A Complete Guide on SaaS for Healthcare Industry
Running a healthcare institution is costly. People who own and run a healthcare institution are directly responsible for their patients’ and staff’s well-being. They need to adopt all the possible means to ensure that their patient experiences are superior and their staff has a smooth workflow. Hence, they are always looking for methods to improve operational efficiency without spending hefty amounts of money. The SaaS model thus turns out to be of great help to healthcare institutes.
SaaS stands for Software As A Service. Gartner, Inc. defines SaaS as ” A software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers. The provider delivers software based on one set of common code and data definitions that is consumed in a one-to-many model by all contracted customers at any time on a pay-for-use basis or as a subscription-based on use metrics.”
In simple words, it is a subscription-based model of software licensing and delivery. In healthcare, SaaS can provide numerous benefits as it can have multiple applications. Let’s take a look at the various benefits it has to offer.
- What are the benefits of SaaS in Healthcare Industry?
- Checklist for HIPAA Compliance
- What are the upcoming trends in Healthcare SaaS?
- How to develop a healthcare SaaS application?
Let’s begin by understanding the meaning of SaaS For Healthcare.
What are the benefits of SaaS in the Healthcare Industry?
SaaS in the Healthcare Industry has the following benefits:
- It is cost-effective.
- It is secure.
- It is scalable.
- It facilitates easy and quick back-ups.
- It allows real-time updates.
- It increases accessibility.
- It offers fast and better upgrades.
Let’s discuss these benefits in detail.
Healthcare technologies are expensive, and as the healthcare industry deals with very sensitive information, it cannot compromise on efficient features just for the sake of saving a little money. However, with SaaS, healthcare institutes get an economical solution as they don’t have to bear any:
- maintenance costs
- set up costs as heavy hardware set up is not required
- upgradation costs
- heavy initial investments
With SaaS applications, medical institutions can access multiple security features to keep the patient data secure. Also, there are several compliances and standards like HIPAA, which are ensured to keep private health information and sensitive data safe.
SaaS applications are highly scalable as they are usually cloud-based. Hence, the medical institutions don’t have to worry about scalability as they can quickly scale their applications up or down, depending on their business’ growth..
One of the most significant benefits of SaaS applications is regular back-ups. With on-site data servers, the institute is responsible for all back-ups and is under the constant risk of losing all data in case the servers crash. However, this is not the case with SaaS applications as they continuously back up all data. So, in case of any problems, all medical data can be easily retrieved.
With SaaS applications, healthcare institutes can ensure that they have accurate information at all times, as it facilitates real-time updates. It means all the specialists involved in a patient’s case can collaborate on his records and share regular updates. Every specialist will have the latest updated information, which will help them provide better care.
With SaaS applications, authorized users can access information from anywhere, at any time. It is especially important as doctors can consult with each other regarding a patient’s case from remote locations. Patients and doctors can also communicate easily without worrying about accessing the latest records.
Now that you are aware of the benefits SaaS in Healthcare offers, let’s take a look at how you can ensure HIPAA compliance in your SaaS application.
Checklist for HIPAA Compliance
HIPAA compliance is one of the most important aspects of using any electronic medium to exchange patients’ private health care information, including SaaS. However, healthcare institutes often fail to comply with HIPAA properly, leading to hefty fines for them. Here, we have listed and explained four points you must keep in mind while ensuring HIPAA compliance for your SaaS platform:
- Find all applications in your healthcare organization that contain private health information
- Review all contracts
- Set compliance standards
- Conduct audits
Let’s discuss them in detail.
Find All Applications That Contain Private Health Information
Many departments buy or implement new software in large healthcare institutions without consulting their IT department or any other healthcare consulting company, leading to “Shadow IT.” Due to the healthcare industry’s sensitive nature, the implications of shadow IT can be tragic.
There might be many departments in your healthcare organization using SaaS applications containing electronic protected health information (ePHI). You should first find out all such applications being used in your healthcare organization and ensure that they are HIPAA compliant.
It is essential to ensure that any SaaS application used in a healthcare institute is HIPAA compliant to maintain patient data privacy and security.
Review All Contracts
Many SaaS applications in the market aren’t fit to comply with HIPAA standards. Hence, before transferring your system entirely to a SaaS application, ensure that you go through all contracts properly to ensure HIPAA compliance.
