As virtual health grows, the portfolio of solutions that a healthcare organization needs to manage also grows. What is unique about virtual health – if the adoption curve we expect does, indeed, emerge – is the sheer number of therapeutic, area-specific options a hospital system or payer will consider offering to its consumers.
Solutions can either become an explicit (even branded) part of an organization’s offering, or they can be delivered through an increasingly diverse range of third-party relationship structures.
Either way, the proliferation creates a new type of ecosystem challenge for CIOs. Leaders may already be familiar with managing multiple EHR instances, building out BI and CRM platforms, and establishing cloud capabilities to support all of those larger platforms. They now need to manage a constantly evolving and expanding stable of virtual solutions, too.
This evolution generates the opportunity for pragmatic custom development of ecosystem components inside the organization. There are greater options than relying on third-party solutions and, critically, being beholden to their development lifecycles.
The perk of custom virtual health development for health systems is, if nothing else, control. After years of working through EHR adoption with relatively limited windows for a custom experience, the opportunity for organizations to take back a degree of control in this new phase of health IT investment appears compelling.
We believe, then, that we will see substantial growth in healthcare organizations growing out their custom development capabilities, with two principal flavors:
- True custom development: building new capabilities from concept up to solve for particular use cases
- Accelerator application platforms: building new capabilities on top of application platforms like the Microsoft Power Suite or leveraging the flexibility of tools like Twilio or Amazon Connect to build tools for all manner of virtual health use cases.
Case in Point: Microsoft Power Apps & the Clinical Enterprise
Partnering with Microsoft and their Power App platform, in particular, has allowed us to demonstrate several quick wins in the broad field of virtual health. The possibilities for low code application development are almost limitless.
As noted in a previous blog, COVID-19 has prompted a perfect storm for innovators, pushing aside obsolete and fragmented healthcare technologies and manual processes once and for all. We are finally moving at a faster pace toward a more comprehensive digitized healthcare ecosystem.
The Microsoft Power Platform is a great example of one of the major players involved, offering an expanding array of low-code and no-code applications through Power Apps and Power Automate. These apps are easily customizable to meet unique and growing healthcare needs. We can provide more streamlined and seamless workflows for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals through custom Power Apps. Power Platform can also allow for integration with electronic health records (EHRs) and create cohesive collaboration and communication among healthcare professionals through Microsoft Teams.
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With that in mind, the following examples illustrate how an application platform enhances the “in-between” spaces of a virtual health ecosystem:
Simplifying and Streamlining Nurse Workflows
We are currently developing a Power App that not only guides nurses through a very complex treatment algorithm but calculates initial estimates for medication dosages and keeps track of completed tasks. The tool creates visibility for where a nurse may have left off in the treatment protocol, which is especially important when a nurse ends their shift and the oncoming nurse takes over their patient assignment. It’s also common for a nurse to get pulled into emergencies, which requires another nurse to quickly step in and figure out what treatment tasks remain.
I can personally attest to how important this is, being a registered nurse myself. What I would have given to have an app quickly guide me through elaborate treatment algorithms by providing step-by-step instructions. Not to mention help prevent medication errors and varying interpretations of the treatment algorithm itself.
Another great feature is the integration of our Power App with Epic through a custom connector. This allows real-time patient data to be digested and communicated back to the nurse through the app itself. No more toggling back and forth between different tabs within the patient’s EHR as all necessary information is provided right then and there by the app.
Digitizing Physician Activity Logging Workflows
In another example, we are helping to make physicians’ lives easier by automating their logging of contract activity hours instead of having to do so manually. Creating a custom Power App solution saves invaluable time and allows physicians to do what they do best: provide patient care.
In addition to a web-based Power App, we created a mobile app that allows physicians to log and submit their hours from beyond the hospital walls. What’s most impressive is that we were able to build both of these custom Power Apps in just three months.
Enhancing Physician Team Visibility and Communications
Our third example is all about developing a web and mobile Power App for daily huddle meetings within a healthcare organization. The project focuses on one department with future plans to expand out to more clinical areas of the organization.
Huddles are quick, 15-30-minute meetings to go over issues, announcements, recognitions, and pertinent topics. Team members generally meet either in-person or remote through Microsoft Teams meetings. Talking points are usually captured through a whiteboard, SharePoint site, or spreadsheet, not easily allowing communication and visibility across different teams.
Our solution will automate and enhance huddles by creating a digital board and place to capture important topics, systematize escalations, elicit feedback, and provide reports that can shed light on systemic problems within the organization. It also offers convenience by allowing users to open the Power App within the scheduled Microsoft Teams meeting invite itself.
What the Future Holds
These examples started out as simple concepts that were quickly and easily executed in the Power platform but are now continuing to develop and grow. New iterations, enhancements, and expansions bring the same capability to other departments and teams. By making healthcare provider workflows easier through custom Power Apps, we also help the patient by improving safety and efficiency.
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