When It Comes To A Digital Home Healthcare Platform, Should I Build My Own?

The market for home health care technology is poised for tremendous growth; there is no disagreement with that. The aging global population, advances in health care treatments, the move towards in-residence and outpatient care, and the new possibilities created by the Internet of Things (IoT) all synergize together to create incredible opportunities for existing and potential providers of residential healthcare services. 

For those intrepid entrepreneurs looking for early success in this space, the question often arises to whether one should create the underlying technology “from scratch” or develop their digitial home health care application around an existing “off the shelf” SaaS (Software as a Service) health care platform. There are a lot of innovative cloud services available from technology infrastructure providers like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and IBM. Those platforms may make it tempting to “roll your own” solution based on the building blocks that they provide. Perhaps by developing a custom solution, an emerging provider will have more flexibility and end up with a precisely tailored offering. 

To use an analogy from recent history, there was a time when most websites were written directly in HTML code. Programmers can still do this today, but most websites uses one of the 3 major content management systems on the market (DrupalJoomla & Wordpress), which provide powerful, customizable platforms without the user having to start from zero to create new websites or publications. Not only is it easier, but by using these content management systems, the user is leveraging a vast infrastructure of existing users, experts, programmers, and security experts. 

Likewise, using an off-the-shelf platform to deploy home health care technologies—especially when integrating the Internet of Things, can result in a more stable, more secure, less expensive and quicker to deploy system than building the application without any underlying proven foundation. 

Here’s why: 

  • Security: Any healthcare application that touches on patients needs to take HIPAA into account. HIPAA is the set of federal regulations that deal with patient health records and data, medical information, and privacy. Beyond HIPAA, hackers and fraudsters are constantly trying to steal patient data. Rather than attempting to “reinvent the padlock,” leveraging an existing platform means building upon their own intellectual property and expertise when it comes to audit trails, data governance, compliance, data at rest, data in motion, data disposed of… the list goes on and on. 
  • Scalability: You will want your solution to be scalable; you want to be prepared for your coming success. Building an application or solution that works is not enough when success can be viral. Leveraging an existing platform means that the rigorous load testing has already been done and performance has been optimized. You also will have the platform vendor’s experts as a resource to help you craft your application to maximize availability. 
  • Best Practices: Developing an application from the ground-up means having to develop every API and XML map from zero. Once you need to connect to a new application or framework, it means going back to the programmers to develop, test, and validate a new version. By using a tested, proven platform, you are free to focus on your solution and your customers, not on programming low-level hardware and software interfaces and abstraction layers. 
  • High Level vs Low Level: Your core competency is in your health care innovation, not in server maintenance. By building upon a managed platform, the gruntwork of things like disk space management, operating system upgrades and security patches is handled by your platform provider partner. You are free to focus your IT resources on developing and maintaining your application rather than on all the underlying systems that are not part of the direct value you provide to the customer or patient. Your managed platform provider makes sure that these systems are running 24/7-365 so you aren’t receiving the call at 1am January 1st about “Database Connection Could Not Be Made” errors on your application’s web portal. 
  • The power of community:  Just as platforms like Wordpress have large, supportive user bases, by using an existing platform, there is a larger base of intellectual capital contributing to the health and growth of the platform. With a custom solution, you are quite literally on your own. Did your chief platform architect or CTO quit? Do you have the redundancy and scale to continue after unforeseen personnel changes? By working “high on the stack” you are free to focus on your application, not bound by all the lower layer technology transaction processing that takes place between the devices and the network, the servers, the physical infrastructure, software and operating system updates, etc. 

In the vast majority of cases, it is better to focus on developing and supporting your value-added healthcare solution, and invest resources in maximizing patient/customer outcomes, partnering with a digital healthcare platform provider.