National Health IT Week: The Power of Healthcare BPM

This is the second post in the Appian National Health IT Week Series.  

Business Process Management (BPM) has unique contributions for better Health IT.

Currently, if you need a healthcare software application, you have two choices: buy software someone else created or pay programmers to create new software for you. In the first case, you’re stuck with software that does not meet your unique business requirements. Sure, you can customize these applications to better fit your needs, but that just creates a solution that’s difficult to upgrade and always a challenge to maintain. In the second case, the risks of custom-coded solutions are well known: time-intensive…extremely expensive…tough to maintain and upgrade…not to mention the difficulties of scale and security!

There is an alternative, though it is still relatively unfamiliar in Health IT: Build a custom application from scratch, but use very different tools than those typically used by healthcare IT developers and programmers. Use graphical tools to create visual and executable models of work and workflows. These executable process models directly solve Health IT’s most critical and seemingly intractable usability, safety, productivity, and interoperability problem: Software complexity.

A famous paper by Ben Moseley and Peter Marks, called Out of the Tar Pit, was published in 2006, but still holds truth today. It boils down the reasons for software complexity to three main factors:

  1. State: When and while a healthcare software application executes, it is difficult to NHIT Weekunderstand and predict its “state” (that is, the totality of the values of all of its data elements, whether they are variables in a program or records in a database).
  2. Code volume: The sheer volume of lines of complicated programming code makes it impossible to understand a total solution and difficult to modify it to meet evolving needs.
  3. Flow of control: It is difficult to understand and predict means of control of program execution (these are all those complicated IF-THEN and CASE statements, which every programming language provides).

The general problem of complexity in large-scale software is compounded in Health IT by the overall complexity of healthcare itself.

Modern BPM software manages all three of these sources of complexity in such a way as to dramatically improve the ability for mortal humans, even non-programmers to understand, manage, and create better and safer applications faster and cheaper.

This is the Power of Healthcare BPM. It attacks (and addresses) the root cause of Healthcare and Health IT usability, safety, productivity, and interoperability challenges: Healthcare software complexity.

More tomorrow!

Christina Fisher, Healthcare Solutions

This is the second post in the Appian National Health IT Week Series. Read earlier posts here: