Buy, Then Innovate: Solving the Buy vs. Build Dilemma with Healthcare Innovation and the Right Platform Architecture

Health systems, hospitals, clinics, payors, pharmacies, labs, and consumer apps are under immense pressure to keep up with healthcare innovation. Their goals of increasing revenue, lowering costs, and engaging employees and consumers are threatened by new competitors, regulations, security threats, and technologies. 

Traditionally, organizations have faced two primary options to address these pressures:

  • Building Custom Solutions – Developing a custom healthcare technology solution in-house to meet the specific needs and requirements of the organization.
  • Buying Ready-Made Solutions – Purchasing off-the-shelf healthcare technology solutions that are already developed and ready to be implemented.

Neither option satisfies the need of the healthcare organization to manage their IT costs but still be able to innovate to improve their bottom line.

But what if there was a third option where the healthcare organizations could buy a solution off-the-shelf that was designed to allow them to innovate and customize without waiting on the vendor of the solution?

In this blog, we explore these two traditional options in depth and introduce the “Buy, Then Innovate” option. This option involves purchasing a foundational solution and then customizing and enhancing it to meet specific needs, offering low cost, high flexibility, and freedom to innovate. 

The Challenges of Buying vs. Building in Healthcare Innovation

Let’s  look at the challenges presented when it comes to buying ready-made solutions vs building your own. Each path presents unique challenges and opportunities that can significantly impact the efficiency, security, and innovation potential of healthcare providers. Let’s dive into these complexities to better understand the implications of each choice.

Building Solutions In-house

Developing custom solutions is expensive and becomes increasingly costly to maintain and secure over time. Organizations often end up with numerous custom solutions, each requiring updates for security and regulatory compliance, long after the original developers have left.

Cloud vendors like Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google, and Salesforce offer out-of-the-box solutions with the promise that organizations can save a lot of time in building their own solution. However, these vendors are not specialized in healthcare. They repurpose generic tools for healthcare, providing “starter kits” that require extensive customization. As a result, healthcare companies end up doing much of the hard work of extensive software development before the solution actually works.  Furthermore any future innovation can be dependent on the cloud vendor adding the base functionality.

Buying Ready-Made Solutions 

Buying ready-made solutions can lower the initial cost but they stifle healthcare innovation. Companies end up with the same solutions as their competitors, limiting differentiation. Customization can only be done by the vendor, leading to long waiting periods, significantly delaying healthcare innovation.

A New Option: Buy, Then Innovate

The “Buy, Then Innovate” model provides healthcare companies with a foundational platform equipped with basic, ready-to-use capabilities from day one. This platform includes essential data, common workflows, and easy access to all data. Built-in innovation hooks enable companies to enhance or replace functionalities as needed, without waiting for vendor updates. In addition, this allows for the easy and cost-effective development of custom mobile apps allowing the organization to differentiate from competitors and to offer innovative services to their population.

An Analogy to Help Understand The Difference 

Let’s imagine that you were in the market to buy a home. 

Would you want to build a home from the ground up? Sure, you can get exactly the house you want, but the cost will be high and very unpredictable. After the structure is built, you would also have to purchase and install all the appliances yourself. This option leaves the move-in date uncertain and the process potentially fraught with unexpected delays and expenses.

For these reasons, some opt to rent a house due to the high cost of building. Though you can bring in your own furniture and decor, you have to ask permission to paint rooms or replace appliances. This scenario mirrors the “Buy a Solution” option in healthcare technology. You get a house as-is, without the ability to make any improvements yourself, leading to additional investments to meet your needs.

The option most people choose when buying a house is the “Buy, Then Innovate” option. We buy a house that is livable from day one. Over time, we replace the appliances we want: the washer first, then the dryer, and the fridge in a year. We can repaint any room we want without calling the home builder. This is because the house is designed from the beginning to allow customization and enhancement. This is exactly the “Buy, Then Innovate” option.

