One of the things I love about HIMSS mHealth conferences are all the resources for software developers of mobile apps for health. In line with that theme I’d like to describe a new (to healthcare) way to create great mobile health apps with great workflow (Hey, I wouldn’t write about it otherwise!).
— Charles Webster MD (@wareFLO) November 8, 2015
Start with the healthcare workflow!
Now, I don’t mean understand healthcare workflow and then dive into Swift (iOS), Java (Android), or HTML5. I mean draw the workflow in a workflow editor. Draw the forms you want to appear at certain steps in the workflow. Popup some dialog boxes to connect your mobile health app to healthcare data and to customize business logic. Then push a button to generate native mobile apps running on multiple mobile platforms. What is this sorcery? Business Process Management (BPM).
What could be easier?
This sort of low-code development has been around for years outside of healthcare. It’s just taken this long for it to finally diffuse into healthcare, where we need it badly. Think about it, most healthcare software development is caught between the horns of a dilemma. Either we use existing software someone else has written, usually from scratch, which may or may not fit out workflows, or we write healthcare software from scratch ourselves. In the first case, we are dependent on someone else, who may or may not understand (or even care) about our workflow, and who may or may not keep that software up to date. In the second instance, you are often stuck with a mess. Healthcare organizations typically don’t have full time mobile programmers. If you hire someone to create an app, it’s expensive to create and then often even more expensive to maintain.
Instead, if you invest in the right Business Process Management (BPM) infrastructure, you have a third alternative. You can draw your workflows and automatically turn them in to real, live, mobile applications, and native and cross-platform to boot (that’s software pun).
If you don’t believe me, seeing is believing. Let me introduce two examples into evidence.
The first example of drawing a mobile health app was a couple years ago when I was a Google Glass Explorer (by the way, Glass is not dead, at least not in healthcare). The following three pictures go from chicken scratching on whiteboard to workflow diagram on the computer to some of the screens I saw when using the mobile glass app. It was a workflow system for hospital environmental service personnel (housekeeping is a really really important contributor to patient experience). It took an hour to create the workflow diagram in the first place, and then an hour to have it demoed for me and then tweaked a bit more.
In this second example Doug demos how to create an awesome health plan mobile provider membership app… WITHOUT HAVING TO WRITE ANY COMPUTER CODE! Sorry, I had to all caps that… This is exactly what I am taking about when I blow the workflow technology horn, AKA modern BPM application platform. (BPM stands for Business Process Management).
Be sure to increase your video resolution to the max, because you’ll want to pause it at various points, to more closely examine the application designer screens.
OK! Let sum it up. Healthcare software development, including mobile health app development, needs to start creating software in a completely different manner to which we are historically accustomed.
- Don’t buy expensive software that doesn’t fit your workflow, and which may abandon you high-and-dry.
- Don’t create software from scratch, in geeky computer languages such as Java and Swift. You won’t be very good at it.
- Do create custom workflow software, running natively across multiple mobile devices, by drawing your workflows.
That is all!
@wareFLO On Periscope!