At Thorgate, we recently held a webinar on “Accelerating Digital Transformation in Healthcare” where Sander Mättas, project manager at Thorgate, talked about his experience with innovation in healthtech. The event was fully booked and covered by partner organisations such as Connected Health Estonia and Aleap in Norway.
Sander presented some of the vital aspects of digital product development within the healthcare industry as it moves towards digitization. Some of the topics that he touched upon were:
- The urgent need for innovation in healthtech.
- The need to think of people and not products in healthtech.
- The current high demand for digital touchpoints and contactless service, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The challenges of complying with regulations across jurisdictions.
- The challenges of data protection and storage of patient information.
- How to speed up the development of healthtech solutions while staying within regulatory confines.
- HIPAA-compliant solutions and who should care about them
- And numerous other points which are vital to getting the healthcare sector moving at the speed required to address the challenges our world is facing today.
How to speed up healthtech development
One of the key points touched upon in the webinar, as well as, in the Connected Health Estonia interview was Thorgate’s approach to development.
Instead of “adding things until nothing more can be added,” both Karl and Sander emphasised that Thorgate takes the approach of “[reducing] the initial scope until nothing can be removed”. This method allows a product to go to market as fast as possible while still bringing value to end-users and maintaining the minimum required standards to do so.
This allows us to decrease the time-to-market for our healthtech products despite the need to stay well within the limits of applicable regulatory regimes such as HIPAA (in the US) and MDD/MDR (in the EU).
“Think people, not products”
Sander opened the webinar with Thorgate’s key mantra that encourages us to focus on the people we work with, and the ones we work for, instead of products. This core concept is extremely vital in the healthtech industry and has helped us for 8+ years to create game-changing digital products that are successfully being used by people who love them.
The mantra “Think People, Not Products” is a concept which is very much in tune with the principal codes of healthcare itself.
COVID-19 and its effect on healthtech
COVID-19 brought a surge of innovation to the healthtech market. It also brought about a change in the mentality of many healthcare providers. It has not only sped up the digital transformation in the industry, but also made us more focused on prevention than cure.
Whereas contactless service and digital touchpoints were “nice-to-haves” previously, doctors and nurses are now demanding the implementation of these tools.
The pandemic also put more eyes on the subject of Resource Management — logistics, supply chains, available experts and locations.
The sudden, urgent need to mobilise people and products on a global scale has turned people’s eyes to the fact that development in the area of Resource Management has to accelerate at an unprecedented pace.
The audience discussed solutions that have become the need-of-the-hour due to the COVID crisis such as telemedicine during the Q&A.
One of the major barriers to bringing healthtech to the world is the need to comply with rigorous regulatory standards.
It’s important to determine if your particular application falls under the umbrella of a certain set of regulations.
For example, under the MDD/MDR (Medical Device Directive and Medical Device Regulation), a medical device is precisely defined, and it is important to know that definition to determine if the healthtech solution you are developing falls under it.
Fast-track vs slow-lane
To accelerate development in healthtech, it is imperative to strike a balance between fast-track development and “slow-lane” development.
In making a choice between fast-track and slow-lane, it’s essential to determine which aspects of the software are utterly vital to have and which are merely decorative.
Depending on the software being developed, testing might need to be rigorous and extensive. In this case, it might be better to start off with a more lean version of the tool and then iterate as you go along, in order to bring it to market sooner.
This is certainly not possible in all cases and is entirely project-specific.
Regardless, a balance must be struck so as to get positive solutions out into the world, faster.
One of the best ways to decrease time-to-market is to fail fast. This can be achieved best by utilising early feedback, primary research, high-fidelity designs and including stakeholders in the architecture process.
Those stakeholders might include patient representatives, doctors, marketing individuals and anyone else who would have a say or stake in the development of the project which could bring the project to a halt later on.
Bringing these people on early in the development process ensures that mission-critical errors are picked up and addressed immediately.
Minimum minimum viable product (m-MVP)
A key concept to understand regarding fast software development is that of making the digital product as lean as possible, while still including all critical features for it to function correctly and be of value to consumers.
Set clear goals on a development roadmap. Use an iterative, agile approach to the development instead of a cumbersome, slow-moving paradigm with long runways.
B2C, B2B or B2G?
It’s important to determine early on in the planning whether your product’s primary market is B2C, B2B or B2G (business-to-government).
B2G projects tend to put regulatory needs first. The process of getting the project approved is usually long, convoluted and involves a tremendous amount of red tape. In B2G, agile development is often frowned upon, requiring projects to contain enormous amounts of documentation.
In short, B2G projects are going to be slow.
B2C products will have the lowest barriers to entry. If the product does then take off and becomes massive, regulations will likely become an issue. Still, this is a decent way to get a product to market fast, generate some interest and then turn the development over into a B2B model once investors and other partners are brought in.
The webinar was a great opportunity for the attendees to discuss common challenges and respective solutions when building a healthtech product. Sander successfully demonstrated this by walking the participants through the many projects we’ve created at Thorgate such as TXP Chat, Healx and Nordic Braintech.
To view the full recording of the webinar, click here.
Slides from the presentation are available here.
A follow-up interview with Thorgate’s head of healthtech products, Karl Õkva, is available here.