Category Archives: Healthcare

Posted on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 @ 1:19 pm

Big Data. Data Lakes. Analytics. Machine Learning.  Are these tools only meant for tech giants like Google or Facebook? Or, can these tools meaningfully assist any business and help it respond to the ever-changing needs of the market? As the software industry continues to move toward consuming and delivering cloud-based solutions, many companies now realize they sit on a gold mine of data. Although many understand the value of data, few understand how to unlock that value.

Every time one of your customers clicks on a link, completes a transaction, or views a page, it can be logged and tracked.  Some customers realize the value of this data and set up a data lake to store it. To put it simply, a data lake is a database that contains huge amounts of raw transactional data. Data lakes often get confused with data warehouses because they are similar, but data lakes are much more versatile and can grow much larger than data warehouses. With SaaS or connected on-premise solutions, data can be exported on a regular basis from the solution to a data lake, where the data is normalized. This enables you to apply analytics at a later date. If you need help choosing the right data lake, we suggest Hortonworks Data Platform. (Full disclosure: OFS partners with Hortonworks.)

Data lakes collect endless amounts of raw transactional data, but it is just that: raw data. Without applying analytics to that data, obtaining any useful information or action items from it is very difficult.  Everyone knows what analytics is, but most only scratch the surface of what analytics can do for their business. For example, how many people look at a data lake and ask, “How many people logged in?” or “How many people clicked on a link after we deployed this new product/feature?” or “How many widgets were purchased after this marketing campaign?” It’s good to have this information when answering one-off tactical questions, but it does not tell a story about how your business is doing. It does not provide insights into your customers’ and users’ activities and trends.

What makes things more difficult is analyzing data from disparate systems. Think about a typical e-commerce shop. It has multiple, different backend systems all connected to create a complete solution:

  • Customer-facing web portals
  • Shopping carts
  • Billing systems
  • ERP/OMS/WMS/other order and fulfillment systems
  • Shipping systems
  • Sales/contact management systems

Each one of these systems comes from a different provider, has its own database, methods, naming conventions and APIs. The data lake ingests all data from each system, then uses the data for various analytics.

It’s all too often the analytics applied to a data lake do not realize the true potential of the data, or the analytics provide information that is just plain inaccurate.  How many have seen this scenario? Data scientists look at pre-collected data chosen arbitrarily by an engineer, and then they show that data with charts or graphs on a web page. How many dashboards contain the same data:  new accounts this month, number of logins, and number of widgets purchased? Typically, this type of data is used to prove or disprove an existing theory by a single person or team. These solutions provide no conclusions, next steps, or trends to watch out for, and most importantly, they reveal little to no insight into overall business trends.

The industry is moving in another direction and putting a new layer on top of an analytics engine: machine learning (ML). Data scientists now use artificial intelligence engines that meticulously sift through each raw transaction in a data lake to look for crucial trends that lie either at the surface or deep within the data.  These engines are capable of gathering, comparing, and analyzing data from multiple, completely different sources, such as the ones mentioned above.  These machine learning engines consume that data, and ultimately deliver suggestions, theories, and trends that provide answers to significant questions you didn’t even think of asking. Using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, an ML engine even can alter its analysis and conclusions based on the changing trends it sees within a data set.

We all think about sales and marketing organizations applying ML to their data to ensure they pitch the right products at the right time to the right consumer. However, many industries now use machine learning and AI to solve very specific problems. The financial services industry applies ML to prevent fraud and reduce expenses related to it. Investment and stock brokerage firms also use AI to suggest stock trends and offer insights to traders about when to enter and exit certain holdings. The healthcare industry has seen an explosion of data collection from wearable devices and is using ML to provide accurate, more targeted healthcare services to specific individuals. Even the oil and gas industry is applying ML and AI to data sets collected from mineral analysis to predict refinery failures or service degradations before they happen.

Ultimately, each industry and business strives to accomplish two things: Identify profitable opportunities for growth, and reduce or avoid risk. Humans ask big data teams to display data they “feel” is important to make educated business decisions.  However, this leads to missing significant trends and insights living deep within the data, and even glaring trends staring data analysts right in the face.  By implementing machine learning on top of data lakes and existing analytics engines, you can gain insights from transactional data to help your business grow.

Interested in seeing machine learning and data analytics technologies in action? Check out ObjectFrontier’s iHealth application demo from our Analytics Innovation Lab. iHealth is powered by data analytics and machine learning to provide real-time insights that create better opportunities to treat patients experiencing abnormal heart rates during physical activity.

