the core DNA of medical device companies,” says Sullivan. “Forward-looking developers are bringing data security to the marketplace.”

Although mobile device management (MDM) providers are offering effective solutions, Sullivan points out there continues to be an opportunity for healthcare software developers to offer security for all systems and devices, including those from previous generations that are still in use.

To meet the needs in this area and many others, Sullivan says, “More work needs to be done.”

It could be time for you to dismiss the myth that you can’t compete in healthcare, roll up your sleeves, and meet this need.

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.