Commercial vs. Self-Developed Considerations for Mobile Apps

Mobile applications are the foundation of digital solutions. As the healthcare industry transforms to a digitally focused healthcare delivery system, the ability to design and develop mobile solutions that support operational interactions will be critical for driving organizational efficiency. Community hospitals are unlikely to have the technical programming resources to design and develop mobile applications specific to their operational needs. That will make this group of hospitals reliant on commercial applications that may be designed and developed for larger provider organizations. Conversely, large provider organizations who have the technical resources and capital to design and develop mobile applications are unlikely to do so unless a clear ROI is present.

Significant challenges exist for creating successful mobile applications. These consist of selecting the correct UI and UX development approach, identifying the correct device type and screen size, creating a successful market strategy for the solution, establishing the development and ongoing support funding, collecting customer reviews and app experiences to generate successful updates, and generating stable and efficient app performance[1].

The key consideration for deciding to launch self-developed applications is related to the cost of the project and whether the investment will provide the user experience and operational efficiency that are expected. The cost of integrating the self-developed mobile app into the provider workflows is also a major factor for long-term success. Standalone applications will not succeed in today’s healthcare IT environment.

A Spreadsheet Model for Easy App Development

Amazon continues to push technology advances, from voice recognition to application development. Amazon Honeycode is a new application-development environment that is designed for nonprogramming people to use to create mobile applications.[2] Initial templates for creating mobile applications have been developed in Amazon Honeycode.[3] Templates for customer trackers, simple surveys, inventory management, event management, team task trackers, and purchase order approvals are examples of things that can be modified to support the needs of a specific organization. Amazon Honeycode is an AWS-based service that also provides Amazon Honeycode APIs to external applications facilitating interactions with any Amazon Honeycode mobile solutions.

Most healthcare organization supervisors and managers are familiar with spreadsheet applications, which are created to supplement commercial applications that are not meeting the needs of the end users. Amazon Honeycode provides a similar environment for healthcare professionals to supplement their workflow environments with mobile apps that close the gap in needs with current operational applications.

No-code solutions are being designed for many of the large technology platforms. These products will continue to advance to provide the maximum flexibility in meeting customer needs when vendor applications fall short of meeting key operational expectations. The no-code solutions will become the ultimate anchor solutions for clients. Customers can develop what they need in order to fill operational gaps and be satisfied, and the vendors don’t have to add more code to their base systems.

Quickly Develop and Deliver Mobile Apps or Perish

Digital mobile applications are the foundation for driving operational improvements and efficiencies for all companies. The ability to design, develop, and deliver mobile applications that eliminate operational gaps in workflows and data streams will be a critical success factor for healthcare organizations as we transform healthcare delivery with the lessons, we have learned from COVID-19. The ability to instantly design and deliver mobile applications that can effectively supplement existing operational applications will enable higher levels of workflow redesign and implementation to modify healthcare processes. Healthcare organizations that do not have this mobile application flexibility will likely struggle to survive over the next 5—10 years.

Large Technical Companies Drive No-Code Apps

The large technology companies whose solutions compete with Amazon Honeycode[4] are driving the development of no-code apps. Representative examples include the following solutions:

No-code application environments are immature and are considered emerging solutions. Provider organizations with low-risk cultures should avoid these solutions.

Success Factors

  1. Determine the maturity level of the no-code solution for large technology solutions within the organization. Implement prototype projects when the risk level is acceptable.
  2. Evaluate no-code environments for libraries of templates that can be used to improve development efficiencies and project success.
  3. Manage the no-code development projects with a project management office to reduce the development of duplicate applications and to evaluate whether current applications can be modified to meet additional organizational needs.


No-code environments will become a key consideration in the evaluation of enterprise-level applications for healthcare environments. The ability to extend operational applications with mobile applications improves the ability to customize an enterprise application without increasing the risk for supporting and maintaining the base solution. As customers use no-code mobile applications to extend their enterprise applications, it will become harder for those customers to replace these products. The no-code mobile applications create the perfect market anchor for clients.

Organizations that pursue no-code mobile applications will need to tightly manage these solutions to prevent an explosion of apps that become specific to individual needs versus organizational needs. The creation of a project management office for these solutions will be necessary to ensure mobile apps developed in the environment deliver expected operational efficiency outcomes and are not duplicative. As an anonymous author once stated, “Even a little self-control can save you a lot of time, energy, and errors.”




[4]     Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, AndSus