Healthcare insights: scaling your digital product
“Scaling up” as the next step of digital product development: what issues you may encounter when scaling your healthcare solution and how to address them.
How to scale your digital healthcare product
Medical product development and launch planning can take your business through seven circles of hell. Generally, launching a product in the healthcare sector requires more money and time, compared to other fields, so make sure to be patient. A doctor-oriented and time-poor audience, a complex healthcare system with multiple decision-makers, and an intricate regulatory environment are just a few of the inhibiting factors that prevent the product from entering the market in a short period of time.
But you've done it: after several iterations, your product has finally reached the point where your target audience has found their “pain point killer”. What's next? Celebrate with a full-blown team? Even if it would not be such a bad idea, don't forget there is still much ahead of you. The real work begins with scaling and product maintenance.
How do you know when to scale?
Or do you need it at all? It's up to you, but…
Scaling means creating a unique environment where your digital product can grow over time. It is a kind of adaptation of the product to the rapid growth of the user base. How? Usually, the product undergoes the development of an improved and enhanced version through a series of iterations, each of which changes or adds a feature to the product. User testing then follows to validate the effectiveness of the changes. And so iterations can go on endlessly.
So, can you do without scaling? The reality is that the product you put out will never be your “final” product. In a changing world, the market and the audience are heading down the same path. If you don't prepare your product for the inevitable changes, it won't be able to survive in fierce competition. That's why a scaling plan needs to be considered even before product development starts, or rather, at the very first stage of product creation: the study of the target audience and market research.
Ultimately, scaling is not a simple add-on setup that you can implement at any time. Rather, it is a time-consuming process that affects almost every component in your stack, including both the hardware and software parts of the system. Moreover, on the way to scaling your product, there will be many surprises that could jeopardize your business. That is why we stress the importance of introducing an early, well-thought-out scaling plan that will help you avoid some potential issues and protect your med-focused project from failing.
Tech issues you may encounter when scaling a digital product & and ways to address them
Although the following scaling-related problems will not necessarily happen to your product, they are the most common. They can signal that the product needs help to continue functioning properly.
Problem #1. Your product-related server may be overloaded
With the increasing number of customers (aka traffic) to your, for example, online pharma marketplace, server resources can be "used up", while the server may refuse to work.
Solution: Conduct vertical, horizontal, or mixed scaling
Vertical scaling refers to 1) adding more resources to an existing server or 2) replacing it with another more powerful server. It is as if you are "filling up" the server resources with more power so that it can handle the increased load. However, this type of scaling is suitable for stateful applications that expect only limited traffic increment.
Horizontal scaling refers to the addition of extra servers that work together to keep the application running smoothly, even during peak hours. This type is more suitable for applications where steady user growth is expected.
Problem #2. Unequal distribution of traffic
Along with prioritizing additional servers, you might have a problem with the redistribution of traffic between them. Such disbalance is tantamount to failed app performance.
Solution: Load balancer usage
A balancer is a special device that acts, for example, as an intermediary between client-server interactions. It is responsible for distributing incoming traffic among multiple servers and thereby increasing the resilience of the application to higher loads.
It is desirable to have several of them to reduce risks in case one of them fails.
Problem #3. Inefficient database management
When designing a medical app, it's imperative to pay attention to the main piece in this technical puzzle — the database. Reliable data aggregation, management, and storage in your healthcare app are crucial for retaining your target audience.
Choosing an unreliable and weak database core may fail in the long run. Alternatively, risk can be managed by using multiple databases (as in the case of servers) and by using, for example, replication and sharding techniques.
Solution: Replication or sharding
Replication means handling data in several databases simultaneously. Typically, this method involves using a primary database from which data is copied to "subsidiary" databases. This allows the same query to be processed in both the primary database and the secondary one, which minimizes the risk of losing data management. Interaction between the databases takes place through a network connection.
Sharding involves segmenting all data into smaller fragments, thereby reducing the load on each of the resources and increasing the performance of the entire system.
Problem #4. Problems with the code
At first, a technical problem may seem minor, but in the long run, it's fraught with technical debt. By ignoring minor code-related issues, you are more likely to find a significant bug during the scaling process. In this case, troubleshooting can cost you a pretty penny, not to mention the time you might spend fixing it.
Solution: Test the code (always)
To ensure code cleanliness and avoid architecture bugs, make sure your technical team constantly checks code quality, uses the latest but proven tech stacks, tests the product after each update, and maintains proper documentation.
Scaling is an integral part of every future-proof product, but its success depends on a variety of different factors. It is a challenging process that affects most of the technical elements of your application: databases, architecture, servers, etc.
There are many tactics to grow your product and, at the same time, make it more sustainable, but not all of them may be right for your project: the perfect solution in one situation may be a wasted effort in another.
Looking for ways to upgrade your product and make it more efficient and secure for an ever-growing user base? Scale up your app with Brandmed, a staffed, tech-savvy, and healthcare-aware team. Let's make digital medicine more advanced together! Shall we start?
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- Forbes, Four Strategies For Scaling Digital Health Solutions, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/03/28/four-strategies-for-scaling-digital-health-solutions/?sh=44c5e4d96669, [last accessed: 03.02.2023].
- Healthcare dive, What's needed to scale up digital health in the clinical provider space, https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/whats-needed-to-scale-up-digital-health-in-the-clinical-provider-space/446826/, [last accessed: 03.02.2023].