Software Development in Healthcare: Buy or Build?

Buy vs. Build Software: Pros and Cons in Healthcare

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In today’s digital landscape, it’s well understood that custom software development in healthcare is one of the key factors in the success of the industry. It can help scale your operations, provide valuable insights through analytics, optimize user interface, and protect critical data from breaches and disasters. 

But one question still lingers: is it better to buy or build software? This is an especially pertinent question in the healthcare industry where security protocols are governed by HIPAA.  In this article, we explore the most important factors to consider when deciding which route is best.

Software Development in the Healthcare Industry

As a principal in the healthcare industry, you are constantly looking for ways to use technology to streamline your facility’s operations. But with so many software solutions out there, it’s hard to know what you need.

There are some standards developing in the healthcare industry. Some software solutions include:

  • Time management in healthcare: scheduling software
  • Patient relations in healthcare: CRM software
  • Organizational planning in healthcare: management software
  • Meeting regulation in healthcare: compliance software
  • Personnel management in healthcare: staffing software
  • Vendor relations in healthcare: contract management software

With so many different software needs in the healthcare industry, the question of whether to buy an off-the-shelf solution or build your own is paramount to smooth operations at your healthcare facility.

Buy vs. Build Analysis: Software Considerations

In deciding whether to buy or build, there are three things to consider about the software application itself.


A custom solution lets you integrate innovative functions and unique features to better support your operations. Additionally, by building software you will have software tailored to your facility’s unique needs.

Conversely, if the feature or function already exists then it’s better to buy, especially if the application is outside the core competencies of your IT team.

For instance, no one builds SQL database management software (DBMS) from scratch. Instead, you would buy off-the-shelf software solutions like MySQL or PostgreSQL.

If you find that your team doesn’t have the competencies to integrate off-the-shelf solutions into your current IT infrastructure, it may be time for a custom software solution. This can be tricky in healthcare where the malfunction of a system could be the difference between whether a person receives life-saving care.


Uptime is a measure of system reliability. Statistically speaking, it’s the ratio between the time a service is available over the total time it’s been active. In other words, it measures the likelihood of failure-free operation. 

By building your own software, you have direct control over the product’s reliability. In the event that users aren’t happy with their experience, you can invest more time and money into the software to improve it. On the other hand, buying software leaves you vulnerable to system failures and weaknesses.


Whether buying or building, make sure the software is easily scalable for your projected growth; you don’t want to get stuck replacing a crucial element. 

If your in-house team has experience with the right programming languages, then they can develop products that can scale accordingly. Otherwise, it’s best to partner with a custom healthcare software development company.

Thinking about partnering with Ideas2IT? Check out our great success stories with other companies:

Software Engineering in Healthcare: Things to Consider

So you’ve opted for custom healthcare software development services instead of off-the-shelf software. Now you need to decide whether to build in-house or outsource the work to a third-party healthcare software engineer. Let’s look at three key elements to consider.


When outlining a new software project, consider whether your developers have the necessary skills for the job. If they do, ask yourself whether it’s worth their time to undertake the project.

For larger applications, you may need to hire additional employees. According to a 2020 Training Industry Report, training a new staff member costs an average of $1,111. Use this number to create a predictive model for your project’s budget, alongside the rest of your team’s salaries.


In the grand scheme of your business goals, what’s the priority level of building a custom application or feature? Is the deadline far away and flexible? Or will you need something in perfect working order by the end of this sentence? If you’re tight on time and don’t have much wiggle room for experimentation, buying is the safer option.

On the subject of time, consider whether your engineering team’s time isn’t better spent on other initiatives. Maybe there’s a greater objective to accomplish or a more fundamental mission to complete. In these cases, outsourcing can empower your healthcare software engineer team to make headway on more essential projects.


This category refers to the aptitudes and experience of your engineering team. If the proposed software is beyond the company’s wheelhouse or the team’s tech stack, then build time will take longer and cost more than buying. 

When setting foot in novel programming territory, you have to account for things like trial and error. Learning about industry standards, best practices, and compliance regulations can be a slow process but is essential to your application’s success.

Healthcare Software Development

Credit: Mapbox


Both buying software and building customized software is going to cost you. This can be broken down into three main categories.

Build Cost

This covers the entire investment to develop your software from conception to roll-out. Without a doubt, upfront costs for the building are going to be higher than ready-made software.

Maintenance Cost

When choosing to build your own software, you’ll have to consider the cost of long-term maintenance. Over the lifespan of your application, it’ll require patches, updates, and debugging to keep it performing at its peak. 

Look beyond the short-term build costs and consider whether you have the people and resources you need to maintain the product in the long term.  

Opportunity Cost

While this isn’t a cost you can easily jot down on an income statement, opportunity costs are arguably your company’s most valuable metric. It’s a counterfactual that reflects the things you could’ve been doing instead of building in-house applications.

To determine whether a certain project is worth the opportunity cost, consider where your company lives in the profitability growth model. Your approach to the build vs buy question may differ depending on which quadrant you fall into.

Partner With an Experienced Healthcare Software Engineering firm
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Buy vs. Build Software Analysis: The Verdict

The bottom line is this: You can build a custom solution when you have the right people, time, and resources. But, even at that, it may not be worth the time and money if it’s outside the scope of your core competencies. 

You should also consider that, in all likelihood, the software you need already exists. Buying will therefore be less expensive and faster to deploy than building it from scratch. Plus, all the maintenance is overseen by the vendor.

Only you can make the right decision for your business. If you’re still unsure, try plotting a simple software buy vs build matrix. This will help you qualitatively assess the best course of action.

Partner With Ideas2IT for Your Custom Software Development in Healthcare

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Direct your energy towards caring for patients and let us focus on building the tools you need.

We count organizations like Roche, Netsmart, Mayo Clinic, uLab Systems, and Grapefruit Health amongst our healthcare and health-tech clients. In the non-healthcare segment, we work with enterprises like Facebook, Bloomberg, Microsoft, Siemens, Oracle, and Zynga.  

At Ideas2IT, we pride ourselves on being more than just a custom software manufacturer. Unlike other companies, we offer consulting solutions and deliver real business outcomes over the long haul.

With specialties in healthcare and finance, Ideas2IT is experienced in custom software development in the healthcare industry for organizations in highly regulated industries. Our software solutions are built to comply with HIPAA, PCI, ISO, NIST, and many other security standards. 

Contact us to discuss your future software solutions today.

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