The “Buy, Then Innovate” model in healthcare technology mirrors the ease of home ownership, where you get a working solution from day one, and you can replace or upgrade parts of the solution as needed without overhauling the entire system and without waiting for the vendor to do it. This flexibility is crucial for efficient and effective innovation.

Benefits of “Buy, Then Innovate”

This option provides a number of benefits including:

  • Lower Costs: Investment is required only for customization, significantly reducing overall expenses.
  • Economies of Scale: The vendor absorbs the maintenance and security costs, distributing them across multiple customers.
  • Low Risk: The platform works out-of-the-box, minimizing project risk.
  • Freedom to Innovate: Companies can innovate independently of the vendor’s roadmap.
  • Customization: The platform can be tailored by the organization itself to fit specific organizational needs.

Key Features of a “Buy, Then Innovate” Platform

Here are the features of a “Buy, Then Innovate” platform that differentiate it from a “Buy” solution:

  • Integrated Data Sources: Comes with patient and customer data from various sources. Organizations can have data to power the solution from day one.  Over time they can bring in additional data into the solution themselves.
  • Self-Service Data Integration: Customers can push data to and pull data from the solution without vendor involvement.
  • Real-Time Data Access: Customers always have real-time access to all data in the solution for quick decision-making.
  • Innovation Hooks: Offers Customers can use “No-code” and “Low-code” tools for easy modifications to the solution without affecting the ability to upgrade to a newer version.
  • Customizable Care Gaps: Customers can define rules to identify new care gaps and can manage existing care gaps themselves  to improve patient outcomes.
  • Experimentation Capabilities: Customers can easily test new ideas on subsets of the population without affecting their whole population.
  • AI Integration: Customers can use the built-in AI and LLM models in the solution from day one. Over time they can customize, replace or plug in their own AI and LLM models into the solution without involving the vendor.
  • Mobile App Development: Customers can start with a fully functional mobile app that looks like it came from them or they can choose to enhance their existing mobile app by incorporating certain parts of the solution into them. Customers can easily add new functionality into their mobile app by using an SDK to access all the data.
  • User Behavior Analytics: The platform provides insights into user behavior for optimization from day one. Customers can use these to evolve their solution to address their population’s needs.
  • Hyper-Personalization: The platform comes with personalized content and engagement workflows for every person in their population.  Customers can enhance these by providing their own content and customizing the engagement workflows to match their organization processes.

Supporting Healthcare Innovation

A “Buy, Then Innovate” platform significantly bolsters healthcare innovation by enabling organizations to create unified data sources, which streamline the integration of patient and customer data. This foundational capability supports the development of cost-effective mobile apps tailored to specific needs, enhancing both employee and patient experiences.

Moreover, such platforms are adept at addressing and managing care gaps efficiently, ensuring that patient care is consistently optimized. They facilitate intelligent patient routing, which improves care delivery and operational efficiency. By generating actionable insights for leadership, these platforms help guide strategic decision-making and innovation.

Furthermore, the integration of AI solutions becomes seamless, allowing healthcare organizations to quickly adopt and leverage advanced technologies to stay ahead in a competitive landscape. 

Overall, a “Buy, Then Innovate” platform empowers healthcare companies to innovate continuously while maintaining flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

The b.well “Buy, Then Innovate” Platform

The b.well platform exemplifies the “Buy, Then Innovate” model, offering features such as pre-integrated data, self-service data integration, real-time data access, innovation hooks, and tools for experimentation and AI integration. This approach enables healthcare organizations to innovate efficiently, create cost-effective mobile apps, enhance patient and employee experiences, resolve care gaps, and generate valuable insights.

In today’s competitive environment, healthcare organizations need to innovate rapidly. The “Buy, then Innovate” strategy offers a compelling alternative to traditional methods, combining the best aspects of both buying and building solutions. By adopting this model, healthcare companies can foster effective healthcare innovation and achieve success in today’s dynamic business landscape. To learn more about b.well’s innovative approach, contact us today. 

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