Make sure that you have signed the HIPAA-compliant Business Associate Agreement (BAA) or contract. The HIPAA BAA is responsible for:
- setting permitted uses of electronic protected health information
- setting permitted disclosures of electronic protected health information
- ensuring the security of all healthcare information
You must also go through the breach notification obligations and emergency clauses in such contracts to ensure that you do not leave any loopholes unattended concerning HIPAA compliance.
Set Compliance Standards
For cloud-based healthcare apps or SaaS applications, you should set standards like:
- SNOMED CT
- DICOM, etc.
These standards are not exchangeable with HIPAA compliance. However, they help to:
- ensure utmost security
- ensure supreme privacy
- create enhanced auditing efficiencies to outline compliance goals
According to HIPAA compliance, all electronic protected health information should be encrypted to NIST standards if stored in cloud-based or SaaS applications. However, encryption can sometimes prove to not:
- provide adequate protection to private health information
- keep it entirely confidential
There are many additional, country-specific compliance standards. By complying your SaaS application with such standards according to your geographical area, you can ensure that your confidential patient data is entirely secure and private.
Under HIPAA compliance, audit controls are essential to:
- monitor access attempts to electronic protected health information
- record the usage of information
Many times, healthcare institutes fail to conduct regular audits, leading to hefty fines even if no electronic protected health information breach has occurred. You should perform risk analysis in the SaaS application concerning NIST guidelines to ensure that you can:
- examine breaches
- implement all security measures
- maintain cybersecurity protection
You must outline all necessary requirements while moving your procedures to a SaaS platform or application. You must ensure that you sign the right contracts, correctly follow all HIPAA guidelines, and conduct regular audits to provide high-level data safety measures to your patients.
Now let’s look into the upcoming trends in Healthcare SaaS.
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What are the upcoming trends in Healthcare SaaS?
SaaS applications in the healthcare industry aim at providing healthcare institutions with multiple ways to improve operational efficiency and increase productivity. SaaS has already become popular in the healthcare sector, and keeping in mind the numerous benefits it offers, it will probably dominate this sector in the upcoming years. There are various forthcoming trends in Healthcare SaaS, which may facilitate this growth.
Some of the upcoming trends in Healthcare SaaS are:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Vertical SaaS
- Pay-Per-Use Model
- Integration in Existing Systems
Let’s understand these trends properly.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence has self-learning properties, which make it one of the most promising trends in Healthcare SaaS. It can optimize:
- internal healthcare processes
- improve productivity
- automate repetitive tasks
With various machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence can help healthcare providers identify
healthcare information patterns and provide better patient care.
Artificial intelligence can also improve healthcare SaaS by:
- Integrating voice-enabled assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, which can detect human speech patterns. It can make many processes like data searching or adding new information to records quicker. It can also make the SaaS application more customized according to the provider.
- Improving security as artificial intelligence can identify trends, which will help the organization detect any potential threats to patient data security more quickly and efficiently.
- Automating processes with the help of machine learning.
- Improving overall responses by increasing speed of internal procedures.
- Getting better insights into data and quickly finding answers to questions.
Vertical SaaS refers to an all-in-one, customized software solution for a particular industry. For example, Healthcare BI software is an example of vertical SaaS as it offers business intelligence software specific to the healthcare industry.
As vertical SaaS is customizable, it tends to be more economical and preferable than horizontal SaaS.
Vertical SaaS can offer the following benefits to the healthcare industry:
- Healthcare organizations can integrate analytics, business intelligence, etc. easily with vertical SaaS.
- They can also incorporate key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess long term performances in essential processes.
- Organizations can access patient data and get healthcare-specific intelligence efficiently to understand patient insights better.
- Vertical SaaS can ensure that the software meets the healthcare industry’s standards, which provide higher business value and performance.
- As it is a customized, healthcare-specific software, it will help organizations provide higher quality services to their patients and clients.
Typically, SaaS in healthcare functions as a subscription model. Users pay a fixed amount on a monthly or yearly basis, based on the services they use. However, recently, people and organizations are moving towards a pay-per-use model (PPU model).
The pay-per-use model is a better option for organizations offering or looking to avail temporary services. It is also a preferable option for new, growing healthcare organizations or startups, as they don’t have to worry about having enough funds to pay the monthly/yearly subscription fees.
Integration in Existing Systems
SaaS in healthcare is gaining popularity very quickly. As more and more people realize the various benefits it offers in the industry, they opt for SaaS solutions. As SaaS becomes more common in the healthcare market, the requirement to integrate it into existing systems also increases.
