Implementing healthcare software: Best practices for system integration
According to research by Statista, receiving health services through websites and apps in the US is gaining popularity and might soon surpass consultations via video and phone calls. This trend indicates that more clinics will face the need for greater digitalization and integration of these technologies into their ongoing processes. In this article, we’ll examine potential challenges associated with implementing healthcare software solutions and the standards that need to follow for smooth technology adoption.
Types of healthcare software
Healthcare software can be categorized into groups by function. These groups improve communication between the patient and the hospital or clinic, assist with data recording, or enhance diagnostics.
This includes instant electronic appointments and receiving test results without delays. Telemedicine, a significant advancement in healthcare, allows patient-doctor interactions to occur remotely via the Internet using video apps or messaging. It gives patients the freedom to choose the specialist they wish to consult, regardless of their respective locations.
Electronic data recording
This category mainly involves electronic health records, which provide a data storage base for doctors to access patient information and make informed decisions. This technology can manage various types of data, including patient, hospital, nationwide, or knowledge data. It can encompass all sorts of files from a patient’s history (images, prescriptions, etc.) or internal documentation for staff.
This important group helps specialists detect issues, often relying on artificial intelligence technologies and their branches, like machine learning and computer vision. Diagnostic computing can range from detection to analyzing anomalies and suggesting diagnoses.
In-depth use of technology
While we’ve named three apparent layers of digitalization, the National Center for Biotechnology Information also identifies other areas like automatic control of the patient’s state and transplantation modeling. As new technologies continuously emerge, new areas might appear.
As a software development company, we will focus on the first two types (electronic data records and healthcare telecommunications) in this article, as the rest are closely connected with hardware specifics and would require a separate discussion.
Potential challenges associated with the healthcare systems implementation
Integrating healthcare software can offer benefits such as speeding processes, enhancing diagnostic precision, and safely storing data. However, some pitfalls must be considered, such as personnel adaptability, the compatibility of all apps, and ensuring a pleasant patient experience. Let’s start with the human factor in implementing new technology.
Factors influencing the adoption of healthcare software among personnel
One of the first theories on adopting innovation was the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology originally proposed in 2003 by a group of scholars. This theory suggests that technology adoption is based on behavioral intention, constructed from four factors: performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence, and facilitating conditions.
It is the belief that the implemented healthcare software will provide benefits through a new way of performing a job. Before introducing any new technology to the personnel, you should ask yourself, will the technology simplify processes for staff and reduce paperwork, or will it burden the GP with additional electronic forms on top of paper records?
This factor concerns the effort required to adopt the technology — is it intuitive and easy or time-consuming and exhausting? Consider the challenge of communicating with patients while simultaneously dealing with new technology. It can significantly delay the processes and influence the clinic’s reputation.
Referring to the extent to which other people believe an individual should use technology, this factor emphasizes gradual and positive technology implementation, accepted by most personnel. The implemented healthcare software should be user-friendly and versatile. If it is accepted by the majority of the staff, those who are against the novelty will rather adopt the new tool or leave the system.
Essential to successful implementation are strong software support and maintenance. The belief that the organization’s technical infrastructure can support the new system — including healthcare software, necessary equipment, and IT staff — is crucial, as it eliminates the feeling that the technology is being introduced temporarily or in test mode and allows the staff to use it confidently and finally adopt it.
Note that these factors can also be influenced by the staff’s characteristics, such as age or experience. There are also such social factors as cross-cultural differences that influence the acceptance of technology. For example, technology adoption can vary significantly between China and the US users. Additionally, the size of a location often affects the adoption of new technology; megacities tend to be more adaptive due to greater resources, while smaller areas may be slower to adopt. Thus, it’s important to ensure that clinics being spread throughout the country have the necessary hardware and IT support.
Therefore, entrepreneurs should consider these behavior characteristics and complexities when building a healthcare application and thoroughly analyze the organization and social context before introducing new technologies.
Having discussed the human factor in technology implementation, let’s now consider how to avoid challenges and maintain the appropriate level of adoption factors to ensure smooth implementation.
