Mar 22 2022

The Pandemic’s Impact on DevOps in Healthcare

Here’s how the discipline has gained traction among healthcare organizations responding to the pandemic.

DevOps is gaining steam in healthcare as ongoing digital transformation and patients’ expectations reshape the industry.  

Interest in adopting DevOps — the discipline of blending software development and IT operations — already existed in the healthcare industry before the COVID-19 pandemic. Kaiser Permanente, for example, shared its DevOps experience for its enterprise consumer digital strategy in 2018.

The energy for DevOps has since expanded to adapt to the volatile landscape of the public health emergency. But DevOps in healthcare involves not only the IT department but also the various clinical, business and financial teams that make up any organization in this highly regulated industry.

Here’s a look at how the pandemic has affected DevOps in healthcare, and how digital access and security concerns are shaping the discipline.

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Responding to Today's Healthcare Challenges with DevOps

Some 73 percent of global IT professionals in healthcare have now adopted DevOps, according to a 2021 report from Redgate Software.

In the U.S., the pandemic exposed the need for adaptability and agility in healthcare. With expanding remote work and virtual care capabilities, the digital perimeter was essentially disassembled. Healthcare organizations also needed to respond faster, setting up COVID-19 testing in parking lots and mass vaccination sites in convention centers.

A DevOps approach could be seen in all these instances, as healthcare organizations had to respond to real-time demands from patients and providers. Patients wanted convenient, safe access to care, from digital access to health records via a patient portal to well-integrated telemedicine visits. Healthcare organizations responded to patient demand by using automation in many cases; for instance, using chatbots, sending reminders for appointments or alerts for test results.  

For clinicians, healthcare organizations that are highly automated and using a DevOps methodology are more attractive to work for because they have a more streamlined, effective environment. Automation of daily routines is a fundamental expectation now for employees.

DevOps is all about working better together and innovating faster; fostering continuous development, deployment and measurement; and breaking down silos that had previously hampered processes. These are also important aspects of modern healthcare.

Data and Security Considerations for DevOps in Healthcare

As healthcare organizations enhance their electronic medical records and deploy more connected medical devices, they are creating, collecting, storing and analyzing massive amounts of data. How an organization acts on that data will be a major differentiator as patients expect more personalized insights into their health.

Data is a key component to being more agile and accessible, and a DevOps approach can help healthcare organizations focus on and achieve patient satisfaction, especially as expectations grow for holistic care on a continuum.

With cybersecurity a constant concern in healthcare, there could be a concerted effort to establish a DevSecOps approach, which includes continuous security measurement. But the goal to protect patient health information remains a cornerstone of healthcare security, so this should already be baked into a DevOps mindset, becoming part of the process by being continuously tested.

Ultimately, to prevent DevOps from devolving into an overly broad concept like cloud or security, healthcare organizations need to define what they hope to achieve through DevOps to better serve their communities.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using #WellnessIT.

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