Originally published November 12, 2018 by Matt Ferrari, Co-Founder & Former CTO, ClearDATA at healthcareglobal.com

The healthcare industry is rapidly developing data-driven technology solutions to further patient-centered care all while reducing costs. With the healthcare landscape shifting to an on-demand delivery system of medical services and solutions, healthcare providers and hospitals are turning to DevOps in an effort to advance healthcare innovation.

By definition, DevOps is the delivery of advanced services and capabilities through continuous processes, with the goal of reducing the systems development life cycle. DevOps allows for the rapid delivery of features, fixes and updates while significantly reducing the time to market. This especially important for healthcare organisations that need to remain competitive by evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organisations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes. The proliferation of healthcare data, coupled with the stringent requirements set forth by HIPAA, GxP and GDPR present a unique challenge that DevOps is positioned to revolutionise.

Improved Efficiency

DevOps can help healthcare providers innovate faster through automating and streamlining the software development and infrastructure management processes. Given the complexity of big data analytics, many organisations have kept their analysts and developers separate from their operations department. This divide has traditionally resulted in a slowdown in productivity, affecting the potential competitive advantage that the analysis and findings of large data sets can yield. By removing the barriers between development and operations, two traditionally separate or siloed teams, a DevOps model creates an environment where the teams work together, optimising both the productivity of developers and the reliability of operations.

When leveraging only the resources needed to develop an application or solution, made possible by DevOps, healthcare companies can perform small, but frequent updates, enabling innovation to proceed at a faster rate and reducing the risks associated with traditional software development. On the technology front, this often manifests itself in CICD (Continuous Integration Continuous Deployment) pipelines, microservice adoption, blue/green deployments, and other service delivery approaches. These updates are usually more incremental in nature than the intermittent updates performed under traditional release practices. While teams can address bugs more quickly, they can also deploy updates more frequently.

DevOps also enables software and applications to be built using a microservices architecture, facilitating increased flexibility which, in turn, can enable organisations to innovate at a faster rate. The microservices architecture decouples large, complex systems into simple, independent projects which allows organisations to move more quickly. This process can be advantageous when getting to market with a new drug or deploying a new means for closing gaps in patient care means gaining a competitive edge in the industry.

Data-driven approach

Although the process of extracting accurate and meaningful insights from healthcare data can be challenging, the opportunity to convert data-driven findings into relevant critical insights and deliver improved patient care is tantamount to moving medicine forward in the modern age. As patient data continues to grow at an exponential rate, healthcare providers have turned to DevOps in an effort to accelerate their complex big data project deployments. With a variety of data sources ranging from Electronic Health Records (EHRs), medical devices, pharmacies and lab reports, to insurance claims, comes the need to structure, update and analyse that data for effective and improved healthcare delivery. The deployment delays associated with a traditional software development life cycle can significantly raise the cost and affect the overall usability of the project.

DevOps in healthcare offers an alternative to traditional software development, improving and accelerating the implementation of big data tools. By combining development with operations teams, DevOps employs practices to automate processes that historically have been manual and slow. Backed by processes that facilitate speed with frequency and pace, DevOps enables operational efficiencies, transforming how data-driven applications are designed, built and delivered. The advantages of pairing big data with DevOps far outweigh any integration challenges.

The ability to leverage DevOps in the analysis of big data healthcare sets can help providers reduce treatment costs, predict outbreaks of epidemics, avoid preventable diseases and improve patient quality of care and outcomes.

Adherence to regulatory compliance and data security

While DevOps has helped support the proliferation of cloud-based healthcare services and applications, security remains a constant concern. The healthcare industry must ensure the confidentiality, integrity and security of PHI in compliance with rules set forth by HIPAA, GxP and GDPR.

 When safeguarding sensitive data is a top priority, healthcare providers, life sciences, payers and healthcare technology organisations are turning to compliant experts like ClearDATA where we recently achieved Amazon Web Services DevOps Competency Status to fully automate, protect and securely manage healthcare applications, data and IT infrastructure. A DevOps-based hosting solution creates a standardised, repeatable platform that helps ensure compliance across multiple environments, allowing customers to consume native AWS services and accelerate their own application development.

DevOps for Results

Advances in compliant development platforms, built to ensure the confidentiality, availability and integrity of protected healthcare information has enabled a more agile environment for innovation in healthcare. By combining development and operations teams with security and quality assurance, the DevOps model creates improved efficiencies and coordination benefits while streamlining processes that help reduce time to market. Implementing DevOps practices for IT operations allows healthcare providers and hospitals to more effectively serve their patients and remain competitive in the market, ultimately improving patient outcomes at lower costs.