Developing virtual healthcare solutions is a daunting task. As a healthcare technology solution provider targeting the remote care market, you’re required to have both the clinical and the technological expertise needed to design, build and integrate a complete solution that can address the challenges with virtual patient care and monitoring.
Today’s digital healthcare solution for remote care is powered by software and data. Or more specifically, the reliable acquisition and management of data in remote settings, and the subsequent processing and analysis of that data for patient diagnosis and care. However, the two disciplines (i.e. technical vs. clinical) are drastically different and therefore extremely difficult for any one company to execute both well.
As a result, the idea of a platform that can separate data acquisition and management from the clinical application itself would make it much easier for the world of healthcare application developers to create novel solutions without the burden of having to become experts at sensors, IoT networks, and data management. This concept of separating the application layer from the underlying data infrastructure is not new and is evident in examples such as Microsoft Windows for desktop applications in the 80s, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) for today’s enterprise applications. However, traditional enterprise platforms for information technology fall short of what’s necessary to develop and deploy virtual healthcare applications.
For application developers seeking to build a virtual healthcare solution, having to deal with all the requirements of a platform that encompasses devices, IoT networks, data analysis and insights, in addition to patient and physician user interfaces, is a heavy lift. Do-it-yourself, vertically integrated approaches to remote healthcare application development are complex, time-consuming and expensive. In order for virtual healthcare application development to thrive, the industry requires a different type of enterprise data platform – one that abstracts application development from the required supporting infrastructure of sensors, networks and data management.
Understanding Medical Devices for Virtual Care
As a healthcare application developer, your expertise is user experience and clinical knowledge, not hardware or data management. Much of the data acquisition for virtual care comes from medical devices such as wearables and sensors. In some cases, these devices require regulatory clearance or approval, while other situations can be solved with a simple consumer wearable such as an activity tracker. There’s also the issue of data integration with so many of these devices, each with its own protocols and data management features. And once a solution requires more than a couple of devices, the permutations of factors to consider can multiply exponentially, quickly overwhelming your average software developer.
A properly designed and architected virtual care data platform will manage the variations and complexities in device protocols and data management across a broad spectrum of devices. It will also curate virtual care devices to ensure application integration and data integrity will work as expected.
Remote Networking Challenges
Networking challenges in remote and ambulatory situations are much more complex and unpredictable than the corporate intranet. When you’re working with patients in their homes and on the go, the situation is different from an in-hospital situation. Bluetooth, WiFi, LTE availability and spottiness all come into play. The same software application developer is not likely to be an expert at remote network data management. For example, when networks are interrupted, data from devices and sensors must be cached and synchronized once the network is back online.
An effective platform has to ensure data integrity throughout the entire data chain, even with all the possibilities that could go wrong with transmitting from a person’s home to the Cloud. As an example, to capture and transmit continuous ECG throughout the day requires integration and management of the device, mobile app, and cloud, all while accounting for potential interruptions from BLE, WiFi and LTE, or power depletion on the devices themselves. As a result, data platforms for virtual care not only need to manage a myriad of devices but also the uncertainties of remote network environments.
Privacy and Data Jurisdiction
Healthcare data management entails more than privacy laws about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In some cases, there are jurisdiction considerations within countries where the data must reside even. This means that if the platform is cloud-hosted, the server may need to reside within the country. Not all cloud platform providers have the ability to control where the server in the cloud actually resides.
Regulatory requirements for marketing authorization of medical devices (both hardware devices, software-as-a-medical-device, or a combination) varies by country and is dependent on the intended use of the device and the associated risks. For software processing and presenting data, the level of clinical decision support and the criticality of the situation or condition will determine what is necessary from a regulatory perspective. The typical enterprise data platform for corporate IT never has to deal with these issues, but a data platform for healthcare must do so.
Selecting the right platform that already has the necessary authorizations for infrastructure components and adheres to Quality System requirements for medical devices removes a huge burden for the healthcare application developer, and speeds commercial time-to-market.
Facilitating Positive Outcomes
In the bigger picture, Microsoft Windows and AWS enabled a new world of innovative computing applications for corporate IT – increasing the availability of compelling solutions and decreasing the cost by reducing the entry barrier to developing novel applications. In healthcare, a viable enterprise platform for remote care can revolutionize care delivery as well as research in much the same way. Accelerating product development is one outcome of using an enterprise platform built for virtual care applications. This means serving patients and clinicians faster, and in turn, could mean helping save lives. For a healthcare application solution developer, an enterprise virtual healthcare data platform enables you to focus on your domain expertise and accelerate time-to-market.
About Jiang Li
Jiang Li is the founder and CEO of Vivalink, a provider of connected healthcare solutions for in-hospital, ambulatory, and remote patient monitoring. Li’s nearly 20-year career in high technology took a new direction when a routine health check landed him at the ER under examination out of fear he was in the middle of a heart attack. Noticing the outdated monitoring technologies in the hospital, he knew emerging technologies could be properly implemented and sought to apply his background in flexible electronics to healthcare.
Prior to joining Vivalink, he was responsible for new product and technology development as the VP of engineering in Kovio and Thinfilm Electronics, leading printed electronics companies. Prior to that, he worked at AMD and the joint venture between AMD/Fujitsu, Spansion. As the VP of product engineering in Spansion, Jiang managed the major new product launches in Spansion. Jiang holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a bachelor’s degree from Zhejiang University in China.