A decade ago, I designed and built large-scale web applications for companies all over the world. Using the cloud and mobile technologies available today, I would've built it faster, better, and less expensively -- and quite, quite differently. Here's how the world has changed in the last decade.
The VA is testing iPads to improve home care for war-wounded veterans
The U.S. Veterans Administration is embarking on a one-year pilot project to loan some 1,120 iPads to the home-based caregivers of severely injured war veterans in an effort to streamline and improve the flow of health information from patients back to the VA.
The iPads will replace detailed patient reports that are now done by caregivers via telephone, through a secure website, or through handwritten notes turned in during patient visits to their doctors, said Dr. Neil Evans, associate chief of staff for informatics at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The iPads are loaded with nine specially built health care apps that will be used to report patient information to the agency, including overall health assessments, pain reports, necessary prescription refills and more.
"These are people who have high health care needs and who can't get treatment in traditional ways," Evans told CITEworld. "So how do we help them? By creating technologies that give a better sense of connection with their health care teams."
Part of an improved care program for vets
The VA Mobile Health Family Caregiver Pilot project is part of a program announced in 2012 that aims to make it easier for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans and their caregivers to get improved support and assistance from the VA
The veterans who are receiving the in-home care under the program suffered severe injuries in post- 9/11 conflicts, such as multiple amputations, devastating brain injuries, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to weapons fire, improvised explosive devices, and other warfare attacks, said Evans.
"We are getting these devices into the hands of families so they can care for their veterans," he said. Funding for the pilot project is coming from the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, which authorized more money to help injured veterans.
Much of the care of these veterans is done in-home after they are released from hospitals so they can continue their healing and recoveries.
"Family member caregivers are providing a huge chunk of healthcare in this country," said Evans. "This program allows those caregivers to receive monthly stipends from the VA to manage their care and to provide training, counseling, and respite support for the caregivers."
At least 4,000 veterans and their caregivers were given the option to join the iPad pilot project, and some 1,120 volunteered to participate. The iPads are being shipped to patients and caregivers starting April 22 and the pilot is to get underway in May.
Using the iPads, the health care details for patients will be reported more quickly, and because they are electronic rather than paper-based, that information will then be available to a much wider group of health care professionals who are providing the care, said Evans. Even more critically, the mobile iPad apps will directly tie into back-end systems and apps at the VA, removing the inefficiencies and potential errors of paper and phone-based reporting.
"They'll be better connected with their care providers," he said. "Our mission is to provide holistic health care to those entrusted to us. I like to say that health care occurs not just in the clinics and in the hospital, but also in patients' living spaces.
Ensuring patient privacy
One key issue to solve before getting the pilot underway was to ensure that the medical information being reported through the mobile apps would remain secure and confidential, said Evans.
We are entering unchartered territory when it comes to surveillance because of information broadcast from our smartphones even when they're off. Right now, it's the NSA collecting this data, but as computing power gets ever cheaper, it could be your local police or even the store you just entered.
It turns out that most IT departments no longer want to buy, install, and run software on their own servers, and the ancillary benefits of the cloud -- like easier mobile access for workforces that combine full-time employees and contractors -- seal the deal.
Adding to a string of announcements aimed at making its service more appealing to businesses, Dropbox this morning said that Dell will start selling the service to its customers.
The battle over which platform delivers the best location and context services to mobile users is already underway with Google in the lead, but Apple's purchase of mapping startups and social analytics firm Topsy, combined with its Bluetooth-based iBeacons could give Apple a strong chance.
Box is experiencing some good times these days with new features, new funding and a high profile CEO, but Box has to be careful as it grows to say true to its root and not fall into the trap becoming just another enterprise software company.