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1/18/2013
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New York Challenges Developers To Create Patient Portal

Portal to let New Yorkers access their health data is "tip of the iceberg" for future state-wide consumer health applications, says contest sponsor New York eHealth Collaborative.

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10 Mobile Health Apps From Uncle Sam
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Designers and developers are invited to create a new patient portal to give New York residents access to their health information online. The portal is important -- a way for New Yorkers to access their health information online -- but it's just the "tip of the iceberg" for letting developers build applications that use New York's statewide network of e-health data, said David Whitlinger, executive director of New York eHealth Collaborative, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

NYeC, a non-profit organization, manages the State Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY). The network has now pulled enough data from regional health information organizations that NYeC, in partnership with health IT catalyst Health 2.0, is opening it up to the design of a patient portal and the future possibility of additional apps.

"Part of the way we've established the network is we've built it as a platform, so it allows us to create a programmatic environment, and we can build an ecosystem of applications," said Whitlinger. "….[W]e're launching this challenge, and the opportunity is large, but we think this is going to spur many applications for the consumer, the patient, the New Yorker."

[ For another point of view on PHRs, see Why Personal Health Records Have Flopped. ]

Designers and developers have until April 11 to submit mockups for the challenge, and they already can access a "sandbox" where designers and developers can get dummy patient data. The sandbox has all the programming attributes of building an application against it, and Whitlinger said NYeC is looking for mockups that express how users can interact with their health records in an engaging and interactive way. Mockups must let patients log on with a user name and password, view a full layout of their health record, and access a list of medical professionals. The portal also will provide an overview of patient privacy rights.

"So today, we're able to reach out to the developer and creative community and say 'Okay, we now have a platform that's built up enough records and is programmatically available -- come with your best and brightest," he said. "We want those mockups to be really innovative with the user interface and the user experience -- so how to not represent data in a dull and static way so it doesn't have value beyond the folks who crave that utility, but an engaging application or set of applications."

After the April 11 deadline, New Yorkers can vote on the mockups online and in a series of webinars, Whitlinger said. NYeC might also open up voting in a larger, in-person forum to hear opinions directly. Since NYeC was formed, Whitlinger added, the collaborative has received numerous phone calls from state residents asking for access to records.

"Anyone with a disease and who has the less-than-desirable need to carry around their paper records … they can't wait for this functionality," he said. "We're really anxious to be able to tap into that pent-up demand and say, 'Okay, here are 20 great ideas from the design community. Tell us what you like, don't like, mix and match: give us your thoughts and become part of one of the largest user focus groups ever launched."

Once winners are determined, the challenge will award $25,000 in prizes to first, second and third place. NYeC also will work with a vendor to build the portal and run it on behalf of the state via its health information exchange network.

Clinical, patient engagement, and consumer apps promise to re-energize healthcare. Also in the new, all-digital Mobile Power issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Comparative effectiveness research taps the IT toolbox to compare treatments to determine which ones are most effective. (Free registration required.)

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John Foley
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John Foley,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/18/2013 | 9:07:52 PM
re: New York Challenges Developers To Create Patient Portal
App dev contests/challenges like this are a cheap and easy way to rally community activity around initiatives that would otherwise require budgets and dedicated resources. But are they effective? Some are, some aren't. A few of us were discussing this on Twitter earlier this week (@jfoley09). New York City has its BigApps competition, and in federal government there are so many of these that there's an entire website devoted to them, Challenge.gov. But my guess is that for every 20 apps developed, one may have staying power.
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