Healthcare companies want technology to assist their medical personnel and improve the quality of patient care - that’s no surprise. However, outdated software often complicates their workflow, which is why 87% of healthcare providers rely on paper and manual processing. This is actually disappointing, and that’s why we recommend developing a healthcare SaaS platform that will be tailored to your needs.
According to the 2020 Healthcare Cloud Computing Market report, the global healthcare cloud computing market will rise to $61.84 billion by 2025 from $18.85 billion in 2018.
At the same time, SaaS is expected to be the most popular cloud model in this market. And in this article, we will explain why.
We’ll tell you how building a SaaS platform benefits healthcare providers. You’ll also learn to efficiently move your old infrastructure to the cloud and discover features to enhance your facility.
Make sure to read until the end to learn about technical and legal difficulties you may face during development.
Advantages of building a healthcare SaaS for hospitals
Software as a service (SaaS) is a cloud-based delivery model that allows hosting and deploying applications on third-party infrastructures. In other words, you lend servers, databases, and computing resources for your software from the provider.
Healthcare facilities are quickly moving toward cloud-based solutions due to:
- Technological necessity. The rapid market growth is driven by technology trends like big data analytics, wearable devices, and artificial intelligence. Legacy platforms don’t have the power or compatibility for new tech, and managing on-premise infrastructure is way too expensive compared to cloud computing.
- Customization and third-party support. Legacy systems are incompatible with the latest technologies. For instance, about 58% of healthcare companies can’t integrate telehealth into their outdated systems. SaaS providers solve this problem by making their solutions highly customizable through application programming interfaces (APIs).
- Remote health delivery. Researches suggest cloud technology is the most powerful mechanism for virtual medical services, IoT devices, and telehealth.
- Easier onboarding. Companies don’t need to create healthcare SaaS projects from scratch. You just have to pick a company that fits your architecture, data isolation, and scalability requirements. Providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) have tools to help transport your data and apps from your on-premise system to their platform swimmingly.
- Resource-effective management. SaaS architectures allow you to scale storage, memory, and CPU based on your workflow and budget. On top of that, you don’t have to maintain or upgrade the platform — the provider usually does it.
We understand you might think that migration is way too expensive and time-consuming. That’s why we built a strategy to help you move to the SaaS model as efficiently as possible.
How to move your healthcare product to the SaaS model
You need to consider a plethora of factors when shifting your workflows to the SaaS model. The process involves multiple stages, starting from an in-depth audit of your current platform.
1. Analyze your IT infrastructure
Migrating to the SaaS platform actually gives you a chance to optimize your processes through business research and an internal audit.
Start by studying your market and target audiences: investors, doctors, nurses, medical staff, and patients. You’ll also need to assess your current IT infrastructure, software modules, administrative policies, and cybersecurity.
Your main points of attention during the analysis should include:
- Goals of healthcare SaaS development for key stakeholders (company’s owners, investors, and doctors)
- Primary patient categories (demographics, age, medical conditions)
- Local government regulations and certification procedures
- Current usage of storage and compute resources (CPU and RAM)
- Interoperability capabilities of your electronic health record (EHR) and management systems
- Business and operational support services to integrate into the SaaS platform
- Software modules to add to your healthcare software
- Workflows to discard (productivity bottlenecks)
- Personal health information (PHI) your collect, store, and share
- Data management and backup policies and procedures
- Security and privacy protection mechanisms
By the end of the assessment, you should define the project’s overall scope, budget, and timeframes.
The development team has to document all technical requirements and collect stakeholders’ approval before starting the project. The documentation also brings clarity into the development process, especially if the development is outsourced.
2. Choose the optimal SaaS architecture
After gathering technical specifications, you need to select a cloud architecture based on the required resources and data isolation. Your options include single-tenant and multi-tenant SaaS:
- Single-tenant SaaS. This architecture isolates your application, database, and supporting infrastructure from other users on a SaaS platform. This means fewer security vulnerabilities and a customizable environment with separate compute resources. However, this model requires significant investments and won’t let you easily scale your resources once you identify inefficiencies.
- Multi-tenant SaaS. Multi-tenancy architectures isolate your data, but you have to share software instances, computing resources, and datasets with other users. You get to use a complex and scalable infrastructure, which is also maintained by the provider.
Single-tenant architectures work for large hospital chains that want total data isolation and control over the IT environment. In contrast, startups and medium-sized healthcare facilities will profit from a more affordable and easily configurable multi-tenant SaaS architecture.
The next step is to select a cloud platform that meets your architecture requirements.
3. Select a cloud service provider
On-demand cloud computing platforms like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud provide SaaS infrastructures for healthcare organizations. They also offer out-of-the-box tools to help you automate processes, analyze data, and ensure regulatory compliance.
