June 11, 2021
This post first appeared on the blog of Postman - a multi-billion dollar company with customers like Twitter and Shopify. Postman makes a product that helps tech companies build, test and develop their systems, and they asked us to talk about how Spritely (and the entire Kiwi health technology sector) is growing and evolving.
We endeavour to be at the forefront of the aged care sector in terms of development speed, security and interoperability, and we're delighted to be invited to contribute by such a successful and important company.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began wreaking havoc on industries worldwide in 2020, it also spurred rapid and long-awaited change in others.
The health technology sector, for example, has seen unprecedented growth over the last year, with healthcare providers around the globe forced to implement telehealth and remote working quickly and at scale—all in a historically slow-moving sector.
Particularly in New Zealand, healthcare systems—both public and private—still rely on worryingly outdated technology. In June of 2019, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health updated their guidance, giving providers a year and a half to phase out fax machines—guidance which they have since indefinitely delayed. Paper-based systems still reign supreme in many healthcare settings, meaning millions of important datapoints are unable to be studied, secured, or shared between providers.
Despite all this, a vibrant Kiwi startup community is working to push New Zealand’s health tech space to new heights—with Postman’s support.
Spritely is a New Zealand startup that helps retirees stay healthy, safe, and socially connected through technology. The product was inspired by the founder’s struggles to manage his elderly father’s common lung condition (known as COPD) remotely.
Starting with a small prototype movement sensor, Spritely has since evolved into providing a comprehensive ecosystem of interconnected tablets, IoT sensors, medication services, and medical devices like blood pressure monitors and thermometers. Over the last year, our thermometers have been particularly useful during the pandemic.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdowns were mercifully short. Our government, and the so-called “team of five million” New Zealanders, did a famously good job of keeping infections under control. The Spritely office went into full lockdown on March 25, 2020, and came out of lockdown on April 27, 2020—barely a month later.
Our operations, though, were still not easy. During the most strict lockdown (and the less severe restrictions that were in place for most of 2020) Spritely was helping retirement villages manage the health and wellbeing of their residents.
From living room couches and spare rooms across the country, our team developed an age-friendly method of sharing and viewing videos on the Spritely tablet (which villages used to send home workouts and hygiene guidance). We developed a dashboard that allowed villages to remotely screen residents for high temperatures and low oxygen levels, and created telehealth systems that allowed nurses to assess possible cases without risking physical contact. Usage of our video-calling service increased by 400%.
Through the most intense period of software development in Spritely’s history, Postman was a crucial tool enabling us to scope, develop, and test new APIs at unprecedented speed.
Robust and secure APIs are at the core of Spritely’s business. Integrating with everything from IoT sensors to call centers to weather forecasting services, Spritely’s APIs need to stay up and running through huge updates and intense usage spikes. Because our products need to be user-friendly for retirees with low levels of computer literacy (not to mention vision and dexterity limitations), we err towards handling logic on the backend where possible. While this keeps our interfaces nice and simple, it adds complexity to our APIs.
Proper API documentation is already a must for any collaborative software project (beware of the bus factor), but for a heavily integrated startup with new developers coming onboard constantly, it’s absolutely mission-critical. Postman’s robust documentation features allow the Spritely team to quickly and efficiently create, update, and organize docs covering hundreds of unique endpoints.
Coordinating efforts in a large software team can also be challenging. With a wide range of projects, each blocking the next in one way or another, scheduling development resources becomes exponentially more complex as the team grows. Postman’s mock servers make this task much easier, allowing frontend and backend developers to work on features simultaneously, without delays on the backend stalling progress on the frontend. When backend developers are busy, Postman allows us to build entire frontends before backend work even begins.
Postman’s collaboration tools also provide the perfect medium for our engineers (often working from home and scattered across the country) to come together and share their expertise. Real-time collaboration and version control allow us to keep engineers across teams in the loop.
Despite the slow-moving reputation of the healthcare sector, a combination of industry advocacy and COVID-induced necessity is beginning to catalyze digital change.
Though awkwardly named, the Health Level 7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) represents the first step toward making New Zealand’s healthcare system 10 times more efficient and interoperable.
HL7 aims to achieve something which, in the wider tech sector, is considered a given—creating an industry-standard protocol for exchanging information. The FHIR is an internationally recognized standard that supports the interchange of almost every piece of healthcare information imaginable. When it’s fully adopted, every health provider from your Spritely tablet to your cardiologist will be able to contribute to the same pool of shared health information, revolutionizing care interoperability.
These standards are incredibly complex—they must be able to exchange everything from prescriptions to ECG charts at a global scale. Healthcare services attempting to communicate with FHIR (whether directly or through a third party) will need robust documentation and testing tools. This, of course, is where Postman comes in.
Some efforts to document FHIR in Postman have already begun, such as the FHIR public workspace by API Evangelist. These efforts, with Postman’s support, will be indispensable in driving adoption of technology that will improve lives around the world. With APIs having become the world’s most efficient medium of information interchange, the tools to create and manage them are more important than ever.