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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Jun 27 2010   4:03PM GMT

When is the next mobile revolution for the market place?

Posted by: RedaChouffani
android, healthcare mobile, iPhone, mobile apps, silverlight

In the past few months, I have been assisting several health organizations with the selection of healthcare specific mobile solutions.  Ranging from mobile surgery scheduling tools, surgery charge capture and the delivery of health summary records to Smartphone.  The challenge I kept facing is that in most organizations unless there is a strict policy on single device model, it was very difficult to identify products that are developed for more than one mobile platforms and that can retain the same experience throughout the different phones.


This was a reminder of a similar challenge that many software companies faced years ago.  Several packages that were developed many years back such as medical manager, CPSI, Misys and others elected to use cobalt, Unix and AIX environments.  While some continues with a much more user friendly environment that was found in windows such as: Practice partners, EPIC, GE and more.

Still many of these solutions co-exist today facing severe competition from web based solutions that are accessible via a web browser regardless of the platform in use. 

So the question they all faced prior to their design was: “Which platform will this package be developed for? What development language will we use and Why?” 


While most software developers would agree that Java was the preferred development language since it is capable of running on most platforms, but it has not been as popular in the healthcare field as many of windows and Mac based software.


If it was not for the success of the internet and the prolific results of web 2.0, none of the software vendors would have considered a web based delivery system.  Now that many have ventured to have web based capabilities, we must all ask the question of “why can’t mobile applications have the same ability?”  It‘s true that all smart phones have web browsing capability, however, it does not look like anyone is interested in using the mobile web browser to read the news, lookup information and even review medical imaging.  But clearly there is a wider interest in the Apps that can be installed on these devices.


This creates a challenge for many software companies.  They are now faced with the same old question “Which platform will this package be developed for? What development language will we use and Why?”  With choices ranging from Android, the upcoming windows phone 7, Palm, iPhone and few others, it is difficult to cater to a single manufacturer since there is not one that has a majority share in the market place as Microsoft did with in the past with their operating system windows.


So, would there be an opportunity in the future for Smartphone users to have the ability to switch vendors and still have access to their favorite apps for personal or business use? would they be able to have the same functionality and experience with it?

So far all almost all mobile devices have the social network apps available with almost the exact same functionality across the board.  But when we discuss platforms that have been used in the past to deliver more complex content there has been some lagging.  Example: Adobe Flash made attempts to continue to deliver rich media content to the end users, but clearly most of those dreams faced some serious obstacles from vendors such as iPhone and even Android who did providing immediate an immediate plug in.


However, far in the horizon, one giant technology vendor is attempting the impossible.  Microsoft in the last several years has been developing a web application framework called Silverlight.  What’s interesting about this platform is that Microsoft has been working with Novell on a project by the name of “Mono” to provide support for Linux and other Unix/X11 based operating systems.  This of course would most likely mean that Android will have support as well since it has a Linux Kernel.


If you are not familiar with this platform be sure to visit the patient journey demonstrator to get a first hand experience with Silverlight capabilities.  This can potentially ensure the existence of a single web application platform that be used in all most mobile phones and ensure the continuity of the same experience of one app regardless of the platform.


So, if a hospital, mid size medical practice or an IDN decides on a mobile solution, they may not have to force a certain Smartphone brand on their clinicians, while still ensuring that all devices are protecting the information they are using in the cloud.

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