March 25, 2024

Custom vs Off-the-Shelf Healthcare Software: Making the Right Choice

Alena Arsionava

Technology Evangelist

Healthcare

Software Development in Healthcare: Custom vs Off-the-Shelf
March 25, 2024

Custom vs Off-the-Shelf Healthcare Software: Making the Right Choice

Alena Arsionava

Technology Evangelist

Healthcare

Software Development in Healthcare: Custom vs Off-the-Shelf

In healthcare, choosing between software development options, i.e, custom or off-the-shelf, takes much time and effort. Whether you're a healthcare provider, an IT decision-maker, or someone navigating the complexities of healthcare technology, we've got you covered. Read our article and gain insights on how to power your healthcare organization with software. 

Key Takeaways

  • Custom healthcare software is designed to meet your unique functional and technical requirements. It provides benefits such as personalized functionality, smooth workflow integration, and scalability to meet your goals.
  • Off-the-shelf software offers ready-to-use solutions that address the general requirements of a healthcare organization. It's quick to implement and cost-effective; however, it may lack critical features, require customization, and not perfectly align with your specific workflows in the long term.
  • Common types of custom software development for healthcare include EHR systems, patient portals, telemedicine apps, medical billing software, HIE platforms, and remote patient monitoring systems.
  • Healthcare companies choose bespoke software due to tailored functionality, scalability for evolving needs, strict compliance with HIPAA, multi-platform accessibility, and the ability to integrate emerging technologies.
  • It is suitable for large hospitals, specialized clinics, health systems with multiple facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and organizations with limited IT support.

What is Custom Healthcare Software?

Custom healthcare software offers more advantages, such as scalability, flexibility, and improved workflow, while pre-built software offers quick implementation, lower initial costs, vendor support and training, etc.

Custom healthcare software represents specialized software solutions developed to cater to the precise needs of a particular healthcare organization.

Think of a hospital that wants a single system for all your electronic activities. You need to track patients, set appointments, and process billing. You also need it to integrate smoothly with your existing systems, like laboratory equipment and pharmacy databases. 

Off-the-shelf software might not provide the exact fit for your functional requirements. Add technical requirements like platform compatibility and patient data migration, and you get quite an intricate puzzle. The one that custom health software solves perfectly.

With your functional and technical requirements in mind, you come to a custom Healthcare Software Development Company that builds and deploys the software for you. The provider walks with you from start to end. It consults you on the best technology choice, implements the solution for your healthcare organization, and ensures no data is lost and bugs are left. 

Pros

  • Functionality each feature is tailored to your needs;
  • Seamless integration  — software runs smoothly with your current workflows;
  • Scalability — you can add more features in the future;
  • Personalized approach — you get a 100% match to your organization's goals.

Your request can be anything — from a custom patient engagement app to a complex medical system with a bunch of features.

How It Differs From Off-The-Shelf Software

Off-the-shelf or commercial health software comes as a ready-to-use package with pre-built features. They are designed to suit general requirements and solve common issues most healthcare organizations face. 

Let's say you need a system for your clinic's appointments, billing, and patient records. You need it right now, and you have a limited budget to spare. You may find a software package that covers all the bases you need, buy it, install it, and start using it without much fuss. Sometimes, off-the-shelf solutions require a certain level of customization, yet usually not extensive. 

Pros 

  • Accessibility - you can read reviews and compare features online;
  • Quick implementation - you can deploy it within 2-3 days;
  • Relative cost-effectiveness - from $200 to $5,000 per user, with some solutions;offering subscription-based pricing models;
  • Readily available features - for standard healthcare requirements.

It's like buying a product off the shelf — you see it, you like it, and you take it with you. However, the trick is that it might not perfectly match the workflows of your particular healthcare organization, especially in the long term. 

Custom Healthcare Software Solutions by Type

The most common types of custom software development in healthcare are Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, patient portals, telemedicine apps and platforms, medical billing software, Health Information Exchange (HIE) platforms, and remote patient monitoring systems. 

