The healthcare industry is known for its reliance on antiquated legacy infrastructure, reluctance to adopt newer digital transformation technology, and skepticism toward innovation. While many healthcare organizations lag the technologies that are standard across other industries, this hasn’t prevented key players from promising new and hugely impactful solutions to the space.
In fact, we witnessed firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an unusually rapid adoption of virtual tools, such as video appointments, e-messaging, and remote patient monitoring. At the same time, we’re also seeing a sharp rise in funding among digital health ventures. The sector has grown from just $1.1 billion across 93 funding deals in 2011 to more than $21.3 billion and 541 funding deals in 2021, with no signs of slowing down in the future.
However, as more players emerge offering shiny SaaS products that claim to revolutionize the healthcare experience, too many venture capital firms and software companies are simply throwing technology at the wall to see what sticks. For SaaS products to truly move the needle, there are four key components they must feature. The optimal healthcare SaaS solution will:
1) Solve the Hardest Problems
As noted, the historic boom in SaaS solutions has created a number of companies pitching redundant and overpriced services, causing many customers to feel inundated and fatigued by the thousands of solutions now available. In the healthcare space, adopting new technology requires a wide range of stakeholders to be aligned.
Realistically, only those with the potential to address their most urgent challenges, as well as deliver the best return on investment, can be considered. The solution has to offer a unique and/or particularly effective solution to a problem far beyond, say, inventory management. To be sure, the ideal solution will leverage cutting-edge tech like machine learning and cloud tools; more important, it must use these next-gen tools to solve thorny customer problems in new and profoundly productive ways.
2) Be Easy to Deploy and Maintain
Health IT faces a consistent staffing shortage for two fundamental reasons. First, over-burdened health systems have adopted an “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” attitude that has created an undue reliance on legacy infrastructure. As a result, those same health systems have preferred not to hire IT professionals who don’t have extensive health experience working on a similar infrastructure.
Software providers who are attempting to sell these customers a new product must offer one that is lightweight. The product must omit the time and legwork generally required to implement new technology and train staff in its use, while also ensuring minimal IT involvement for ongoing maintenance, updates, or support following its deployment.
3) Receive Data at Scale Using Clean Protocols
Healthcare organizations are often known for having “messy” data due to a variety of factors. These include information being spread across multiple places (i.e., electronic health records, non-interoperable platforms, etc.), a mix of structured and unstructured data, the complexity of clinical and patient data, and changing regulatory requirements.
While navigating these nuances may present additional challenges for healthcare organizations, it’s crucial that the data be collected the right way the first time rather than what may seem the easiest method. The same is true for software providers. They must be clear about what specific data is needed for the product, while also designing a SaaS platform that can leverage the data at scale and in a secure, reliable way. In sum, the SaaS solution must handle data with the skill and dexterity of a cloud-native company, and be ready and able to scale as the client scales.
4) Be Both Cloud-Based and HIPAA-Compliant
While cloud-based technologies have become increasingly common for healthcare organizations, not all technology leaders have not had to previously navigate the strict requirements to ensure their SaaS platforms comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations when using a cloud provider.
Software providers should familiarize themselves with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights’ most recent guidance on HIPAA and cloud computing, which offers more detailed direction about how companies should approach the intersection of cloud computing, business associate agreements, and how it ties back to HIPAA regulations.
While healthcare might be slower than other industries in adopting new technology, there’s an appetite for innovation that is driving SaaS companies to introduce a diverse range of new solutions, from virtual care delivery to disease management tools to using artificial intelligence to manage patient scheduling.
About the Author:
Chandra Kalle is Vice President of Engineering at LeanTaaS