New powerful mobile devices have enabled whole new avenues for smartphone software development. There are hundreds of mobile based applications available now, and with all the Blackberries and iPhones in use, revenue opportunities from mobile based software applications are tremendous.
So what about mobility for healthcare applications, such as electronic medical records (EMR) applications for mobile devices? Could we develop a fully functional EMR application to run on a mobile device? Actually, developing a complete EMR application for a mobile device could be a very difficult task. Currently, web based EMR applications can be accessed through mobile devices, but they are not true EMR applications. We can certainly extend some of the functionality of an EMR application to a mobile device, but there are many technical limitations in the development of a full blown mobile EMR application.
Technical limitations for development of mobile based EMR applications:
- Limited processing power of a mobile phone limits processing of large amounts of data.
- Though web based EMR applications can be accessed through mobile devices, synchronization is still a problem. Mobile devices with small memory don’t have sufficient memory for caching. Moreover, the small screens of mobile devices makes it inconvenient to fill out large amounts of data such as charges and patient diagnosis.
- Difficult to work with image data and xml files.
Keeping these technical difficulties in mind, we can still develop an EMR application extension that runs on mobile smartphones. This EMR application will not be a standalone healthcare application, but would be an interface to access a full blown EMR application. This interface may expose only some modules of the healthcare application to the mobile user such as demographic information of the subscriber or the diagnosis information of a patient. Some parts of the modules, such as charges, can also be exposed through interfaces. This will allow users to access the data that is most important to him or her from the convenience of a mobile device.
Both J2ME and Windows CE can be used to develop mobile based EMR applications. However, developing mobile applications on J2ME holds the advantage in that the mobile based application will have portability for a variety of devices. Windows CE based applications may provide the more familiar look of Windows based machines, but lacks the portability of J2ME based solutions. In other words, solutions developed on Windows CE would run only on Windows based mobile phones. They do, however have a lower developmental cost and learning curve.
On the other hand, developing mobile based EMR applications using C++ would not be good option since there is no need to access hardware with an EMR application. EMR is essentially a data driven enterprise application, so using C++ to develop the application would have a large learning curve.
In short, mobile based EMR solutions are feasible, but to implement them entirely may not be feasible for current phones. A mobile based application may be implemented as an extension for an enterprise EMR solution where the user can access some but not all features.