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The federal contracting market is competitive; a handful of big names tend to dominate that space, and it can be difficult for smaller companies to make a name for themselves. But with certain new advancements, like low code development, smaller companies are able to do more with less and go toe-to-toe with the big companies on their own turf.
That’s what happened recently when Ignyte, a small digital experience and management consulting firm, won Appian’s inaugural 2020 Federal Partner Cup Hackathon. Competing against some of the biggest names in the federal market, Ignyte delivered a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant mental health case management system. It used Appian’s low code platform to integrate Alexa, Microsoft Teams, blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver a comprehensive system for telemedicine and electronic health records.
“We wanted to do something innovative, so we thought hard about use cases,” said Jason Stanis, chief technology officer at Ignyte. “The first step was to look at a handful of strong use cases that we thought would be compelling. It does not take a secret decoder ring to innovate. First and foremost, from a business perspective, what problem are we solving? What markets could benefit from this solution? How many different kinds of federal clients could take advantage of it? And then we looked at how could we then fit all of the coolest features of Appian and other powerful technologies into it.”
Other use cases the team considered involved coordinating wildfire responses between various levels of government, and a student-facing portal for federal student loan, grant, enrollment and diversity data.
“But mental health just had the most compelling combination of a really impactful business problem, doing some good, and a lot of great technologies that we could integrate together in a really innovative way, really quickly,” Stanis said.
One of those technologies was digital voice assistants, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, which Stanis said he has been trying to figure out how to integrate into business workflows, to make them function more like real assistants would in an office setting. An early breakthrough was the discovery that while Siri is not HIPAA compliant, Alexa is. So the team focused its energy on developing Alexa skills to collect data on patient moods and improving accessibility options for patients with disabilities who may struggle to operate smartphones or other mobile devices.
Ignyte also integrated artificial intelligence to analyze the data being collected to search for patterns that might improve clinical decision making. This capability also incorporates natural language processing, searching for keywords that may indicate a patient needs an intervention.
Toward that end, Ignyte was also able to integrate Microsoft Teams, which is also HIPAA compliant, to provide both one on one, and group therapy telemedicine encounters.
By pairing these features with Appian’s powerful case management platform, Ignyte was able to automatically notify and assign a task to a caseworker if the AI found indications that an intervention might be necessary. The alert it provided to clinical staff would allow them to schedule an immediate meeting with the at-risk patient via Teams. This ability to seamlessly move from analysis to action is a major differentiator.
And this solution can be tailored to meet the needs of any health care organization across the public and private sectors. Through blockchain technologies, as well as industry standard Health Level 7 interfaces they have added since the hackathon, Ignyte made their system capable of integrating with most commercially available electronic health records systems. And because it’s based on the flexible Appian platform, this solution can be integrated into any care management program. That goes for health care providers like the departments of Veterans Affairs or Health and Human Services, but can also apply to less obvious use cases, like the Education Department or FEMA, either of which could use it to provide mental health counseling in the aftermath of a disaster.
The flexibility of Appian’s low code platform was also what allowed Ignyte to bring these various technologies together, do more with less, and become competitive with companies that had far more resources to bring to bear.
“I don’t need an army of 20 developers, I don’t have to develop my own HIPAA compliant security, I don’t have to develop a whole database, I don’t have to develop all of these different components that you need to deliver enterprise grade applications,” Stanis said. “It’s all in the platform. So we can just focus on the business logic. What problem are we trying to solve? Can we rapidly and iteratively improve the users’ experience? That’s the more exciting side of the process to me.”
Stanis, a Detroit native, said it reminds him of Henry Ford’s assembly line. That innovation meant companies didn’t need artisans to build every little piece of a product. Instead, they were able to create products at scale. And that innovation democratized the market.
But Appian takes that one step further. Where the assembly line democratized mass production, it still requires scale to be effective. Appian democratizes the assembly line itself, at least in a digital fashion. So now you don’t have to be a market leader to own the assembly line. With Appian, smaller companies are capable of production at scale.
“Because we’re not Ford, right? We’re small,” Stanis said. “But the idea is that we can output on an industrial scale like Ford even though we’re small.”