You have probably heard of “smokestacks”, “haystacks”, or “banana pancake stacks” before.
But have you heard of a “Tech Stack”?
In this article, we explain what it is, how it is essential in the development of new IT products, and why it is beneficial to the healthcare industry.
What is a Tech Stack?
A tech stack is a combination of technologies that an organisation uses to build an IT product. It is a combination that tends to work well together.
Examples of these technologies are Linux, Python or SQL – don’t worry, we will not be diving deep into those terms here.
Here’s a simple HealthTech example: most of you are familiar with HealthHub. Building the HealthHub app and making it user-friendly requires one set of technology. Developing the software to power HealthHub, such as showing your health information and to manage health related contents, requires another set of technology. A third set of technology enables HealthHub to connect with all the other relevant systems.
Together, those different sets of technologies make up a tech stack.
Given that there are hundreds of such technologies out there, there is no “one size fits all” tech stack for any organisation.
An analogy is this: a tech stack is like a kitchen with equipment and ingredients. Kitchens are usually equipped to prepare for specific cuisines; for example, a kitchen in a Chinese restaurant would be quite different from that of a Western restaurant, or that of a bakery. A chef chooses the right kitchen with the appropriate tools and ingredients to cook the kind of food he or she wants to serve. Similarly, IT engineers work with healthcare staff to choose the right tech stacks to suit your IT needs.
Another form of a tech stack is known as the domain tech stack; for the purposes of this article, we shall term it as the solutions stack.
It differs from the tech stack in that, instead of using technologies, it brings together a collection of existing digital solutions. For example, HealthHub and Amazon Web Services are existing solutions, both of which the recently launched OneNUHS app uses. To be able to leverage existing solutions is partly why the OneNUHS app could be developed so quickly within 12 months.
Health Discovery Plus (HD+), which is a remote vital signs monitoring (VSM) platform, also leverages the solutions stack in building the platform. Examples of solutions being used are the Azure commercial cloud, and the National Digital Identity which uses SingPass.
A final example that everyone can relate to is the ongoing efforts to manage the pandemic. In order to run the vaccination operations, an electronic medical records system was needed. Instead of designing one from scratch – which would take a lot of time – an existing HealthTech called GPConnect was used, and quickly enhanced to meet the vaccination centres’ needs.
As GPConnect was already “plugged into” the healthcare system, it was much easier to integrate it into the various other pandemic-related systems, such as the COVID-19 Test Repository and Patient Profile Risk Portal.
As they say, no need to reinvent the wheel. With tech and solutions stacks, development teams save a lot of time and can focus on developing new functionalities instead. IHiS is also working to converge towards fewer sets of Healthcare Tech Stacks, to minimise duplication and make the process more streamlined and efficient.
The next infographic shows how the tech and solutions stacks are organised in our healthcare industry with some familiar examples.
Benefits of a Healthcare Tech Stack
Think about doing a handstand.
While most of us have never done one before, you can imagine what body parts are needed – a combination of strong arms, shoulders and core. Without one of the three, a handstand might still be possible, but would take a longer time to achieve. But by having and using all three correctly, one can learn how to do it in a shorter period of time.
The concept of the Healthcare Tech Stack is similar – by using a combination of the multiple layers of tech and solutions stacks, and by extending and integrating, we can reduce the development time needed of new healthcare applications or systems.
Here are the different ways in which we extend and integrate our Healthcare Tech Stack:
Besides faster time-to-market, the Healthcare Tech Stack also helps us to reduce the security and maintenance overheads, given that the technologies and solutions are already well established.
The use of established technologies and solutions also mean that interoperability is improved. Interoperability is the ability of hardware and software from different systems to communicate and exchange data without issues.
In essence, it allows data from multiple healthcare systems to be shared and accessed by a healthcare staff, laboratory or hospital, translating into higher efficiency and better care for patients.
Why is a Healthcare Tech Stack Important?
Consider this – as of mid-2021, IHiS manages 658 live systems for public healthcare institutions, with another 30 in development. The systems include domains such as corporate IT, business operations and medical services.
Without tapping on existing Healthcare Tech Stacks, managing the existing systems and developing new HealthTech would take significantly more time and manpower.
Convergence efforts in the last few years have also simplified the landscape and integration complexity; for example, efforts in recent years have seen the number of systems reduced from 800+ to 600+. The simplified landscape has also made it easier to use tech and solutions stacks to develop new healthcare systems. To ensure consistency and quality, new solutions and systems are also reviewed by the Solution Review Board, which ensures that technical standards are adhered to.
How is this useful to you?
The next time you or your organisation would like a new healthcare system or application, pause to take a look at the available tech and solutions stacks the public healthcare industry already has. What existing tech or solutions can be reused, enhanced or added upon?
Want to know more in depth about tech and solutions stacks? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.