Medical Director opens up to third-party apps

Health Communication Network (HCN) has launched an integration framework that will allow third-party developers of medical apps and widgets to integrate directly with Medical Director, Australia's market leading clinical software.

Widgets that are approved for use with Medical Director will be available to users in a Widget store, similar to Apple's App Store, through which they can download the widgets they need and add them to a new MD Sidebar. The integration framework was launched to developers at a function today, while end users will receive the MD Sidebar in the next MD release, planned for November.

HCN director of operations Tania Taylor said many widgets would be suitable, particularly clinical tools and calculators such as those developed by the Heart Foundation, the Stroke Foundation and the Black Dog Institute, along with medication management and team care solutions.

HCN CEO John Frost said the sidebar framework will provide access to all of the data elements in Medical Director, and would also have a limited write-back capability to the patient file.

“The important thing in creating this environment and framework is to open it up to everybody that has a meaningful application,” Mr Frost said. “We've seen literally hundreds of people over the years wanting to work with us, so this provides them the mechanism to enable them to do it."

The MD Sidebar will host the widgets, allowing integration with Medical Director through HTML and JavaScript. HCN will provide developers with an API to integrate the widget into to the sidebar framework.

Widgets will be able to request and receive a number of events through the API, including progress notes, allergy requests, diagnosis information, pathology information and prescription information, although there will be rules to ensure widgets are unable to do make requests that will impede the function of MD, such as a request for all progress notes within the practice.

“Part of this release is that there is a whole development environment for developers where they can get hold of the tools and submit the widget in an online process," Mr Frost said. "Once they are approved they're made available to end users."

He said the integration framework was a major change for HCN. “In the past we have been overwhelmed by internal and external demand and at the same time on the perpetual treadmill of government-inspired change. As a result, HCN has turned away the vast majority of external development requests. This is about to change.

“This launch will allow you to integrate your existing systems into Medical Director or to develop add-on components. The scope is almost unlimited, from clinical tools like cardiovascular risk calculators to pathology results presentation to patient-support prompts, decision-support tools, team care arrangements, doctor education. They can be customised precisely to your target audience, whether that is GPs, skin cancer clinics, orthopaedic surgeons, psychiatrists, or any others.”

He said another driver was feedback from some users who said Medical Director has so much functionality that the desktop can become too cluttered. One of the ideas behind the MD Sidebar is to simplify the desktop, allowing users to turn on or off those features and functions they use most or least.

There are are a number of major differences between the new MD Sidebar and other tools such as the RACGP Primary Care Sidebar, he said. “The first and probably the most important is that it is directly supported by HCN, so every time we modify Medical Director or update it we make sure that the sidebar works with it. That makes it safe, reliable and dependable.

"The second big difference is the sidebar framework has access to various events within Medical Director, so the sidebar can be notified when a new prescription is added or when a result is reviewed. And the sidebar or widgets that are operating in the sidebar can write back to the progress notes.”

Developers will receive access to a software developers’ kit, a sandbox environment, a test widget and a developers’ portal to manage them through their development process, supported by HCN. A pricing structure has been developed that is similar to that pioneered by Apple. A small annual developers' fee will be charged, with a revenue sharing arrangement agreed between HCN and the developer. Potential business models include free apps, transaction-based payments, one-off purchases or subscriptions.

Mr Frost said HCN would help to promote the product to its customer base. “We think this is a real game-changer in the industry – there are no clinical products in the industry like it to our knowledge and yet there is an enormous demand for integration and interoperability.”

Ms Taylor said HCN aimed to create a development community that delivers what users want. “Users can then pick and choose which widgets they have on their desktop,” she said “A lot of the feedback lately has been that there is too much out there and they don't want access to everything, so this gives the users the opportunity to customise and download and use those tools that are relevant to them.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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