About the Author

bob-kramichBob Kramich leads all our US sales efforts and is responsible for directing all business development activities for OFS globally. Bob has more than 25 years of experience in creating and delivering high-value software engineering relationships with US and international companies. Prior to joining OFS, Bob served as vice president of Business Development, Life Sciences, for EPAM Systems, Inc. (NYSE:EPAM), a leading global provider of software product development services. Bob joined EPAM through EPAM’s acquisition of GGA Software Services, the world’s preeminent provider of scientific informatics services to global biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Bob served as GGA’s chief business development officer. Bob holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.

Posted on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 @ 7:00 am

Picture1c-resized-600Check out OFS’s latest article, featured as the cover story in this month’s issue of NJTC’s TechLifeSciNews!

Click Here for Article

These days, your smartphone fulfills many roles beyond just being a medium for audible conversation. It is your personal assistant, your calendar, your DJ, your TV, your camera, your library, your navigator, your researcher, and the list goes on… Ever wonder if the role of “doctor” could be added to that list?

It sounds like a far stretch, but in reality, the latest mHealth apps are doing some truly remarkable things to help reduce or eliminate inconvenient and lengthy trips to the doctor, hospital, or lab as well as to improve personalized patient care.

With better and smarter mobile technology, patients will start to see entirely new methods of delivering patient care – through digital means.

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Posted on Mon, May 5, 2014 @ 7:00 am

Our last two posts shared some evidence of the mobile revolution that is underway in the healthcare industry. A number of mHealth apps that provide true digital value to patients have emerged, and they are disrupting the status quo in the industry. Apps to manage diabetes, to treat vision problems, to test blood, and to track sleep patterns are providing new ways of care for patients outside of the traditional physician/hospital treatment.shutterstock_149565341-resized-600

These mHealth apps make up a market expected to reach $26 billion by 2017. They offer services that can be so useful and effective in providing a new kind of care that they’re catching the eye of the FDA, presenting a new set of challenges to mHealth entrepreneurs. Over the last 10 years, the FDA has cleared only about 100 mHealth apps, and has selected only one as a prescription-only app because it is so impactful on the health of users. With over 60,000 mHealth apps out there on the market though, why is it that so few have received the FDA stamp of approval?

It starts with the FDA’s new approach to mHealth apps. With mHealth apps really taking off in the last couple years, the FDA has had to quickly deal with how to regulate them. Their latest strategy, as of September 2013, is to “focus only on the apps that present a greater risk to patients if they don’t work as intended and on apps that cause smartphones or other mobile platforms to impact the functionality or performance of traditional medical devices”. For example, an app that tracks your calories and exercise is of low risk if it functions improperly, but an app that monitors users’ blood glucose levels would need to be highly accurate and reliable. However, the vast majority of mHealth apps on the market today are not so critical and would therefore not come under FDA scrutiny, as they aren’t crucial to the health of the patients using them.

But why are most mHealth apps of such low impact to patients when we know they have huge potential to provide real value in changing patient behavior and putting patients in charge of their healthcare experience?

If you look at the bulk of current mHealth apps available, you’ll find that most are unessential, disposable, and unnecessary in the everyday lives of patients. “We have created an ecosystem of useless apps,” says Christopher Wasden of PWC’s Health Industries practice. He explains that the mHealth app market is huge in volume, but not in quality.  Some entrepreneurs in healthcare have feared the watchful eye of the FDA and thus “watered-down” their apps to be less impactful to avoid stringent regulation, as entrepreneurs see the FDA clearance/approval process as, “murky, challenging, and capital intensive.” This discourages many of them from building quality mHealth apps, or even from entering the space at all.

Other mHealth app developers have simply not dived deep enough into the limitless ways their apps can affect the fundamentals of patient care. They have not explored the full potential of the unique situation mobile devices provide: they can go anywhere, have constant network access, can utilize accessories and attachments to expand their capabilities, are used by the majority of American adults (58% own a smartphone; that number goes up to 83% when looking at millennials), and are actually enjoyable to use. Because of all this, mobile devices offer the perfect medium to provide individualized, 24/7 health monitoring, support, and treatment to patients.

With universal, multi-purpose devices like these, mHealth entrepreneurs willing to make the investment will discover countless ways they can be used to help patients receive a new kind of personalized care. The innovative mHealth apps of today are only the tip of the iceberg, as digital disruptors will find endlessly creative uses for mobile devices in healthcare.

