Low Code/No Code: In Life Sciences, Extend Carefully

May 25, 2021

The old joke is that you can do anything with software if you have enough money. With an army of programmers, it was basically true. But now there is a new way to develop software quickly and with much lower investment: low code/no code programming, a.k.a. codeless app development. Essentially, modern digital platforms have created visual building blocks that can be assembled according to user experiences designed by “citizen developers,” a term coined to describe these non-traditional programmers. Imagine building applications or extending functionality without ever writing a line of code!   

Microsoft Azure and Power Platform Tools

Microsoft has a deep execution of this development approach in Azure with their Power Platform tools. Canvas apps are “no code,” and model-driven apps are “low code.” Codeless is not exactly true unless you get all of your data sources into a unified place, like Microsoft Dataverse; otherwise, you still need programmers to access and enable those data sources. But that is the topic of another post

Transforming Life Science Experiences with a Low Code/No Code Approach

For life science companies moving to digital business models, this ability to extend makes it possible to create a myriad of digital experiences for users, decision-makers, patients, providers, and partners with a level of lower spend that was previously not possible. These digital experiences, analytics and insights, and digitally enabled products are at the center of the model disruption taking place in biotech and pharma right now.

Often, these codeless apps can be enabled around the edges or over the top of core business apps and across devices. Examples include dashboards that produce key performance indicators or early response indicators in real-time, possibly driven by learning algorithms running against internal plus external data and mobile apps that create digital patient experiences.

Compliance and Control Remain Paramount with Codeless Development

In light of all these possibilities, a word of caution. Life science companies must think about this digital expansion in the context of maintaining compliance and control.

  • If these extended workloads and user scenarios enable processes that could harm humans, they must still operate with 21 CFR Part 11 audit trails.
  • If the actions they take are deemed to require preventative controls, they must be enabled with electronic signatures, which usually includes workflow.
  • If they are dealing with patient data, they must be HIPAA- compliant to protect patient privacy.
  • If they are part of significant processes as defined by the FDA, they must be included in system validation. 

These low code/no code tools can still vastly reduce the time and spend required for pharma and biotech manufacturing companies to move to digital processes. This no code movement contributes to a perfect positive storm for life science companies that are ready to innovate using digital business models. Just make sure you pay attention to the compliance components of what you create.

If you are a life science company interested in learning more about how to move through digital transformation smartly, reach us at www.meritsolutions.com.