How to speed up product development in HealthTech?

Written by Madis

February 13, 2019 | 5 min read

Electronic and mobile healthcare technologies have skyrocketed in use in the past decade. Patient data is now easier to collect, analyse, and share than ever before. That’s great news for everyone involved, from patients to surgeons. However, where a lot of healthtech startups trip up is the lack of knowledge on how to process this highly sensitive type of data.

Thorgate’s nimble team has worked with numerous international healthtech innovators by getting the projects on track that improve patients’ lives and attract investment. Healthtech, also known as digital health, uses technology such as databases, apps and wearables to improve the delivery and consumption of care, while also supporting the development of pharmaceuticals. Venture funding in the healthtech sector looks promising globally, feeding the rapid growth of innovative products that reduce the reliance on outdated and inefficient modes of working.

What is HIPAA and why does it matter?

Mainstream e-mail and instant messaging platforms are fantastic communication tools that have drastically improved productivity and reduced the time that it takes to exchange information. While these platforms may be commonplace communication tools in several industries, healthcare is held to strict compliance regulations that require custom solutions.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 Privacy Rule governs how healthcare organisations disclose, protect and use personal health information in the U.S. This is equally applicable to cloud services, messaging platforms, email providers and any other digital platform where sensitive personal information about patients is being exchanged.

When building health tech apps, Thorgate relies on React Native, which has recently blossomed as the go-to way of building mobile applications. In a nutshell, React Native allows one to write code in just one language (Javascript) and port that code over to multiple platforms. That’s quite an improvement from the traditional way of building mobile apps, which entails creating two different apps for iOS and Android smartphones from scratch.

There are three primary benefits of building your apps in React Native:

1. Reusability, as it uses native components that compile directly to the device’s own machine language

2. Efficiency, as there are multiple ways of speeding up development, such as interfacing with third-party plugins for using the device’s own functionality (e.g. accelerometer and gyroscope)

3. Community support, as React Native utilises one of the fastest-growing programming languages in JavaScript which has great open-source collaboration behind it

TXP Chat™ —maximising the gift of life

The window of time from when an organ is released from a donor to when it is transplanted is critical, and you would be surprised to know that on average, more than 60% of donated hearts and lungs are thrown away every year. At the same time, 20 people die every day from the lack of available organs for transplant.

TXP Chat™ by OmniLife is a secure mobile messaging application, uniquely designed for complex communication inherent in organ referrals, offerings, allocation, procurement and transplantation. Thorgate worked with the founders of TXP Chat™ to build a messaging app that helped save 21 lives in 2018 alone. In the first phase of development, Thorgate’s team reviewed and helped scope the initial app to be tested rigorously before its final release.

In this case, Thorgate’s experienced project team travelled to the clients’ location to work hand in hand with the local team to scope out industry specific requirements. The work was organised in weekly Sprints that allowed for continuous development, eliminating any scope creep that would have proved detrimental to change-making ideas. One of the key requirements to bear in mind was HIPAA compliance, which in our case meant the following:

1. No personal data is logged, and patient data is not stored in plain text

2. All data is removed when the app is uninstalled

3. Users are automatically logged out of the application after 8hours of inactivity

4. Media files are stored in S3 and accessed via authorisation proxy

As a result, clients such as TXP Chat™ can concentrate on the vital aspects of product development, while Thorgate takes care of the details surrounding privacy and app security. Book a consultation with Thorgate to kickstart a discussion around HIPAA compliance and how to employ best practices from the get-go.

HealX —automating diagnostics for rare chronic diseases

Validating a drug is a long and expensive process of establishing documentary evidence that a procedure, process, or activity carried out in testing and production maintains the desired level of compliance at all stages. On average, the process takes more than ten years and can cost up to a staggering $2.6 billion. Clearly there are inefficiencies in the entire flow and HealX aims to improve that, first by focusing on rare diseases.

Thorgate has worked with the Cambridge (UK) based health tech startup HealX in establishing a process for automated research analysis to identify existing drugs that could treat rare diseases. Drug repurposing, in turn, offers a cost-effective way to improve the quality of life for patients living with a disease rare enough not to be covered by ongoing medical research. Therefore, the aim is to discover which existing drugs can be used for treating a different disease.

In order to properly scope out the project, Thorgate’s team spent a few days with HealX key stakeholders in order to map out all crucial features for the application. All of that was documented in the form of user stories and as part of this process, Thorgate analysed the requirements for a solution that would enable automated data collection and processing. Based on the analysis, the agency’s UX team produced wireframes enabling patients suffering from rare chronic illnesses to record and scientists/curators to assess the ongoing flow of data.



At the next step, we produced high-quality designs that display all the user flows with the aim of gathering invaluable feedback from the potential users. During that process, the comments received were thoroughly analysed and the necessary iterations were made to the designs. This is a completely natural and suggested process before starting with the actual development, in order to first validate the main hypotheses of the MVP. The rationale behind this is simple - it’s easy to make changes to the designs, whereas it’s much more expensive to adjust features/UI once the project is already in development mode.

“Thorgate really helped us structure our needs and has been a constructive partner throughout the process”     Michael Motskin, Head of Digital Strategy at HealX

Ultimately, we will arrive at a software that has been developed in collaboration with the HealX team that significantly reduces the human workforce required to process each use case manually. This is a major improvement from the current way of doing things and makes massive strides in producing and analysing large amounts of quality data with the aim of finding treatments for rare diseases. That’s a goal worth striving for, isn’t it?

In summary, Thorgate supports its client base of up and coming health tech startups in all stages of product development, from scoping to design, offering industry specific know-how and project management expertise. We know both the technical side of product development and the intrinsics of the healthcare industry - get in touch today for your initial consultation.

Interested in knowing more? Get in touch with Janar Merilo to discuss the details or schedule an e-meeting:

If you have an idea but you're wondering what is the best way to start, take a look here: Start with an MVP
Or just get in touch with us and the industry experts can help you with your questions!