Unfortunately, creating good, quality mHealth apps is far from easy. Many factors go into designing a well-balanced mHealth app that will be effective in its intended purpose and that will be embraced and used by patients. In order to provide true digital value in one’s mHealth apps, according to Christopher Wasden, businesses will have to address the following:

  1. Integration – An app must seamlessly integrate into users’ lives. If it requires great effort of patients to go out of their way to use it, they won’t stick with it. User-Acceptance Testing is imperative. An app also has to be easy for physicians to integrate into their workflow so doctors and patients can be on the same page with their care.
  2. Interoperability – An app must be accessible from a number of different devices, and updates to one must update all. An app must also connect to the cloud to communicate with other healthcare systems and data in order to provide a complete health experience.
  3. Intelligence – An app must leverage data analytics and algorithms to extract intelligent insights from large amounts of data. For an mHealth app to be valued and used by patients, it must be able to provide medical guidance as accurately as a real-life doctor.
  4. Socialization – mHealth apps have great potential to influence behavioral change, as mobile devices are in the hands of users throughout their whole day. People do best with behavioral change when connected into a network of support, so mHealth apps must utilize social networks to encourage and support users as they work to improve their health.
  5. Outcomes – An app must provide an effective way of presenting health goals, logging steps to achieve them, and then validating the results. A focus on results will keep the user motivated to achieve.
  6. Engagement – An app must feel so satisfying to the user that they continue to use it over and over again. Effective forms of engagement are necessary. A major current movement in engagement is called gamification, where gaming techniques are applied to non-gaming experiences in order to interest and motivate users by appealing to their innate desires to compete, achieve, and win. For more info on Gamification, click here.

In order to avoid being relegated to the digital dumpster, mHealth apps must provide true digital value to users.  These six components together create an optimum formula for mHealth app success. Using them as the focus for mHealth app design will give apps their best shot at being adopted by users and at having a real impact on patients’ lives.

For examples of apps succeeding in this way, check out our posts on innovative mHealth apps.



Posted on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 @ 7:00 am

Our last post, “mHealth Apps Will Transform Patient Care Amidst Digital Disruption” introduced the major impact that today’s Digital Disruption is having and will have on the healthcare industry. A number of recent mHealth apps are paving the way for effective, inexpensive digital forms of patient treatment and care. Read on for more mHealth app examples, and see how they are changing the rules of the game for the healthcare industry!

  • Mobile Apps to Track Sleep Patterns

An astonishing 113 million people in America describe themselves as “sleep concerned”, meaning they have trouble getting a restful night’s sleep (Digital Disruption, Forrester Research). Many of these people never do anything about it though because sleep studies to analyze sleep patterns and determine treatments are extremely expensive and require a full night spent at a hospital or lab. New, convenient ways of tracking sleep with wristbands and bedding, such as aXbo and Beddit, that integrate with your mobile device, are providing an easier and much cheaper way for concerned sleepers to get valuable data on their sleep habits. As time goes on and the capabilities of these trackers and their software get more advanced, they could replace the need altogether for expensive and difficult overnight sleep studies, as all the data could instead be collected at home by oneself and then interpreted by advanced software.

  • A Prescription-Only Mobile App to Treat Diabetes

BlueStar, the first prescription-only mobile app in the US, is meant to help those living with type 2 diabetes by providing real-time coaching, support, and education. A recent article by mHealthNews explains how, “at present, BlueStar takes into consideration the patient’s medical history, current glucose readings and treatment regime, as well as the current medications before dispensing its advice.” Additionally, by utilizing the latest technology in big data analytics, this app could have the power to interpret millions upon millions of bits of random health data, looking for patterns and then extracting relevant and valuable insights for the patient. It could aggregate and analyze the patient’s health data with the data accessible in millions of medical books and publications to potentially provide diabetes patients with an optimal, personalized treatment plan.

With an app like this, digital is going beyond just providing a new ease and convenience and is actually improving patient care. In 2012 Jason Jacobs, CEO of Runkeeper, predicted, “Your phone will soon be your new doctor”. If mobile apps can actually analyze a patient’s unique situation through big data analytics, apps may indeed soon play the role of doctor by accurately determining the best course of patient care. Compiling patient medical history, test results, and current treatments, and then searching through the gigantic mass of information in medical reference materials, apps can find a solution that’s custom tailored to each patient and direct the best course of care for them.


Because of all the new value that digital can provide in the healthcare industry, businesses are finding that they must now treat their software with the same care as they do their underlying products or services (“Software Must Enrich Your Brand”, Forrester Research). And they are realizing that this software must be top-quality. Look no further than the national rollout of the Affordable Care Act this past October, and it is easy to see how bad software can instantly damage a brand or ogranization. Good software is now integral to the success of a healthcare company, as we see the healthcare industry being rapidly disrupted by our digital world. Customer needs and expectations are rising fast. If healthcare companies don’t find a way to provide digital value, innovators and disruptors from outside the industry will find a way to break in and do so. We are living in The Age of the Customer, and whoever delivers on customer needs, including the needs they don’t even realize they have yet, will come out on top in this disruption.

