>Harvard, Boston Children’s open $5,000 app challenge to free EHR data

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Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School this week opened a previously announced competition to develop “iPhone-like” applications to help unlock data stored in electronic health records. While the focus is on Web apps, the federally funded contest is encouraging submissions for mobile tablets, with a promise of “further optimization for smaller screens” such as smartphones by summer.
Children’s and Harvard will award $5,000 for the best application in June and release the winning product in a health IT “app store,” the organizations say.
“The goal of this model is to enable a substantial shift towards technologies that are flexible and able to quickly adapt to meet the various needs of their users on a variety of devices,” Dr. Kenneth Mandl, director of the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program’s Intelligent Health Laboratory, says in a press release. Mandl and Children’s Hospital Informatics Program Director Dr. Isaac Kohane are co-leads of the SMART Substitute Medical Apps, reusable technologies (SMArt) project, which is sponsoring the challenge courtesy of a $15 million federal grant.
Essentially, Mandl, Kohane and the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology want programmers to find ways to break down barriers to interoperability that proprietary EHR systems have created.
“Currently, innovation in health informatics is limited by disparate vendor APIs and ambiguous data standards. Deploying an application against multiple vendor systems requires massive customization efforts that don’t scale. SMArt provides a common API to access patient records, 

fueling apps with rich, unambiguous data. This will open up the market of health IT to a new cadre of developers who can write a SMart app once and deploy it inside multiple EMRs and [personally controlled health records],” the federal challenge page says.
“As developers begin to compete on quality, value and usability, we expect to see the introduction of an array of innovative functions and a drop in the cost of healthcare technology,” Mandl adds. “Just as staple applications of the iPad, Android, and BlackBerry platforms constantly evolve and compete to meet user demands, the SMArt platform will enable health IT to do the same.”
Mandl and Kohane first publicly discussed the App Store approach and what became the SMArt architecture in a March 2009 New England Journal of Medicine commentary. They applied for and received the government grant in April 2010 under ONC’s Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects (SHARP) program.
Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra announced the SMArt challenge last November as he introduced keynote speaker Bill Gates at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C.
For more information, read this blog post from SHARP program director Wil Yu.
By: Neil Versel  Source: Mobihealthnews

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