Let's see how custom development powers each of these solutions compared to commercial software.

Electronic Health Records (EHR) Systems

Electronic Health Records systems are like digital versions of your paper medical charts. ERP's essential function is to centralize a patient's health-related data, store it securely, and provide easy online access for doctors and patients in one system. 

EHR custom software development is at the top of the list of most frequently requested services among healthcare providers. The primary reason is that even the best commercial ERPs out there are either too expensive, too limited in functionality or lacking some important features. 

Custom EHR software that you can implement:

  • Advanced patient data collection. Most commercial ERPs let you track medical history, diagnoses, and medications. At the same time, custom-developed ERPs can also include treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, laboratory test results, and anything else you want.
  • Third-party software integration. Few commercial ERPs can be easily integrated with other software, or the integration comes at an additional cost. With custom EHR, the provider seamlessly embeds it into your infrastructure, connecting your hospital's billing, a laboratory's information system, or others.
  • Cross-platform support. You can develop a custom EHR system for mobile and web, while commercial solutions often support just one platform.

You can also integrate it with a Patient Portal, add AI-driven diagnostics or predictive analytics functionality, and create a custom UX and UI to address the patient service experience better. 

Patient Portals and Mobile Apps

Patient portals and mobile apps are like personalized healthcare companions for individuals. As a patient, you can view your medical records, schedule appointments, and get in touch with your doctor. 

For organizations, creating a custom patient app or portal is a big step in making healthcare more patient-friendly and efficient. Most commercial software aims at small medical healthcare providers and can hardly address the need for a comprehensive doctor-patient communication environment.

Custom patient portal functionality:

  • Appointment scheduling 
  • Access to medical records
  • Secure video/text communication with healthcare providers
  • Virtual consultation scheduling
  • Treatment plan adherence tracking
  • Educational and information resources
  • Integration with existing systems

Telehealth Apps and Platforms

Telehealth platforms are like virtual clinics, enabling remote consultations and monitoring. A custom telehealth app will create a personalized and user-friendly virtual experience for your patients that matches your requirements and aligns with your security and regulation standards.

The best part is that you are almost not limited in terms of functionality choice, be it simple app or a fully-featured platform.

Custom telehealth app functionality:

  • Appointment scheduling with confirmations and reminders
  • Secure video/Messaging consultations
  • Prescription management
  • Remote monitoring
  • Symptom checkers
  • EHR Integration
  • Billing and payments
  • File and image sharing
  • Medication reminders

Health Information Exchange (HIE) Software

HIE platforms are like secure bridges connecting different healthcare systems and helping doctors share information. Only authorized healthcare professionals can access and use it. By having access to a patient's complete health history, doctors can make more informed decisions about their care. For example, they can avoid repeating tests that the patient already had.

Custom HIE functionality:

  • Sharing patient information: allows doctors and nurses from different places to share details about a patient's health, like test results, medications, and treatment plans.
  • Integrations: it links up with various computer systems that hospitals and clinics use
  • Notifications: the platform can send alerts to doctors when there are new updates about their patients, helping them stay informed about any changes in their health.

Generally, HIE software prioritizes security. Therefore, custom development lets you make sure it meets all the standards and complies with the specific protocols and requirements of healthcare providers. It's designed to keep all the shared health information safe and private. 

Remote Patient Monitoring Solutions

For keeping tabs on patients' health from a distance, remote patient monitoring solutions are designed to check specific health parameters and provide doctors with real-time data. It's like having a personalized health tracker for each patient.

Developing a custom patient monitoring app ensures tailored functionalities improve patient care while optimizing health monitoring processes.

Custom functionality:

  • Real-time vital signs tracking
  • Medication adherence monitoring
  • Customized alerts
  • Integration with wearables
  • Telehealth and video conferencing capabilities
  • Patient engagement features
  • Reporting and analytics tools

Pharmacy Software

Pharmacy management software is an online platform that lets you streamline and optimize the myriad tasks within your pharmacy. It can be anything from inventory tracking and prescription processing to billing and patient information tracking. 

