Posted by:Ranjani Rao February 21st, 2014

Surprising, but not uncommon – many companies find themselves going straight to mobile from old, clunky client server applications. They skip the web step and it makes sense in many respects.

Take the instance of a hospital – An administrator who sits at her desk, and uses proprietary windows based application that connects to the proprietary HIS (Health Information System) to fill in patient information.

There really is no need for web enabling this application because she (or a handful of people who sit at the administrative desk) is responsible for taking patient registration information and inputting it into the system.

But with the mobile, you can look at it in a whole new way. A hospital can hand out iPads (or Android tablets) to its patients and have them fill in their information themselves via a mobile app. An instance where a mobile app development effort really does provide a strong advantage.

There are a few challenges to be solved here:

  1. Security – You need to make sure that all patient data is wiped out before the iPad is handed off to the next patient. This can be done in several ways
    1. Develop the app so that it sends information to the server and does not store anything on the device
    2. Build logic into the app that allows for a remote wipe or data reset
    3. Give authorization to only the administrator to start/stop a patient registration
    4. Encrypt all data stored
    5. Enforce timeouts
  2. Robust Data Integration – This is the big one. Remember the proprietary HIS we referred to? That is a closed system that needs to be opened up for access and here is how:

    1. Work with the HIS vendor to build a web service layer on top of their backend data store
    2. Define fine-grained, specific web services for the requirement at hand – in this case patient registration
    3. Leverage the current authentication mechanism – for example if the windows based application uses Active Directory authentication (which is very likely) then build the mobile app to use the same authentication
    4. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Leverage all of the privileges, restrictions and rules enforced by the HIS – this ensures lower cost of development. And, more importantly, it ensures that the security protocols are not being changed and that permissions are being enforced consistently across channels
These principles apply to any kind of mobile integration effort – CRM, SharePoint, CMS – the list is long.

And there you have it, a practical solution that saves hospitals time, money and improves patient experience. And this is a solution that can be extended across other functions such as surveys, discharge summaries, pre-op information gathering…

This is one instance. I would love to hear your thoughts on how companies in other domains are embracing mobility to become lean and mean. Share your comments below.

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