SaaS in healthcare can help organizations integrate the data stored on the cloud into their existing systems with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
How to develop a healthcare SaaS application?
Developing a healthcare SaaS application requires a lot of team effort, planning, and resources. Here, we have outlined five steps you may follow to build a SaaS application. These steps have been explained with the help of an example.
A while ago, a client reached out to us to develop a cloud-based EHR SaaS platform. The first step we took was “planning.”
The first step, planning, requires you to figure out your requirements. You must know what problem you’re trying to solve and what exactly are you expecting from the SaaS solution. You should identify who will be the end-user and what features you want to add to the application to make the application easy-to-use for the end-user. It helps to hire a healthcare technology consulting company, as they can help you precisely plan all your requirements.
Identifying your target audience helps you to finalize the SaaS application’s architectural requirements and features more precisely.
During the planning stage, we analyzed the following architectural requirements for our client’s SaaS application:
- Business Services
- Cloud SaaS Platform with OSS, BSS, Service consumer and provider portal, etc.
- Quality Attributes like performance, availability, flexibility, etc.
- Privacy and Security
After analyzing the requirements, we concluded factors that affect the system’s performance and quality: it should be easy-to-use with a stable service environment and support multiple users, authorized access, cloud-based resource sharing, and protection against system errors.
After you’re done with planning, the next step is to complete all documentation.
The second step, documentation, requires you to document all your requirements before moving on to any development procedure.
Documentation may include your project scope, user requirements documentation, contracts, HIPAA and BAA contracts, etc.
The documentation step is crucial, as this is where you finalize everything related to your SaaS application. Whether it is about the functionality or the legal standard compliances, you should have everything appropriately documented so that the later development stages can run smoothly.
Clear and precise documentation is also essential to ensure that you deliver a high-quality MVP. Unorganized documents or vague requirement specifications can negatively impact your MVP’s delivery.
In the Documentation Stage, some of the user requirements we finalized were:
- Clinical Decision Support services
- Immunization Management
- Patient Information Management
- Appointments/Admission Scheduling, etc.
We also documented and signed all contracts related to HIPAA and other legal standards.
After you’re done with the documentation, the next step is to work on the MVP.
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. The MVP includes the core features to perform at a fundamental level. It acts as a proposal, just to check if it is the desired solution for the problem you wish to rectify. If the MVP doesn’t prove to be successful, it will not be taken into further development stages.
In this stage, we used different tools and tested multiple approaches to ensure that we deliver high quality and solution-focused MVP to our client.
Once we finalized the best technology stack and programming language for our client’s SaaS application, we moved on to the development stage.
Once you’ve completed the planning, documentation, and finalized the technology stack, you can move on to the development stage.
Developing a SaaS application requires a lot of skills and experience, especially for a healthcare SaaS application, as it will deal with very sensitive data. The best approach is to hire developers or continue with the healthcare technology consulting company you were in touch with till this stage to help you with the development.
Hiring a team and working with them, continually communicating with them, and regularly checking progress can help you develop a very high-quality healthcare SaaS application.
In the development stage, our team of highly experienced developers worked on the visual and technical design, conducted regular sprints to ensure a smooth workflow and that we’re meeting the set milestones. We also finalized the security measures to be used, such as:
- data encryption
- access control
- data back-up, etc.
We used Microsoft Azure cloud computing to build the SaaS application, with services such as:
- Database Service
- Queue Storage
- Blob Storage, etc.
We also designed mobile services to provide high usability and availability of healthcare information services to medical staff for multiple platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. We also reviewed various governmental security and privacy regulations to provide reliable and secure access to sensitive healthcare data.
Finally, we moved on to the deployment and maintenance stage.
Deployment and Maintenance
The next step after development is supposed to be the deployment of the application. But before the application is deployed, you must ensure that:
- the SaaS application has undergone multiple testing procedures
- the quality of the final version has been checked
Before deployment, we conducted multiple testing to ensure that our final product is of fine quality. Our quality assurance team also tested the production server after delivery.
As we used Microsoft Azure, it was easy to provision web servers that could deploy our SaaS solution and scale it on-demand. With Azure, auto-migration between virtual machine instances is possible, which can be very helpful with disaster recovery or upgradation.
Also, our team regularly keeps updating our client and upgrades the SaaS application.
SaaS will soon be one of the most widely-used technologies in the healthcare sector. By getting in touch with the right SaaS application and software development companies, you can ensure that you develop a highly efficient and easy-to-use SaaS application.
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