But providing digital value is not as easy as simply building a mobile app that integrates with your products or services. There are thousands upon thousands of medical apps out there, most of which provide little in terms of real medical value to the customer. Look for our next blog on how to design healthcare apps with true value in order to avoid the digital dumpster!


Posted on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 @ 7:00 am

iPad_stethoscopeIt is often difficult, although necessary, to find the time to make a trip to the doctor’s office for a medical checkup, test, or treatment. Having to take off work, rearrange schedules or take the kids out of school is sometimes your only option. However, with the digital disruption that is under way today, the traditional process of receiving healthcare is starting to shift in a new direction – one that favors patient convenience and improved care through better technology. With this, patients and those in the healthcare industry will start to see entirely new methods of delivering patient care – through digital means.

Just look around and it’s easy to see how our world is quickly becoming digital, with businesses and consumers embracing smartphones, tablets, and mobile apps in their personal and professional lives. However, it is not just that our world is becoming digitized, with data being converted to digital form, and business processes and interactions now be conducted via digital device. In fact, digital is having a much deeper impact on our world. Digital creates entirely new ways to provide new value to customers of businesses in every industry. It is not just through mobile devices, but also through social, cloud, and data analytics technologies that companies are able to create truly innovative, original digital offerings. These days, compelling software is not simply a “nice-to-have” feature in business. Rather, great digital offerings are now table stakes to even compete in today’s world.

The banking industry is a great example of the direction in which healthcare is headed. One bank estimates 80% of its banking transactions occur via online and mobile today, including bill payments, transfers, and check deposits. That’s because forward-thinking banks saw an opportunity several years ago with the internet and then mobile technology to solve a problem their customers didn’t even know they had—having to go to the bank. Nobody has time to go to the bank, and nobody wants to wait in line. But, in the past, it was necessary. Digital disruptors have changed all this. They found a way to provide new value to customers. By utilizing a smartphone’s camera and integrating its functionality with their mobile banking apps, for example, banks created a way for users to deposit checks via mobile device—how easy is that! Banks were able to recognize that this is The Age of the Customer, and any way that you can make the life of your customer easier is a way to win more of them! Despite the large amount of time, effort, and money that was spent to conduct such a wide-scale change, it was a worthwhile move, as mobile banking is considered a standard in the industry these days.

mHealth Apps Transform PatientJust as the need for visits to brick-and-mortar banking locations has greatly dwindled with the advent of mobile banking, so too will the healthcare industry be affected by the digital disruption. Innovators, many from outside the industry, will find digital solutions to problems that customers didn’t even know could be solved. Not having to go to the doctor’s office to receive a medical evaluation? Not having to go to a lab to get medical tests done? Not having to pay an arm and a leg for routine medical care? These are some of the ways that today’s digital disruptors will shake up the healthcare industry with technology. Indicators of the start of this change include the following mHealth apps:

  • A Prescription-Only Mobile App to Treat Amblyopia

Health 2.0 Berlin details the German app, called Caterna Vision Therapy, and how it provides eye-training exercises for children with amblyopia by stimulating their weaker eye with therapeutic light stimuli on the screen. The stimuli can be adapted to the interests of each child and are presented as a game so children remain focused and engaged. These vision treatment exercises don’t require expensive visits with a vision specialist to perform them, but rather can be experienced from the comfort of the patient’s home and at the patient’s convenience. The app has been proven both to improve patients’ vision and to significantly reduce their time spent wearing an eye patch.

  • A Mobile App That Tests Your Blood

Created by Qloudlab Technology, this soon-to-be-released app is a blood test specifically designed for patients undergoing anticoagulant treatments to prevent blood clots. YahooTech explains how the test works: “The system requires placing a single-use, microstructured plastic layer of film on top of [a mobile] device’s screen…Patients then place one drop of blood on the film via capillary action,” and then the app uses the device’s touchscreen technology to detect a variation of changes in the blood sample, recording any disruptions it finds. The app allows the patient to perform the test at home, on their own time, within a few minutes, rather than having to travel to a lab or hospital every few days for blood monitoring. This kind of at-home testing will expand in the future to include other tests that can make use of a mobile device’s sensors and inexpensive device attachments, giving patients a greatly desired convenience, giving doctors a way to receive digital results instantly, and giving insurance companies a way to provide certain medical tests cheaper.

Look for our next blog post for two more mHealth examples on how digital is transforming this industry and for ways to build better mHealth apps!