Custom solution development lets you implement a user-friendly interface with a stack of necessary features and integrations. 

Main functionality includes:

  • Prescription processing
  • Medication dispensing
  • Inventory management
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Prescription refill management
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Electronic prescription capabilities
  • Automated alerts and notifications

Key Features You Can Implement 

Custom software development can benefit various healthcare departments, such as front desk staff, clinicians, laboratories, and research and development.

Custom healthcare software offers a diverse range of features, and the beauty lies in the ability to assemble them by selecting only essential ones for your organization. This modular approach ensures that you can not just address your immediate needs but also plan a roadmap for the future. You can scale seamlessly across departments and enhance different aspects of your healthcare facility. 

  • Patient Management: Keeps track of patient information, appointments, and medical history in one place for efficient care.
  • Electronic Health Records (EHR): Digital versions of patients' paper charts with their medical history, diagnoses, medications, and treatment plans.
  • Appointment Scheduling: Allows patients to book, reschedule, or cancel appointments online.
  • Billing and Invoicing: Manages the financial aspects of healthcare by generating bills and invoices for services provided.
  • Prescription Management: Digitizes the prescription process, making it easier for healthcare providers to prescribe medications remotely.
  • Laboratory Information Features: Streamlines the management of laboratory data, including test orders, results, and analysis.
  • Inventory Management: Tracks and manages healthcare supplies and equipment, ensuring efficient stock control and timely replenishment
  • Telehealth/Telemedicine Features: Allow for remote video/chat consultations, monitoring, and communication between doctors and patients.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring: Remotely monitor patients' health conditions and vital signs.
  • Custom Reporting and Analytics: Generates personalized reports and analyzes healthcare data.
  • Workflow Automation: Automates routine tasks and processes in healthcare like data collection, entry, analysis, etc.
  • Patient Portal/App: Provides patients with a secure online portal/mobile app to access their health data, book appointments, and chat with healthcare providers.

Why Healthcare Companies Go For Custom Software

The landscape of off-the-shelf healthcare solutions is diverse, with various software products and platforms available to cater to different needs within the healthcare industry. But why do healthcare companies choose custom solutions? Well, it's all about addressing your needs and considering specific factors. 

Factor #1: Tailored Functionality

Unlike off-the-shelf solutions that give you an impersonal product, custom software ensures that your workflows, patient management, and specific requirements are met and finely tuned to match your distinct processes.

Designed with your input, it facilitates a smoother, more intuitive experience. Your software unit becomes an extension of your expertise, adapts to your workflows, and ensures that every click and function is purpose-built. Your ultimate benefit is enhanced patient care.

Factor #2: Scalability 

Your healthcare organization evolves, sometimes rapidly. The feature set of the off-the-shelf software that you've signed up for seemed enough initially, but over time, you start noticing it lacks some critical functionality. Some of your operational issues are unsolved, and some patient-related care activities still require improvement. 

Off-the-shelf solutions need to adapt to such changes. You don't own the product; in fact, you just rent it. With custom software development, your healthcare company stays flexible to changes.

Factor #3: HIPAA and Security Compliance 

Healthcare data is sensitive, and regulations like HIPAA are strict. Custom software allows companies to tailor security measures to their specific needs, ensuring compliance without compromise.

While off-the-shelf healthcare software can provide a foundation for security compliance, you will still need to carefully review the features and security measures of the chosen software. Additionally, you may need to implement your internal policies for compliance with HIPAA regulations and maintain the security of your patient data within the context of your organization.

Factor #4: Multi-Platform Accessibility

Unlike commercial software that might limit you to one platform, custom solutions can ensure you have the same level of access and functionality whether you or your patients are at their desktops, on a tablet, or a mobile device.

We can help you develop software for your healthcare organization that runs on the web in your browser or on mobile. Mobile app development is our area of expertise with native iOS and Android or cross-platform React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin stack.