Are you hesitating on how to implement your healthcare software and need professional help to analyze your market? Contact us, and together we’ll find the most suitable solution.
The data transition can involve various types of data, but for illustration, let’s consider electronic health records (EHRs), which have a substantial impact on reducing treatment time and human error. Even though most clinics already use electronic records nowadays, the methods of data transition can include moving existing records to other records and transitioning from paper to electronic systems.
Why do we consider this a challenge in healthcare software implementation? Because the transition might potentially overwhelm the staff or influence the clinic’s operation in general. Here are some issues with the processes that may occur and suggestions for a smooth transition of the system:
From paper to electronic health records
Unfortunately, the quickest and the most cost-effective option for transitioning documents to the new system is still scanning, which over time will eventually transform into robust electronic recording by reducing paperwork. Apart from scanning, as a sacrifice for the future effectiveness of EHR, mind other issues:
- Time for training. The personnel used to the physical documentation may not be ready for the change. Therefore, you will have to provide training for the staff and leave some time for the adoption.
- Implementing protocols. In case of extra data entry, a clear protocol should be established so as not to leave out crucial information about the patients and make the interaction with the healthcare software clear for the staff members.
- Establishing integrations. EHRs should integrate seamlessly with existing or planned apps and systems, ensuring that patient information updates in one resource are reflected in other systems.
Recommendations for a smoother transition include:
- tailor training sessions to different roles and tasks within personnel;
- temporarily run paper and electronic systems in parallel to prevent creating stressful situations for the staff and errors in work;
- do not eliminate physical documentation in one day; plan for a gradual reduction of paper in processes.
From one electronic record to another
Transitioning from one health software to another can be as challenging as a fresh implementation, but the process is smoother, thanks to data transfer through APIs. Still, there are unique challenges associated with data migration when changing EHRs:
- Compatibility of data. Even with smoother data extraction between systems, there may be compatibility issues, professional help might be needed to make this process painless.
- Downtime risk. The transition period between two EHRs should be minimized to avoid operational delays and patient inconvenience.
- User experience. Adapting to new healthcare software might initially reduce productivity, but ensuring the EHR system has intuitive interfaces and appealing design can ensure a seamless initial experience.
- Safe data transition. Ensuring all information transfers accurately and securely to the new system is critical to prevent mistreatment due to data errors or losses.
Recommendations for a smoother transition include:
- Plan migration during low-activity periods, typically in summer.
- Establish real-time data backups for a safe data transition.
Both transition methods
Both data migration methods may share a common challenge: costs. Expenses include the cost of the EHR software, hardware in the case of paper transitions, analytics, data migration, and software support and maintenance.
Recommendations for a smoother transition include:
- To minimize costs, make sure that you can request an approximate estimate from a software company or the specialists you plan to hire.
We provide our clients with approximate estimates before the start of their projects so that they can plan the budget.
Several tools and approaches can assist in system integration and data migration during the implementation of new healthcare software. Let’s name the most useful and widespread standards that help create a well-coordinated healthcare system.
Health Level 7 (HL7)
This standard outlines rules for handling healthcare information in terms of its transition, exchange, and integration between EHR systems and other necessary healthcare systems. Created to tackle the issue of disconnection between healthcare applications, HL7 establishes a unified standard of work with medical data. It is a primary standard, and there are others governed by HL7 that might be helpful in binding the healthcare systems together.
Digital imaging and communication in medicine (DICOM)
The DICOM standard was designed for medical image transmission, storage, and capturing. It connects the medical hardware and software by decoding. DICOM ensures that, let’s say a tomography belongs to a certain patient. It organizes information by grouping it into data sets, meaning that a patient’s ID will be inseparable from the image. The standard helps to avoid mistakes in attributing images as well as easily exchange them.
Integrating the healthcare enterprise (IHE)
This framework aims to improve communications between computer systems, incorporating HL7 and DICOM standards.
