Smart Surgery

How Backend-as-a-Service is Supercharging Healthcare App Development

27 Sep 2018

Building successful applications must strike a balance between an effective, intuitive, and user-friendly frontend on the one hand, and a succinct backend that captures complex processes and data on the other. For many companies, developing, updating, and managing the more complex elements of a backend is difficult, and often times cost-prohibitive.

This is where Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) or Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) come into the picture.

BaaS enables companies to develop and run their application without having to focus vital development resources on data storage and maintenance infrastructure. Beyond that, a BaaS is typically designed to handle industry-specific formats - e.g. FinTech or Genetics - in order for the database to be populated and structured accordingly, so the frontend can be built on it and integrated through a single API.

BaaS for Healthcare

Healthcare apps in particular pose unique and significant challenges. While healthcare providers collect and accumulate vast amounts of patient information and data, this information often is spread across multiple disparate systems-- PACs, EMR, HIS, active directory, and other databases.

Accessing each of these systems requires either a unique API or legacy-interfacing protocols such as HL7 and DICOM in order to access this information.  Systems interoperability is tough to develop, and is never guaranteed.

Accordingly, the use cases for BaaS in healthcare are numerous. 

BaaS can serve as a middleman between the user-interface and where the data is stored. Often times, it is a hospital partner or consultant who will utilize healthcare-specific BaaS. They will overlay the backend with their proprietary frontend code, instead of having to build the required infrastructure to access hospital data systems themselves. 

The opportunity created by the BaaS in this example - though seemingly simple in function - has just saved the partner years of development time trying to interface with hospital systems on their own. That time could drain the resources from the project entirely, or could posit an impassable hurdle in the project. 

The hospital in-house example is also a potent one. Hospitals with their own proprietary, software development team face the usual limitations: tight budgets, limited number of developers, etc. The creation and maintenance of backend code bogs-down development teams. Employing a BaaS solution, this burden is taken away, while still having the benefits of easy and reliable access to relevant data. They, instead, can focus on the user interface that best suits their hospital or clinic. 

Perhaps the most tangible impact for a BaaS would be for the device manufacturers themselves. Take surgical robotics for example (an industry slated to reach a market value of more than $13 billion by 2022). The strength and innovation of a surgical robot lies most centrally in function and application - applying actions to data inputs. For robot manufacturers, a BaaS solution could provide single API access to a structured database of patient information, normally logged in siloed hospital systems that the robotics manufacturer lacks the specialization to access. Building their frontend software onto such a structured BaaS allows them to focus on development, implementation, and testing of frontend functions, while leaving the database structuring and maintenance to the experts.

Conclusion

Development teams across the board face consistent pressure to increase output under significant time constraints. This is particularly true in healthcare, where the industries complexities and stringent security protocols make processes significantly more difficult.

Using BaaS solutions helps to simply the process and remove the strain of managing backend systems, while still allowing companies the ability to create and deploy their unique frontend interface. From healthcare providers to their medical device partners, all parties benefit from the better allocation of resources and quicker implementation of software solutions.

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Sean Witry

Written by Sean Witry

Sean Witry works as Community Manager and Content Marketer at caresyntax. With a background in international affairs and a focus in public health, he's passionate about exploring technology's role in increasing access to quality care and improving patient outcomes. You can reach him on LinkedIn or via email at sean.witry@caresyntax.com.

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