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Boston Heart Diagnostics Corp. is on a mission to transform the treatment of cardiovascular disease. The Framingham, Mass., company is combining medical diagnostics and lab test data with personalized nutrition plans and lifestyle programs, working to change the way healthcare providers and patients communicate about heart health. A key component is offering online Web and mobile applications featuring a mobile app UI design that patients and medical professionals find enjoyable to use and revisit frequently.
Telerik framework on a Microsoft stack
For building Web screens and an inviting mobile app UI design that run on iOS and Android, Boston Heart chose Progress Software Corp.'s Telerik UI framework and app development platform. Data resides in Microsoft SQL Server, which the company hosts in a private cloud and serves up to users via Microsoft's Internet Information Services for Windows Server.
Although it does run isolated instances of Linux, Boston Heart's online presence is built primarily on a Microsoft stack, which also includes the Visual Studio development tools suite. Application development is done with developers and infrastructure resources both on site at the company's headquarters. Connection between SQL Server and on-screen forms is via Windows Services or an API call. The company has not yet opted for a cloud-based platform as a service, preferring to maintain tight control over sensitive patient medical data.
Mobile app security comes first
Any application that deals with medical data must comply with the privacy and mandates of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Shalom Keynan, director of application development at Boston Heart, said he believes it is Boston Heart's responsibility to provide users with accurate data that is kept secure.
"When we look at a mobile application, we ask ourselves, 'What is going to happen in the event of a lost phone or tablet?'" Keynan said. "What is the best way to make the data secure?"
Shalom Keynandirector of application development, Boston Heart Diagnostics
The answer is decidedly low-tech: To ensure users' data is never compromised, it's never stored on the device in the first place. The mobile app UI design is not a factor. "We serve up data in real time, but only for display purposes, and we do not store anything on the mobile device." Once the session terminates -- either from the user logging off, or from an inactivity time-out -- the data is purged, even if the app itself remains open.
There is a direct correlation between the need for security and the user experience, according to Burke Holland, director of developer relations at Progress Software, based in Bedford, Mass. "The more security you have, the worse the UX is going to get," he said. The art is in striking a balance between the two that is universally acceptable, ultimately manifested in the mobile app UI design, he added.
Requirements continually change
Even after working in collaboration with Boston Heart's marketing team and implementing a carefully designed UI, deployed apps are likely to change quickly. "Within a month of deployment, we have feedback from users about what works and [what] doesn't," Keynan said. Combined with business requirements that are continually evolving, it is essential that the mobile app UI design and underlying code are built in a way that allows for frequent change, he said. "You must have good communication between the development team that builds the UI and the marketing team that is designing the UX."
Leah Buley, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, serving customer experience professionals, agreed. "This is not like traditional applications that can stay in production for years without any changes. In UX and UI, it is all about deploying continuous incremental improvements."
Boston Heart is not standing still. In January, the company launched Life Plan 2.0, a major update to its nutrition and lifestyle plan, which helps patients achieve weight-management goals, while improving overall heart health. It employs a revised algorithm that incorporates dozens of patient attributes, including biomarker test results, food and fitness preferences, patient demographics, and personal history. "We're creating solutions to prevent disease and enable everybody to be healthy."
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