Substitutable medical applications, reusable technologies (SMART) on Fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR)
This is another standard that describes how third-party applications can access the information stored in electronic health records. It’s not a tool itself but a guide that EHR vendors implement when developing a healthcare application.
Consolidated clinical document architecture (C-CDA)
An HL7-governed documentation standard, C-CDA establishes a structure for health records to standardize medical content and prevent confusion. It was invented in the US but has been adopted internationally.
Representational state transfer (RESTful) APIs
These protocols help transmit data regardless of the technology used in the initial and new EHR systems, enabling secure and stable communication between them.
Addressing data transmission is crucial because a smooth transition that adheres to healthcare system standards and prevents data loss significantly influences the level of acceptance of new technology or EHR systems. Yet, there is another important aspect of implementing healthcare software which is integrating telecommunications into medical services processes. While EHR is all about interacting with data, the focus of telemedicine technology is on effective communication between the clinic and patients. So you can face specific problems in this area.
When implementing medical apps, it’s important to consider not only the behavior of personnel but also that of patients. Specific user experience issues may arise when integrating telemedicine into caregiving processes. Here are some common problems:
Remember our discussion about how cultural and social aspects can greatly influence user acceptance? Before starting to develop an app that connects patients with their doctors, it’s essential to study whether patients truly need it. Perhaps the ethos of the target audience is such that people prefer offline appointments to video calls. Conducting customer development interviews to learn the users’ habits before engineering healthcare software is worthwhile.
Once the necessity is recognized, the application should enable simple interactions not only for the user but also for personnel and within the admin panel. User-friendliness includes having an interface design that is recognizable and, more importantly, convenient.
We’ve listed the standards in the previous part. Adhering to these standards can provide your healthcare system with the compatibility of each element, leading to easier scheduling, obtaining results in a shorter time and ultimately in providing proper care for patients.
Medical data storage has specific rules in different countries. Hence, when developing healthcare software, the company building the application must be aware of the local laws and regulations. For example, when developing for the US, the main document is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In the EU, the primary document is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Moreover, the system itself must be protected from data breaches; security, in this case, is provided by thorough testing during the healthcare software development process.
Implementing a monitoring system to gather user engagement data can provide insights into how patients and staff members use telemedicine services. Collecting feedback directly from both parties can help identify areas that need improvement and refine the telemedicine experience. It might be worth it to build a custom data analytics tool for your healthcare software so that it will collect information from all your applications in one place and display the metrics that are important for your business.
Implementing telemedicine requires understanding of user behaviors, ensuring user-friendly and secure interfaces, and establishing an effective monitoring system. Compliance with local data protection laws and regulations is also crucial. In general, these aspects are important not only for telemedicine but for any healthcare software, whether it is for diagnostics or communication. However, in telemedicine, special attention should be paid to user experience, and not the least here is design, which may not play such important role in internal healthcare applications.
Transitioning to digital healthcare systems and telemedicine can present challenges. However, it provides a lot of benefits such as faster diagnoses, effective treatment plans, and improved patient care. It’s essential for healthcare facilities to invest in user-friendly, secure systems and provide necessary training to ensure smooth implementation. Understanding key integration strategies, standards, and protocols can help healthcare organizations navigate this digital transformation effectively.
- Telemedicine solutions are becoming increasingly popular in the US, making it crucial for clinics to effectively integrate digital processes.
- The adoption of healthcare software among personnel is influenced by factors such as performance and effort expectancy, social influence, and facilitating conditions.
- Data transition in healthcare requires careful management to avoid overwhelming the staff. The transition from paper to electronic health records or from one EHR system to another presents its unique challenges.
- The integration of healthcare systems can be facilitated through various standards and protocols like HL7, DICOM, IHE, etc.
- In implementing medical apps, it is important to consider user behavior, ensure interface design is user-friendly, adhere to data-related standards, prioritize data security, and implement effective monitoring systems.
With professional guidance and careful planning, these challenges can be mitigated to realize the full potential of healthcare software and digital technology in enhancing healthcare service delivery. We are ready to offer you help on this journey with our custom software solutions. Click the “Get in Touch” button below to contact our managers.