Can’t code? No problem

How ‘no-code’ is helping anyone become a digital innovator without technical skills. Dr Lloyd Humphreys from Cogniss explains how.

Published: 01st March 2023

Over the years I have met so many wonderful people working in the health system that have amazing ideas on how to address some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. With unbridled passion they extol exactly the technology they and their colleagues need and the transformative effect it would have. But where are these ideas today? So many fall at the first hurdle – the difficulty of bringing that idea to life.

When they consider the technical expertise they need to gain or bring in – the time it will take and the resources it will need – it becomes a mountain to climb, best left to experienced technologists, who perhaps lack lived experience from the frontline.

So, what would happen if we removed those barriers and how would the NHS benefit at this time of great need? Imagine if we could give people with good ideas the tools to create something without needing to know python or other coding languages. What if we could democratise digital health?

We’ve seen similar advances in simple, cheap products for people to turn their hand to animation (Canva) and website builders (WordPress or Wix). Now it’s digital health’s turn.

We’ve also seen the power of what happens when clinicians are supported to innovate – from the app that will help children prepare for surgery to the one that helps staff report logistical issues in a hospital.

It’s time to level the playing field.

Evolution of no-code digital health

From IBM’s first commercial electronic computer back in 1952 through to the open-source movement in the 90s, which reduced the cost of internet technology and broadened its access, the technology community has always worked towards collaboration and innovation. The 2010s saw the emergence of the ‘low-code’ approach, which enabled professional coders to quickly build apps using a ’drag and drop’ approach without having to do much coding themselves.

More recently we are seeing no-code platforms that are further broadening the playing field for innovators. In a 2017 article, Forbes described no-code development as being for “the ‘citizen developers’ – business users who can build functional but generally limited apps without having to write a line of code”. It reduces cost and speeds things up, especially amidst a worldwide shortage of developers.

Some of the best ideas come from within an organisation, (often referred to as intrapreneurship), and the NHS is no different. That’s why we need to leverage the intellectual might of the 1.5 million people who work in the health system, and why we partnered with Health Innovation East to deliver one of their innovator masterclasses based on empowering innovators and clinical entrepreneurs with no technical skills to develop no-code solutions. If you weren’t able to attend, here are a few highlights

Key things to consider when building your product:

  • Preparing for future development and different operating systems, and understanding the limitations of no code well
    • Will your product be robust enough to scale when you commercialise, or is the no-code platform just good enough to provide you with a proof of concept?
    • How long is the learning curve of the no-code platform?
    • Does the no-code platform enable you to integrate your app with other systems using APIs?
  • Understanding that you still need to put in the work to ensure a great user experience
  • Meeting regulations and compliance standards around data privacy, accessibility, ethics and security
  • Standing out from the crowd in a marketplace – with fewer barriers to entry, competition inevitably increases

We are yet to see the full impact of no-code development and the progress of AI and how this might affect the future of health and care, but the potential is huge. However, it’s important to ensure that you follow the correct process to give your digital health solution the best chances of actually being adopted in services.

Get involved

Our Insights to Impact Masterclass: The Power of No-Code for Digital Health – a pathway from ideation to the NHS, 16 November 2023, will uncover how no-code has changed the paradigm of app development and what you need to consider before starting your no-code innovation journey.

Sign up here

About the author

Dr Lloyd Humphreys Cogniss
Dr Lloyd Humphreys

Dr Lloyd Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist by training with a business degree from the European School of Management and Technology (Berlin) and has developed, delivered and scaled a number of digital health solutions, from digital therapeutics, personal records and digital formularies.

Through this work he has been acknowledged as one of the Top 100 Health Tech Influencers and been recognised by the National Health Service for his involvement in bringing innovative technology solutions to market, being awarded one of the first NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellowships.

Lloyd is currently the Managing Director of Cogniss.

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