Most healthcare SaaS vendors have both multi-tenancy and single-tenancy architectures. Popular SaaS providers have flexible service packages for all types of healthcare companies and individual practitioners. So, you shouldn’t have a problem picking an option that fits your product requirements.
4. Set up an authorization server
An authorization server takes care of resource-heavy processes that happen every time someone tries to access your SaaS platform. The server must check credentials, affiliation, and process additional authentication mechanisms before granting an access token. This might happen hundreds or thousands of times a minute. So, it’s advisable to reduce the burden on your server with third-party rights management tools like AcroSSO.
5. Develop an MVP
We recommend creating a minimal viable product (MVP) with essential functionality before building the full version of the platform. It helps gather feedback from your stakeholders, doctors, and real clients much faster, giving you more time to alter and adapt the system. After refining the core elements of your platform, you can add secondary features.
Migration to SaaS requires detailed specifications of functionality and an appropriate set of technologies. So, let’s talk about the features you’ll need in your platform and the tech stack you might use for development.
Features of custom medical SaaS platforms
The features below will turn your SaaS platform into a valuable solution for patients and medical personnel.
Healthcare facilities should implement a module for managing medical records, images, treatment plans, notes, recordings, billing data, and other important files. Here’s the functionality you’d want to consider:
- Uploading multiple files in batches
- Automatic text filling
- Natural language processing (text and voice recognition for prescription processing and health data entry)
- Ability to upload documents for patients
- Clinical document templates
- Support for multiple file sizes and formats, including image and video files
- Automatic image and video format conversion
Doctors can take photos or screenshots of virtual health checkups using their smartphones or tablets. So, it would help if the platform supported importing files directly from mobile devices.
Read also: How to develop document management system.
Integrating your EHR with your SaaS platform allows medical staff to quickly access, share, and manage patients’ health information. And seeing how medical notes alone aren’t always enough for accurate diagnostics, your platform should allow doctors to exchange videos and images from the EHR.
Adopting health information exchange (HIE) can streamline medical data transfer between your clinics and other organizations. This would help healthcare providers, nurses, and pharmacists quickly share electronic health records, improving the speed of patient care.
A clinical decision support system (CDSS) can also enhance care delivery. CDSS analyzes patient data in EHRs and EMRs to provide doctors and nurses with diagnosis and treatment options. Plus, mobile device support would allow them to receive suggestions on the go.
Your platform should also automatically import logs into medical records after visits. This way, your medical staff won’t have to enter as much information manually.
Telehealth (video-conferencing) is one of the fastest-growing trends in healthcare thanks to its convenience and effectiveness during the pandemic. According to the 2021 article by McKinsey, patients used telehealth services about 38 times more in 2021 than the year prior. Nearly half of respondents of the 2021 global survey said they used video-conferencing to contact a medical professional at least once.
Well, it’s no surprise telehealth is becoming a must-have for clinics. A video conferencing module in your SaaS can help doctors:
- Examine symptoms, wounds, respiratory efforts, and other signs remotely
- Make diagnoses and prescribe medication
- Follow the treatment progress and check the results
Besides, remote consultation services allow you to treat patients from other regions or those who want to avoid in-person visits, increasing your reach.
Scheduling and notifications
Scheduling tools will allow your doctors and patients to book and move appointments inside the app. Reports suggest that 43% of patients prefer scheduling online instead of doing it via phone calls. This means you can free up your administrator’s time and lower your phone bills.
If you want to make sure no one forgets about their visits, consider email, text, and push notification reminders. You can also integrate your platform with calendar apps and task management software.
An administrative module for your healthcare platform will help run your facilities and keep an eye on business performance with tools for:
- Medical staff performance monitoring
- Finance and accounting
- Inventory and pharmacy information control
- License and subscription management
- Patient information monitoring (lifetime value, churn, acquisition cost, recurring revenue)
- Targeted marketing (email campaigns, product offerings, discounts)
Additionally, you can add a customizable dashboard to quickly access important information from the app’s home screen.
Digital payments and billing
A billing module is critical for a SaaS solution if you want your staff to spend less time on redundant tasks. Some of the key functions to simplify invoice and payment management include:
- Automated invoicing and tax management
- Billing management features
- Metrics for expenses and revenue (for individual clients, client groups, and hospitals)
- Payment failure and refund handling
- Multi-currency support
- Special offers and discount management
- Checking for insurance coverage and reimbursement for healthcare services
You can make the patient’s life easier by including multiple payment methods (credit card, bank transfers, Stripe, PayPal, as well as Google Pay and Apple Pay). Just make sure that your application uses secure communication protocols and payment gateways.
Data analytics and reporting
You need a software module to analyze the activity and performance of your SaaS product. Some of the metrics it should capture includes:
- Used memory and storage (per facility, user group, and individual)
- Devices used to access the platform
- Bandwidth costs (per facility, user group, and individual)
- Periods of increased and reduced activity
- System uptime
You should add advanced reporting features that generate automated and customizable reports based on these metrics. Using this data, you can allocate resources and identify bottlenecks in your system more effectively.
