From national eHealth projects
to agile commercial product development
We were talking with Roman Naglič, the engineer behind many large-scale electronic health care projects, including ePrescription. He explained the difference between designing national projects and developing modern products in smaller, agile teams, in which you can develop a highly-scalable product.
You are a well-known IT architect and an experienced programmer. Can you tell us a bit about your work?
A critical period for me was working at Oracle. I was employed as a consultant for Middle-Tier architecture in international projects. This included work with application servers, service-oriented architecture and Java development for big companies such as Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile, Vodacom, Ericsson or VTB24. This highly competitive environment, demanding projects and interactions with competent and experienced experts really helped me upgrade my knowledge in Oracle tools and methodologies.
However, it was my desire to learn and test new things that led me to search for alternative technical and methodological approaches to software development. Because of it, the end of my cooperation with Oracle was inevitable, since I couldn’t use any other solutions besides theirs. And right around that time SRC Infonet was starting the national ePrescription project in which I saw an opportunity to implement my ideas, so I left Oracle and joined them.
ePrescription was a national project for the Ministry of Health. SRC Infonet was in charge of a consortium of seven partners. Can you tell us more about this project?
The experience I gained at Oracle greatly influenced the architecture of the ePrescription, because I was able to transfer good practices from large projects in its design. The architecture is based on a high-availability server in a cluster. I also had some ideas about modernizing the architecture even further, but I wasn’t able to realize them. However, ePrescription doesn’t owe its success to technology, but rather to a superb SRC Infonet team that participated in the project, cooperative and understanding employees of the Ministry of Health, and a quality consortium. We all strived to make a really effective system. Today, my biggest joy and source of pride is the fact the system is extremely successful and over 90 % of prescriptions are issued through it.
At present, you are still the lead developer at SRC Infonet, but at the same time you are the Chief Technical Officer in their partner company Medifit, which is developing an information system for private health care providers. Is the development work in Medifit comparable to larger development projects such as ePrescription?
Right now, my team is working on two projects. The first one is the development of an integral health care platform called Med-di-skop, which is taking place at SRC Infonet. The platform is slowly becoming an informational backbone of health care providers that use SRC Infonet’s solutions.
The second project is the development of Medifit’s core product, eClinic.
From a technical point of view, the projects are quite alike. However, the approach to development is completely different. The first project more or less uses the traditional waterfall development cycle, while Medifit’s project is using agile development methodologies with a rapid transfer of business requirements to production. This means we get immediate response from the users about the usefulness of a certain functionality. We try to follow the Minimum Viable Product principle and only develop features our users really need. Everything else is discarded in the idea phase.
A constant link between developers and content experts means the transfer of knowledge is always free-flowing. The development team actively participates already in the idea development stage. Consequently, development and implementation processes are much faster and better, since the development team always sees the whole product, the big picture, not just a part of it. With traditional software development approaches, the development and analysis departments are separate, and information is only shared through documents.
The big question is whether Medifit’s solution can actually compete with the professional information systems already implemented in health care institutions?
Medifit’s eClinic is a very professional product, both technically and functionally. True enough, the product is mainly intended for smaller private clinics and doctor’s offices, but even clinics with over 30 users are using it. Its main advantage is the functionality that will be implemented in the next couple of months, which is a direct software connection with insurance companies. This unique feature will bring tremendous value to all involved stakeholders – patients, insurance companies and health care providers.
Technically speaking, Medifit’s solution is following the latest software development trends. It includes microservices, cloud implementation, high security via OAuth2 protocol, and also uses the most current development methodologies such as Event Sourcing and Reactive. This gives us a significant competitive edge since we can develop, test and implement functionalities much faster than our competition.
Can you briefly describe the advantages of using your eClinic?
However, the crucial feature of our eClinic is direct online scheduling of patients for all sorts of medical services. This means insurance companies can book a doctor’s appointment for their insurance holders at any health care provider that uses our eClinic. The availability and price for a specific medical service at all these health care providers is visible online. This eliminates the need to check it manually, usually by calling every health care provider. And once the patient confirms the proposed date and time, the appointment is automatically entered into the chosen health care provider’s information system.
This creates a win-win-win model for all stakeholders: the insurance companies book medical services much quicker and simpler; the insurance holders have much more options in regard to choosing a health care provider and the available date and time; and by signing a contract with one or more insurance companies, health care providers gain access to a very lucrative market.
You have really thought about everything. But is your product already widespread?
Like I said, eClinic is suitable for both smaller and larger health care providers, ranging from one-person companies to clinics with 30 staff or more. At the moment, 10 health care providers are using our system, but based on the received inquiries we are expecting this number to grow considerably. The eClinic architecture is easily expandable with additional system or infrastructure resources, and our system can dynamically adapt to the increased workload using load balancers. These make sure the load is evenly distributed across services and the system is highly responsive.
Thank you very much. Let’s hope your product turns out to be as good as it sounds!