Information technology advancements have revolutionized entire industries over the past few decades and its benefits have been realized by the medical industry as well. Custom medical software development is an industry in its own right because of the increasing reliance that both hospitals and patients place on it.
Medical professionals rely on custom software to keep track of patients’ treatment courses. They can have quick access to patients’ reports and other relevant information to make informed decisions about their treatment.
Custom medical software is also crucial for hospitals. They need to have robust systems in place to track everything from medications to staff assignments. The software can make the process much simpler and also ensure accurate record keeping.
Patients benefit from medical software as well. They get the ability to monitor their own medical analytics data. Third-party apps and services also provide them with the ability to measure their vitals using smart devices and share the data with their doctor as and when required.
What is medical software development?
Medical software development can be best described as the process of developing custom software for medical professionals and patients. This can be in the form of mobile or web apps as well as custom software systems that work across a variety of platforms and devices.
Custom software for the medical industry can include admin dashboards, patient engagement software, data analysis tools, telemedicine and telehealth apps, remote patient monitoring systems, and more. The objective to improve patient care while increasing efficiency for caregivers.
What kind of software is used in healthcare?
- Hospital inventory management
This is one of the most commonly used custom medical software in the industry. Hospitals need to keep track of many different things and the only way to effectively remain on top of things is to use inventory management software.
There's another benefit to using such a system which is particularly useful for the supervision of drugs and medical supplies. It helps the hospital improve the efficiency of the supply chain and also reduce medical waste.
The data collected from the software can also be used to forecast demand for medications, control distribution, track stock levels, order placement, automated expiration date control, and more.
- Patient portals
Patients have a right to access their medical information. Instead of giving them mountains of print outs that detail their blood work or countless imaging films, hospitals rely on patient portals to conveniently and securely provide patients with access to their personal health information.
Through the portal, the patients can get a complete overview of their history, lab test results, treatment procedures, and relevant educational material. They can also use the portal to schedule appointments, view a detailed history of their hospital visits, fill pre-visit forms online, and receive automated reminders for their visit.
The portals can also allow for secure communication between the doctor and the patient in addition to video consultations. Furthermore, the portals can be utilized for accessing the complete billing history, online payment of bills, details on insurance coverage, requests for prescription refills, and more.
- Telemedicine and telehealth apps
The ubiquity of smartphones has enabled medical professionals to provide telemedicine and telehealth services to patients in remote areas. This has enabled patients who may not be in the vicinity of a healthcare provider to receive assistance through their mobile devices.
The need for such apps has been further highlighted by the pandemic that has forced people to stay indoors. To ensure the safety of both doctors and patients, a lot of outpatient work has been done this year through telemedicine apps.
These apps have proven to be crucial to the healthcare industry in the pandemic year. Those who would have otherwise lost access to their doctor simply because it was unsafe for them to visit a hospital for even a regular consultation were able to get the treatment they need from the safety of their own home.
- Data analytics
Healthcare providers have to balance the provision of quality care to patients while also keeping a close eye on their bottom line. Effective management of their operations is not possible without a robust analytics tool.
Many hospitals prefer to get their own custom analytics tools developed that can accommodate their established processes as well as any evolution in the care environment.
Medical software development standards, explained
IEC 62304 is a functional safety standard titled "medical device software - software lifecycle processes." Developers are required to comply with the standard as it covers the safe design and maintenance of software. The standard details all of the tasks, activities, and processes that need to be followed in order to ensure software safety.
The IEC 82304 standard highlights the general requirements for the safety and security of health software products that are designed for general computing platforms and to be distributed without dedicated hardware.
Developers are required to perform a preliminary risk assessment at a system level so that the system requirements can be written with regard to the risk assessment. Mitigation actions need to be defined in the system requirements to minimize risks.
Safeguarding patient data is also crucial which is why medical software needs to be HIPAA-compliant. HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act lays down the standards for the protection of sensitive medical data.
Companies that have access to protected health information are required to have a physical network and adequate process security measures to ensure compliance. There are access control requirements as well, in that only authorized personnel can have access to protected health information.
They include the provision of unique user IDs, procedures for emergency access, automatic log-off, encryption, and decryption in addition to tracking logs and activity logs on hardware and software.
Robust recovery systems and offsite backups are essential as well so that any errors or failures can be quickly rectified and no protected health information is leaked or lost.
How important is it to have updated medical software?
The importance of having updated medical software can’t be highlighted enough. Healthcare providers have a great responsibility on their shoulders to first and foremost ensure the safety of patients’ protected health information.
With cybersecurity threats increasing, there’s a greater need now than ever before to have updated medical software that offers protection against threats. The healthcare industry continues to be a target for cybercriminals.
There have been cases where hospitals have lost access to their systems due to ransomware, which is malware that's designed to compromise the integrity of the system and only returns access when a ransom is paid.
These risks go far beyond the leak of patients' data. Hospitals that have their entire systems crippled due to a cyberattack are often unable to provide patient care. This can literally become a matter of life and death for patients, and as such, open up the healthcare provider to liability.
That is why updated medical software is so critical and beyond offering protection against possible cyberattacks, it also provides a more intuitive user experience. Patients don’t want to deal with clunky apps or portals that look like they belong in the 1990s.
They’re used to well-designed apps that offer seamless access to the information they’re looking for. Therefore, it’s best to utilize the latest software development methodologies to create custom medical software that both patients and medical professionals would like to use.
How developers create custom medical software for healthcare organizations
Developers approach any custom medical software development work with the utmost care. The primary concern is always to ensure compliance with development standards. Only then can the client have the peace of mind that the software they have invested in will not run foul of the regulators.
Software development firms will often depute their most skilled resources on the job since medical software development requires a greater level of care. This is done to minimize risks and to provide clients with the assurance that they are getting the best that the firm has to offer.
Before starting on the project, the developers will seek to form a deep understanding of the client’s requirements for the software. Whether they need it to work on just one mobile platform or multiple, if they have interoperability requirements, etc.
This will provide them with a complete picture of what needs to be done so that they can create a plan on how to proceed accordingly.
Medical software development should only be trusted by highly skilled developers that have experience in the field. Zibtek has been a trusted partner of medical organizations and healthcare providers for decades.
Zibtek is one of the world’s leading software development firms with offices in Salt Lake City, Utah. We also have a global talent pool of skilled developers and software engineers that are managed from our offices in the United States.
Our team of highly skilled developers is proficient in creating custom medical software that’s HIPAA-compliant and also adheres to all medical software development standards. Contact Zibtek today if you have any questions about how we approach medical software development and we’ll be happy to help out.