Hospital calls on young iPad app developers to revamp IT

It sounded like just another quirky idea from some young software developers: Build an iPad app to give hospital-based physicians all the information they need at the bedside right on their portable tablets. That's what three 20-something computer scientists did for the Ottawa Hospital in Canada's capital city, just 18 months after they graduated from nearby Carleton University.

Sunday's opening session of the American Medical Informatics Association's 34th annual symposium on biomedical and health informatics put the project in more perspective. Keynote speaker Susan Dentzer, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, said that this effort was unusual in that top management looked outside of healthcare to computer scientists for some of the answers in a $100 million upgrade of the hospital's IT infrastructure.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, software developers Adam McNamara, 25, Tariq Zaid, 29, and Joshua Tessier, 24--the three founders of Select Start Studios--beat out seven other, larger companies for the Ottawa Hospital contract. The trio got their app ready in two-and-a-half months, as the hospital was acquiring about 100 iPads. Some 1,800 iPads will be delivered within an 18-month period.

They worked with hospital staff to find that there were numerous opportunities to adapt apps to patient care. "We worked closely with the hospital to turn what is typically a consumer product into a solution for the hospital's staff and patients,'' McNamara tells the newspaper. "The goal is to improve the doctor-patient experience while allowing the hospital to operate more efficiently.''

The software, which Ottawa Hospital is now testing, is giving physicians ready access to patient records and lab results, and more features are coming. "Electronic health records are just the beginning,'' Zaid is quoted as saying. "We have an incredible opportunity to bring functions like explaining an MRI or ordering a prescription to the bedside.''

Planned future IT projects at Ottawa Hospital that may involve iPad apps include a tracking system for surgical patients, integration of all hospital computers and automation of distribution of surgical tools, the Citizen reports.

To learn more:
- read this Ottawa Citizen story