How Canopy Health reduced mobile app development costs by 70%

After switching to a cloud-based Mobile Backend-as-a-Service platform and agile development tactics, the ACN can now launch an app for $148,800 – compared to $496,000 using the Waterfall methodology.
By Bill Siwicki
09:35 AM
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How Canopy Health reduced mobile app development costs by 70%

Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, is among the Canopy Health providers. Credit: Google Maps

To develop and launch an app, it used to take Canopy Health, 18 to 20 weeks using the Waterfall project management approach. Further, the average cost was $496,000 with monthly maintenance costs at $56,280.

After switching to a cloud-based development technology and methodology, it now takes just six weeks to develop and launch an app. What's more, the average cost is $148,800 (a savings of 70 percent) with monthly maintenance costs of $7,440 (an 85 percent savings).

"We used a traditional Waterfall and agile approach before moving to the new app development platform Progress Health Cloud," said Cathy Farmer, program manager for digital strategy and implementation at Canopy Health, an accountable care network that BayHealth Development supports. "Since the Waterfall method follows a simple structure of phases where the results of each phase cascade down to the next level of development, we encountered many issues due to the lack of flexibility and a longer delivery time.” 

[Also: Agile vs. Waterfall development: When hybrid is the smartest approach]

When one examines the tools and documentation, it's clear how the new app development platform has been designed specifically for developers to accelerate development and maintenance, Farmer said, pointing out that the platform comes equipped with beneficial features such as healthcare application templates and pre-packaged integrations with EHRs and other health data sources.

"Our developers can be more agile and efficient than ever before," she said.

As a patient-centric provider organization, the Emeryville, California-based Canopy wanted to focus on offering a better healthcare experience that simplifies many of the complexities surrounding process, Farmer said. It quickly became apparent that one of the best strategies for accomplishing this was creating a streamlined, digital experience across mobile and desktop platforms that was not only patient-friendly but also high-impact in terms of the business value and benefits for patients.

"With consumers increasingly relying on mobile devices to take care of daily tasks, we quickly realized this new digital ecosystem would have to be developed with a mobile-first mindset," she added.

[Also: PointClickCare launches developer program aimed at LTPAC apps]

Canopy Health was trying to find a Mobile Backend-as-a-Service, or MBaaS, platform that would help the organization accelerate and standardize development across its mobile and web architectures. 

MBaaS refers to a practice of using a service vendor to power the backend services – such as business logic and data management – of an app. The backend vendor could be one of any number of companies, including Baasbox, Back4app, Cloudboost, Couchbase, Kuzzle and Progress Health Cloud.

After doing research and exploring a number of different options, Canopy Health decided Progress Health Cloud (formerly Kinvey) was the most reliable and mature platform. The healthcare organization also liked that Progress Health had a short-term and long-term vision for the healthcare space as opposed to a more general approach.

"We are now able to create an entire digital ecosystem, including a suite of mobile applications, which are built on the new app development platform framework and use the adapters to connect to Salesforce Identity, IBM Initiate and other services; and a member portal, which uses the same architecture for the new app development platform," Farmer explained.

One of the apps Canopy Health built is called "Find a Doctor," and after realizing the strengths of the technology in the mobile development space for this app, the development technology became the heart of the organization's digital strategy.

"With our current application, users can easily access customer support, view detailed information and available plans, access their Plan ID card, stay up-to-date with the latest health information, and search/view doctor, hospitals and ancillary services information," Farmer said. "The goal is to give our users a way to manage all their health needs from one location."

Most important, Canopy Health has received a lot of positive user feedback surrounding the new applications and tools developed with the new app development platform.

"They really enjoy how easy the applications are to use – especially the provider directory tool," Farmer said. "This is critical since consumer expectations are constantly on the rise when it comes to mobile experiences."

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com