Patient support portal
Support portals are often overlooked in healthcare SaaS solutions. But a customer support portal with ticket management will help you keep track of all issues.
Besides, almost 90% of US customers expect to see online self-service features. This means you should allow patients to manage bills, schedule appointments, and upload data from their app. You can place important business information in the FAQ section of your app so that they could learn about your services without bothering the support.
A compliance management module can help ensure that your software and activities align with data security laws and practices. The model usually includes:
- Audit management for investigating law compliance issues (HIPAA, GRPR, UK-GDPR, PCI DSS) and security standards (ISO 27001 and 27002)
- Scheduled reports on performance indicators for sensitive business processes
- Fraudulent activity detection for payments and financial statements
- Compliance and security training for medical staff and IT departments
Now that you know what important features should go into your healthcare SaaS, it’s time to start thinking about the development.
Technologies needed to develop a healthcare SaaS solution
The technologies you’ll need depend on the functionality and use cases of the SaaS healthcare product you want to build. But from our experience, this is the optimal SaaS tech stack for many projects:
- Python — a dynamic object-based programming language for scalable SaaS applications and data analytics systems
- React — a frontend library with robust DOM-manipulation tools and a big ecosystem of compatible frameworks and libraries to build rich web user interfaces
- webRTC — technology for real-time peer-to-peer communications and video streaming
Picking advanced programming languages and backend frameworks won’t guarantee successful development or migration. Your engineers should understand if they meet your technical requirements and product design.
It’s no less important that your team is aware of the common industry challenges.
Challenges of developing healthcare SaaS platforms
Developing healthcare software is particularly complex due to the specifics of the medical industry. Here are some of the issues you should pay special attention to.
Negligence of cybersecurity costs healthcare organizations billions of dollars every year. According to the 2021 Healthcare Breach Report, there were 599 data breaches in 2020 — a 55% increase compared to 2019. The same report claims that over 67.3% of these breaches are the result of hacking. Overall, cybercriminals exposed over 24.1 million healthcare records in 2020, with an average cost of $499 per record.
So, for the love of Hippocrates, focus on security as you build a healthcare SaaS platform. At the very least, you need to implement:
- Multi-factor authentication (one-time passwords, face ID, biometrics)
- Automatic account log-outs after particular inactivity periods
- Access control and different authorization levels based on user roles
- Encryption and tokenization of protected health information
- Log monitoring and intrusion detection tools
You also need to devise data backup and recovery plans to reduce damage from ransomware attacks and disasters that might strike any clinic. Luckily, most healthcare SaaS vendors allow integrating such tools into your platform.
We can’t stress this enough: ensure your software and policies adhere to HIPAA Privacy and Security rules. The penalties for violating these rules can reach $1.5 million per year and result in criminal charges.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) regulates the use of medical devices. So, if your platform falls within the definition of medical devices, you must apply for this certification before release.
You also need to make your software compliant with other local laws and data privacy regulations. For example, companies that process bank and credit card information must adhere to PCI DSS.
Interoperability and standardization
Healthcare organizations have difficulties moving data between software modules due to interoperability issues. According to the 2019 research by HIMSS Media, 25% of platforms lack any level of interoperability, and only 36% can effectively exchange information between their systems.
Healthcare companies can prevent interoperability issues by adopting Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) — an industry-accepted standard for effectively exchanging medical records. Following this standard can help you convert your legacy datasets for scalable SaaS environments, but optimizing for FHIR won’t be easy without an experienced team.
Experience in health-tech
Bringing your platform to SaaS might mean entirely reformatting your existing applications and data. The process can take much more time and budget than initially planned if you don’t know what you’re doing.
We can tell you for sure that experience plays a crucial role in healthcare software development. A seasoned medical software developer understands what healthcare companies need and can help you build a SaaS product that provides real value to doctors, nurses, and patients. Besides, working with experts gives you fewer reasons to worry about incompatibility and other technical issues.
The SaaS cloud computing model wins over on-premise software due to lower cost of ownership, limited initial capital expenses, and less infrastructure maintenance. Migrating your platform to the cloud can streamline data exchange and increase the performance of your software. Ultimately, it can enhance the quality of patient care.
However, developing a healthcare SaaS isn’t easy. Even with our migration guide, you can encounter technical, regulatory, or security challenges. That’s why it’s helpful to have a skilled partner by your side.
Acropolium has done dozens of migrations and built many successful solutions for healthcare companies. We can help you develop custom software and support your migration to SaaS with minimal operational disturbances. Plus, our experts can pick the appropriate technology stack, provider, and security mechanisms for your needs.
So, are you interested in upgrading your platform? Get in touch with our team so we can talk business.