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Vice President of Tencent HealthCare Zhang Yu: Create the “flywheel” of software development effectiveness and efficiency to drive continuous innovation in healthcare

BEIJING, May 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The digital era has ushered rapid changes in software development philosophy and process, as well as technologies and tools. For healthcare, the digital transformation of the industry allows for rapid response to major public health emergencies, stable operation and maintenance of high-density and high-concurrency traffic, continuous and rapid updating of digital applications, efficient and coordinated software development process, compliance management of data and maximization of data value.

How to keep up with the demand for high-frequency, efficient and sustainable software development? Zhang Yu, vice president of Tencent HealthCare and head of the Tencent Cloud Software Development Effectiveness and Efficiency Improvement Taskforce, shared his insights into software development effectiveness and efficiency at the 2023 Techo TVP Developer Summit, which also feature the experience and thoughts of software development experts and even Tencent Cloud on the digital transformation of software development.

According to Zhang Yu, the software development effectiveness and efficiency platform developed by Tencent Cloud brings together a suite of automation tools, all-in-one portal and DevOps methodology to automate software development process and measure applications against uniform metrics. The resulting product is an all-in-one DevOps platform uniting request, development, building, deployment, operation and maintenance and operation. This software development effectiveness and efficiency approach has been widely adopted in Tencent HealthCare.

Tencent HealthCare features substantial improvement in software development effectiveness and efficiency, setting a record by updating an application seven times in a single day

In the early days, the Wechat mini program of Tencent HealthCare is flawed due to insufficient software development efficiency, slow online positioning and problem solving. In response, Zhang Yu proposed “domain-based problem identification and solving”. For instance, in the development process, unify development model, promote standardized service, make traceable code changes and support parallel development of multiple requests to reduce communication costs, allow for multi-user collaboration and quick iterations, and enhance development and coding efficiency; pipelines are united in the building step to ensure code quality and stable service; automated testing is introduced to switch from volume testing to incremental testing, optimize the service grid, save resources and reduce operation and maintenance costs; automated deployment of pipelines is adopted to ensure security and strengthen the capabilities needed for continuous delivery; operation is visualized to enable developers to identify and locate faults in a timely manner.

At this stage, Tencent HealthCare has achieved temporary victories in elevating software development efficiency. Take the popular mini program “Tencent Healthcare”. The program was launched in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. The software development seminar was held on January 20, 2020, marking the official launch of the project; the first H5 version was developed at 6 am on January 22; the first version was officially launched at 8 a.m. on January 22; on January 26, Healthcare made official presence on the WeChat payment page, providing a full set of epidemic control and prevention tools including epidemic updates, scientific interpretation of the epidemic, and fever clinic maps. A week later, “Healthcare” reaped more than 30 million daily active users.

According to software development traditions, a large-scale application is rarely updated in a year. However, it is reasonable to update applications which have tens of millions of active users and attach tremendous importance to timeliness for three or five and even seven times a day, such as “Healthcare”. “Healthcare” epitomizes software development effectiveness and efficiency.

Enhanced software development effectiveness and efficiency benefits the healthcare industry by spurring product innovation

The efficient software development system also enables Zhang Yu and his team members to continuously employ cutting-edge digital technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and big data in the healthcare industry, so as to develop innovative products that benefit physicians, patients and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

In terms of “AI-assisted healthcare”, Zhang Yu and his team members developed a triage and consultation platform based on such AI technologies as speech recognition and language understanding. The platform, covering 31 departments and 98% of the diseases, has shortened the time and improved the accuracy of triage. In total, the platform has provided 2 million intelligent triage and consultation services to 1.5 million patients, with an accuracy rate of 91.7%. In this way, the platform could be a solution to the imbalanced distribution of China’s healthcare resources and increase access to healthcare. Currently, more than 900 medical institutions have adopted the system, which boasts an accuracy rate of over 90%, and has substantially improved the productivity of physicians.

Zhang Yu and his team members have also developed an intelligent diagnosis and treatment recommendation and clinical decision support system by building knowledge maps of key diseases such as psoriasis, heart failure, chest pain, and stroke, to suggest diagnosis and treatment, and assist physicians in identifying medical images and quickly finding the medical information they need. The accuracy rate of the system in terms of decision support is 90%, and it makes more accurate evaluation of the severity of psoriasis than clinicians.

In developing China’s first artificial intelligence-based disease management platform for patients with heart failure “HeartCare (Hu Xin Xiao Ai)”, Zhang Yu and his team members creatively used the explainable AI technology to warn disease deterioration, the AI-assisted automatic gait analysis to classify the degree of heart failure of patients, and the big data to analyze the clinical effect accurately and intuitively. This platform, an outcome of the strategic cooperation between Novartis and Tencent, connects physicians, nurses and patients, supports AI technologies such as voice and picture recognition and human-machine dialogue, and performs core functions such as daily indicator monitoring, health status assessment, and personalized recommendation. Since its official launch in July 2020, “HeartCare (Hu Xin Xiao Ai)” has been used by more than 3,000 medical staff in more than 500 hospitals, and has assisted nearly 80,000 heart failure patients in managing the disease at home, improved their understanding of the disease and awareness of managing the disease, and reduced their hospital visits.

Tencent Healthcare Big Data Middle Platform is a patented big data software product developed by Zhang Yu and his team members. The platform boasts prominent technical advantages such as high computing power, timely response, and less consumption of hardware resources. The platform provides access to medical big data, and acts as a data collection and processing framework. It stores over 100 billion pieces of data, collects 1 billion pieces of data on a daily basis, computes based on over 3,000 computing rules, and performs over 10,000 computing tasks per day.

One of the digital healthcare platforms, which is equipped with a cutting-edge game rendering engine, presents cinematic-quality graphics. The software analyzes important data such as outpatient registration volume, physician’s workload, and drug consumption, and analysis results can assist the management of medical institutions in formulating work plans and making drug stockpiling decisions. The software can also monitor the patient load on each floor and department, patient condition, etc. It visualizes the distribution and occupancy of beds, and calculates indicators such as bed utilization rate, bed turnover rate, and average length of stay. Zhang Yu has also played an important role in implementing projects such as Guangdong Provincial Healthcare Security Administration Big Data Middle Platform and Jiangsu Commission of Health Big Data Middle Platform, guiding the construction of medical big data middle platform from scratch. He also participated in the delivery of Guangdong Provincial Healthcare Security Administration Big Data Middle Platform. The first public cloud-based FHIR Service platform in China developed by Zhang Yu was also the first SaaS platform based on medical big data.

In addition to working on signature products, Tencent Cloud has also penetrated into the healthcare industry, helping healthcare providers develop products by means of software development effectiveness and efficiency-related concepts and tools, and promote innovations in technology, application and cooperation pattern; the all-round digital transformation creating sweeping changes in philosophies, industrial chains, platforms and products has also stimulated innovation in healthcare.