Factor #5: Emerging Technologies

Healthcare is a dynamic field. The emerging technologies are rapidly penetrating the healthcare sector. Custom solutions empower organizations to stay at the forefront, integrating the latest tools and practices without being shackled by the limitations of off-the-shelf options.

  • AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants for patient engagement, appointment scheduling, and providing information, enhancing the overall healthcare experience.
  • Machine Learning for data analysis, predictive analytics, personalized medicine, and improving diagnostics through image and pattern recognition.
  • Virtual Reality for medical training, patient education, and therapeutic interventions.
  • Augmented Reality apps for immersive experiences for healthcare professionals and patients.

These solutions and features are still new to the healthcare market and are adopted as a competitive edge through third-party software providers. Off-the-shelf options here are still lagging behind.

When Custom Software Is the Right Choice

Hospitals, clinics, medical centers, and medical billing companies choose custom software to improve efficiency, ensure security compliance, gain advanced analytics, and more.

Deciding between custom software and off-the-shelf solutions for your healthcare organization is a crucial step that demands careful consideration of various factors. Let's explore specific scenarios where opting for custom software might be particularly advantageous.

Large Hospitals and Medical Centers

In large hospitals and medical centers, where processes are intricate and data management is extensive, the choice often leans towards custom software. Imagine the complexity of coordinating patient care, managing diverse departments, and handling a vast amount of data. Custom software addresses your demands and aligns with your goals.

Specialized Clinics and Research Institutions

If you're running a specialized clinic or a research institution, you must store and effectively manage your data. Custom clinical data management software can help you optimize your research projects and reduce manual data entry and management efforts.

Health Systems With Multiple Facilities

If your healthcare organization has complex infrastructure or operates across various facilities, custom software will ensure seamless integration across diverse locations, standardizing processes and optimizing workflows. You can centralize your data management across multiple locations and departments while creating a unified repository for all your patient data, administrative data, and other critical information.

Pharmaceutical Companies

Pharmaceutical companies can reap significant benefits from custom software development. You can manage the complex pharmaceutical supply chain, optimizing inventory control, logistics, and distribution processes. This helps prevent shortages, reduce waste, and enhance overall efficiency.

Organizations With Limited IT Support

For healthcare entities with limited in-house IT resources, custom software providers often come with prompt support and maintenance services, resolving issues faster than standard off-the-shelf software support.

Landscape of Software Development in Healthcare

Healthcare and medical software lets you keep patient records organized, schedule appointments smoothly, and even handle billing – making life easier for healthcare professionals and patients alike. Plus, with the rise of technology, more people are using digital tools in their everyday lives, and healthcare doesn't want to be left behind. The latest stats prove the demand:

  • The healthcare software market is experiencing significant growth, estimated at $28.66 billion in 2022, and is expected to reach $77.43 billion by 2032. The adoption of EHRs, telehealth and custom telemedicine apps, and other e-helper tools has become crucial for healthcare providers. 
  • Telemedicine has achieved an adoption rate of 80%, emerging as the preferred channel for prescription care and managing minor illnesses in 2022.

If your healthcare company is looking for a custom healthcare development company, then NEKLO is the right choice. Whether you're a large hospital with intricate processes, a specialized clinic with specific requirements, or a health system managing multiple facilities, we can ensure a solution tailored to fit your requirements and goals.

Why NEKLO For Custom Healthcare Software Development

  • Skilled Team: Our developers bring in-depth knowledge of the industry and understand the specific needs of healthcare organizations.
  • Integration: We provide solutions that can easily grow alongside your organization.
  • Security and Compliance: Our software is designed to be secure and compliant with all HIPAA regulations, ensuring the protection of sensitive healthcare data.
  • Affordability: We offer competitive rates and flexible payment options, making custom software development for healthcare a cost-effective choice.
  • Continuous Support: We are committed to offering ongoing support throughout the development process, from the initial consultation to regular maintenance and updates.