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Healthcare IT Focus: Checking the Pulse of Your Testing Function

Healthcare IT Focus: Checking the Pulse of Your Testing Function

Like everything else, healthcare is going digital. Increasing levels of care that were once only available in the doctor’s office can now be managed via mobile apps, as many sufferers of chronic conditions are well aware. Digital transformation is a major initiative in the sector, but there’s a lot of variance in digital maturity between service providers.

Meanwhile the rise of health and fitness apps and devices points to a growing sense of the preventative capabilities of monitoring. Phone apps and heart rate or step-count bangles are pretty mainstream concepts nowadays, but less well known are the other, numerous and innovative digital health use cases incorporating sensors into devices we wear on ourselves, or even inside ourselves.

A common misconception persists about the sorts of patients who are happy to engage in digital healthcare. Namely, that it’s something for the millennials. In our experience, there is in fact a strong demand across the board for quality products that are proven to deliver improved outcomes. Security and privacy are massive issues in the sector, and of course, healthcare IT is tightly regulated. Assuring quality in digital healthcare requires among the most demanding testing conditions. An additional challenge has always been the slow release cycles, and this is getting to be a problem.

Mobile apps and complex, connected devices are proliferating widely in healthcare and many come with increasing numbers of features, presenting new testing challenges. Consequently, test cycles are getting even more complex and many healthcare providers are looking for ways to speed up testing without compromising quality.

The digital movement presents another kind of testing challenge too. Where healthcare providers feel confident they have the understanding and the resources to deal with mobile devices and apps, testing for wearables and other connected “things” is a different scenario altogether.  Typically, specialist skills are required to create Internet of Things (IoT) testing processes and run tests in real-world or simulated environments to validate algorithms and prove use cases. That’s why IoT initiatives often take advantage of dedicated testing centers. Our own Apexon experts understand a thing or two about helping customers with their IoT initiatives and can draw upon resources across two testing labs, containing 3000+ devices, and supported by a cloud-based infrastructure to validate complete, end-to-end IoT solutions.

If you’re a digital health provider considering what an improved test function might look like, take for instance, the case of a leading provider of integrated digital health solutions. We worked with them on their digital strategy to develop a healthcare feedback system that includes a wearable patch and an ingestible sensor to securely communicate patient biometric data. We helped them overcome slow release times and improve functional and data accuracy issues, and the results were astounding: the company experienced an 80% reduction in regression testing time thanks to end-to-end automation system testing and an optimized automation framework.

So if you’re looking to ensure your digital health test practices are fit as a fiddle in 2017, here are four areas that hold the key to better product quality, faster cycles and operational savings.

Tailoring solutions to a new environment

Digital health and the rise of the IoT require a total transformation of the way that connected products and solutions are designed, developed, tested and deployed. Although the devices themselves are the most visible part of the digital healthcare ecosystem, in reality the back end software, hardware, algorithms and security all need to work seamlessly. Digital health providers therefore tend to require rigorous product, solution and algorithm testing, reproducing various scenarios under controlled, real-life conditions in professional lab environments, to ensure ground truth validation before going to market.

Is your framework fit for purpose?

Most organizations are aware that they could be automating more manual testing (and nowhere is that more true than in the healthcare sector). One of the barriers to success lies in the tools organizations already deploy. If your test framework is outdated, it is likely that the level of test automation is outdated too. It’s easy for healthcare service providers to get stuck in a mentality of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when it comes to testing, because with so many complex interdependencies between the code and the testing tools, it can seem daunting to change any one element for fear that the whole thing will come tumbling down like a house of cards. My message to you: be brave! Or rather, seek advice, do your research, then be brave! Apexon fully understands these interdependencies, and we’re proud to partner with the best companies in the world to provide the best test solutions for our customers. For example, we recently teamed with Perfecto to help a major healthcare service provider with its mobile test automation. In that instance we built on Perfecto’s open source solution to develop an Appium automation framework capable of handling upwards of 300% increase in automated testing.

A push in the right direction

Overhauling one’s test and automation function is a big deal, which is why it’s particularly useful to get specialist help for the critical beginning phase. When you’re trying to shift from a QA to QE mindset and introduce continuous integration into your SDLC, you need an intense period to analyze requirements, create a working action plan and deploy it correctly. Getting a little outside help during this process is resource well spent in the overall scheme of things. We’re biased, of course, but for clients looking to get CI/CD initiatives off to a flying start, our own JumpStart Program is a proven, intensive treatment. For instance, our program recently helped the same major healthcare provider automate more than 400 test cases in the first twelve weeks for apps across iOS and Android.

Let’s not forget…the testing pipeline

The final challenge in achieving full CI/CD is ensuring the entire testing pipeline is executing in parallel. All types of functional testing can benefit in terms of quality and speed. For instance, it is not unusual to experience regression test time improvement of 50% and easily greater. Optimizing workflows in this way is key for sustaining and growing the success of the mobility initiative.

If you’re in the healthcare sector and believe your testing processes could do with a check-up, book an appointment to talk to us.

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