From reducing IT backlogs and accelerating app development, to empowering citizen developers and enabling “fusion” dev teams of programmers and business technologists, the private sector has been enjoying the benefits of low-code development for some time now.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, “low-code” generally refers to app development platforms in which users can input information and get the results they need through graphical user interfaces, or GUIs, rather than having to build or modify their own programs from scratch or with heavy engineering resources. With IT departments at nearly every organization chronically overburdened, it’s not hard to see why low-code has taken off. It enables IT pros to offload relatively simple projects to less technical business users, promoting true dev talent to focus on projects that call for their advanced skillsets. For this among other reasons, it’s predicted that by 2024 nearly two-thirds of all apps will be built using low-code development platforms.
Meanwhile, public health — a sector where these benefits could have a far-reaching impacts — has been relatively insulated from this revolution. The reasons for this are multiple. One is essentially cultural: legacy systems, which are omnipresent in government at all levels, require niche talent, and organizations consisting of mostly legacy technologists can be resistant to change. But probably the biggest reason why low-code development hasn’t been taken up by public health IT leaders with the same enthusiasm is data privacy. Public health systems must be sufficiently secured to comply with HIPAA rules governing patient health information. Most low-code platforms, having been designed for the private sector, don’t offer sufficient data privacy controls or reporting for public health agencies.
That’s all changing, however. Recognizing the value that low-code development offers to the public health apparatus, several vendors have developed solutions that allow public health jurisdictions to take advantage of low-code app development while maintaining full HIPAA compliance.
These capabilities couldn’t come at a more critical time. Since February 2020, public health departments have been tested like never before by a global pandemic that pretty much no one was prepared for. And, if warnings from scientists are to be heeded, Covid-19 could end up being just a rehearsal for many more (possibly deadlier) pandemics in our lifetimes. Meanwhile, the emerging monkeypox epidemic has put public health under renewed strain. In short, in a world where public health agencies are tasked with responding to rapidly changing events, low-code development offers an incredible strong value proposition.
With low-code public health development platform on their side, public health technologists — including those outside of IT — can quickly shore up their electronic disease surveillance system to improve the collection and management of information and processes that the department will need to help fight an outbreak. Leveraging a simple point-and-click and drag-and-drop interface, public health departments can create new apps for capturing patient data, automating repetitive processes, sharing information with other public health organizations, and more — all while maintaining HIPAA compliance. The low-code approach means that users get up to speed immediately and begin developing groundbreaking tools and apps on day one.
Simply put, the value proposition of low-code for public health is too strong for agencies to ignore any longer. With the development of low-code platforms that serve the particular demands of public health, it’s inevitable that low-code will make its way into most public health offices. To be sure, the low-code paradigm represents more than a minor adjustment for IT teams accustomed to a different pace and mode of development. But as forward-thinking leaders are increasingly recognizing, low-code is a critical tool for delivering the public health services of the future and meeting the demands of our time.
About Ted Hill
Ted Hill is the senior vice president of sales and marketing at SSG, a healthcare technology and information services company focused on modernizing the administration and delivery of essential community services.