Software development has become inherently complex with the proliferation of apps, devices, operating systems and websites. It is a consumer-driven market. As users are spoilt for choice with a variety of digital experiences that promise faster updates and better UX, virtually every sector has to transform digitally and meet the challenges of this modern, lean and Agile delivery paradigm.
The healthcare, life sciences, and medical devices sectors are greatly impacted by this transformation. Paper-heavy practices have made way for the smarter, tech-savvy hospitals that lend themselves easily to agile hospital management. In the life sciences and medical devices sectors, innovation is the name of the game. Better diagnostics apps, more intelligent apps and connected devices both wearable and non-wearable make the healthcare ecosystem more fascinating than ever.
With the healthcare landscape moving to an on-demand delivery system, the need of the hour is a tighter cycle of development, design and testing to keep those larger projects from blowing up.
Especially in the post-COVID world, when physical distancing, faster reporting and analytics, and virtual medicine are the decisive factors in patient care. The health of healthcare IT and software is more important than ever.
Healthcare companies strive to stay competitive by evolving and releasing products at a faster rate than sectors that use traditional SDLC processes. Vast amounts of healthcare data and stringent requirements stipulated by organizations like FDA, HIPAA, GxP and GDPR place healthcare in a unique and unenviable position that a new, transformative continuous delivery model can help solve.
DevOps, Continuous Delivery and Continuous Testing in the Healthcare Sector
The DevOps paradigm unifies development and operation processes to aid software development. The main benefit of DevOps is that it breaks traditional silos and lets enterprises create or improve products at a faster pace than traditional methods.
This is not mere theory. Digital native companies like Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Adobe, Google have long been using DevOps to automate and accelerate their deployment pipeline with quantifiable technical and business benefits.
While the advantages of DevOps are fairly commonplace for enterprises, DevOps and the CI/CD pipeline are increasingly relevant to the modern healthcare landscape which has a specific set of challenges:
1. Regulatory compliance/security
GDPR was introduced in 2018 and as a result, personal consumer data has become more sacred and regulated than ever. Many of the key requirements of regulatory bodies mandate restricted access to data to the minimal requirement, ensuring transparency in data management, security and customer’s final authority on the data or the “right to be forgotten”. Additionally, FDA 21 CFR Part 11 is a key compliance challenge for the healthcare, pharma and medical device industries. It sets out norms for companies that use electronic quality records and digital signatures to meet FDA regulations.
2. Faster time to market
Innovation in healthcare faces the additional challenges of faster go-to-market. This is mainly because of the stringent regulatory checks, no or little digitalization, lack of centralized data that can be tracked across locations.
DevOps holds the answer to many of these ‘speed with quality’ challenges. With a continuous delivery model in place, an in-sprint automation is enabled. This results in faster deployment of high-quality software ensuring safety and reliability.
Automated infrastructure and testing allow for faster releases, thus improving customer service time and experience.
3. Big Data projects
Healthcare thrives on data and operators are increasingly looking to speed up their big data project deployments. Patient data grows exponentially over time and these projects have several data sources from medical devices, pharmacies, lab reports, EHRs, wearables to insurance claims. To streamline, optimize and generate maximum value and insights from this data is one of the biggest challenges that companies face today.
What makes it even more challenging is a divide between the analysts, developers and testers in healthcare companies that follow the traditional SDLC approach. It slows down productivity and impacts the competitive advantage that insights of large data sets can reveal.
What companies need is a modern, un-siloed approach where teams collaborate, share information easily and test earlier in the development cycle.
How DevOps and Continuous Testing in Healthcare help accelerate innovation
DevOps in healthcare provides an opportunity to make the most of big data projects as opposed to traditional SDLC. It brings operational efficiencies, facilitates speed with better quality to gain the maximum value from this data. Additionally, using the right tools that enable easy integration between systems, better visualization and reporting capabilities lead to significant gains in transparency and productivity.
DevOps has the answer to many of its challenges with the emphasis on performance and security, constant monitoring of infrastructure, automation of repetitive tasks, faster deployment and enhanced collaboration.
Additionally, the continuous delivery model resolves many of the limitations of the traditional waterfall and Agile practices. It facilitates a reliable and iterative process that speeds up the time to market without compromising on customer experience or organizational goals:
Want to know more about Continuous Testing in Healthcare? Find out how Continuous Testing helps healthcare companies to ensure faster and reliable software along with compliances.
Delivering a high-functioning, secure and stable release is challenging, given the constraints of the healthcare sector. One key parameter for success is test automation as it brings both repeatability and reliability to the process.
Automated testing can be leveraged for user interface validation, authorization and authentication validation, verification of audit trails and also enable faster regression cycles.
Test automation also greatly improves the breadth and depth of test coverage, along with freeing up testers who can focus on critical areas of the application and use techniques like exploratory testing.
2. Centralized command and control centre
There are too many points of command and control across modern application development cycles. This is more evident in the case of healthcare apps that require more visibility and transparency. Often there are globally distributed teams working on bits of the project. In the new normal, this means remote team members who are all working on various sprints to deliver the whole.
This leads to communication and collaboration challenges. A centralized command and control center, often a test management tool provides visibility, transparency and a continuous feedback mechanism so that bugs and defects can be fixed early on in the development cycle.
Additionally, with modern test management apps features such as e-signatures and approval workflows are built in for re-authentication to comply with 21 CFR Part 11. It ensures reduced risk and quicker implementation due to automation of compliance workflows.
3. Frequent testing, more testing
When critical applications fail, the reason cited is often lack of time and inadequate testing. Measures like shifting quality assurance to the left of the cycle, automating sufficiently and testing early and often help create shorter feedback loops. So that developers can fix bugs rapidly leading to accelerated cycles and robust features.
Ensuring adequate coverage and speed relies heavily on test automation otherwise quality assurance becomes a labor-intensive activity that is both time-consuming and costly.
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4. Security and Compliance
The continuous delivery model depends on continuous testing (CT) throughout the lifecycle. CT starts early in the pipeline and is carried out at every stage where code is written. Since this continuous cycle is largely automated, it allows teams to fix issues early in development and also enables integration, which is faster, easier and cheaper than fixing defects after deployment.
At the same time, it reduces the possibility of quality and security issues making into production apps.
Automated continuous testing powered by modern tools and integration support; developers can fix critical security bugs in real-time. However, to scale automated testing one needs several apps and tools and integration is a key requirement. It becomes important to select a test management tool that supports integration between multiple tools, scalability, executes test automation results and provides real-time visibility into the project readiness.
The pandemic and physical distancing have changed the face of every industry, but the transformation of health care is greater. With trends like big data-driven apps, telemedicine, touchless patient monitoring there is a marked emphasis on tools and technologies and faster innovation of software and healthcare IT to stay relevant and competitive. DevOps, the continuous delivery model aided by continuous testing empower healthcare companies to accelerate their go to market without compromising on the key pillars of quality, compliance and security.
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