Market-leading aged care software vendor iCareHealth is set to release redeveloped versions of its medications management app at the end of the year and has moved to six-monthly release cycles for its core clinical and care management software now that Microsoft's Azure cloud platform is available in Australian data centres.
iCareHealth's chief technology officer Craige Pendleton-Browne said the company had moved to hosting its development and test environments in Azure, which meant it was able to innovate faster and implement continuous integration.
The move has also allowed the company to move to an Agile methodology faster and more easily than expected, Mr Pendleton-Browne said.
“It allows us to spin up environments quickly and we can experiment and try things,” he said. “We can run up an environment, we can play around with a few things, we can shut it down without having to build or wait for infrastructure.”
For iCareHealth, it has helped improve the quality of their product and speed to market, he said.
“We could easily do monthly release cycles, but the reality is that when 80 per cent of your staff are using the software daily an element of change management is needed whenever you put out a new version.” Mr Pendleton-Browne said.
The company, which is now part of the Telstra Health group, plans to release a new version of its core software in the next few months and is working on new iOS, Android and Windows versions of its medications management app.
Mr Pendleton-Browne hopes to have the iOS version available at the end of the year and the Android version early next year. The aged care industry, which has long had a reputation for its glacial rate of change, is very much exploring the benefits that tablets and other mobile devices are bringing, he said.
They are also much more open to the idea of the cloud and software-as-a-service, he said. “If you look at our new clients over the last six months, the majority of our new clients have gone onto Azure, which I think is a fantastic move.”
While new clients are plumping for the cloud, it is a harder sell for existing clients, many of whom are happy to stay with their local servers for the time being.
“A couple of our bigger clients have just made some significant investments in virtualisation internally, so moving to Azure doesn’t offer them many benefits at this stage,” he said.
“But when that investment is depreciated in two, three years’ time, their plan would include not only moving our software to Azure but moving a whole lot of their infrastructure to the cloud. We have moved a couple of [existing clients] over. As we are going through and upgrading, we’re actively having the conversation that there is an alternative.”
One of the benefits for cloud-hosted software is not having to worry too much when new operating systems like Windows 10 are released. Mr Pendleton-Brown said his team had done some preliminary testing with the new OS but he isn't seeing any urgency in the industry to move to it just yet.
However, he said when new operating systems become available, plans are built into the next release cycle to incorporate a compatible version.