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MDWeb


Web-Based Medical Information Systems

Services

We offer a range of services to aid in the process of setting up an online information system.

Database Conversion

If you have existing spreadsheet(s) or database(s) or an old information system (even very old) we can find ways to export your old data into a new system and adapt it to conform to modern database design principles. This can be a time consuming job but significantly improves "data quality" if done well. How easy this process is depends on a number of factors and most importantly on the quality of the original design. An old database, poorly designed, with a great deal of missing or erroneous data, is VERY time consuming and difficult to import and clean up. A cost estimate is advised early in the process.

Design and Specification Development

The single most important factor in developing a successful and robust database system is the design and specification stage. To write a good specification, the author must:

Advice on Commissioning an Information System

Commissioning a healthcare related information system requires expertise that do not often exist in healthcare professionals or managers. Everybody uses computer software on a daily basis, but very few people understand the tremendous effort that goes into designing and building good computer software. Failure to adequately understand and describe the desired solution is the single most common cause of IS project failure. Many examples exist of castrophic failure of government or public service IS projects due to exactly this problem.

The need for "an information system" is a common situation within a healthcare service. However, an appreciation of what exactly this information system should do, presents difficulties. Common attitudes are "we need one like they have" or "it needs to replace our paper-based systems" or other vague and nebulous requirements. Achieving a detailed and complete description of the exact requirements of such an IS can be a daunting task and requires considerable time, effort and expertise. There are three general approaches to the purchase or commissioning of a product to meet the needs of a service. (1) buy an off-the-shelf product, and adapt your processes to fit in with how the product does things, (2) buy a product and pay to have it modified, or (3) build an in-house system that does exactly what you want. The cost increases substantially with each step, as does the probability of failure.

MDWeb provides a fourth option. An off the shelf product that YOU can customise to meet your needs. This approach has all the benefits of the above 3 options, at a fraction of the cost. MDWeb is independent and will not "pull the plug" as has happened with "customisable" software or add-ons for commercial ECR products.

Creating software is much like civil construction, a backyard DIY-er may be able to build a perfectly adequate chicken coop, but a skyscraper or bridge requires the application of Engineering principles and practice, quality assurance and regulation to ensure a strong, reliable and safe construction. Similarly, a small scale software application can be created by a clinican with some coding knowledge or a programmer in your hospital IS department, however the safety and reliability are highly dependent on the skills and experience of the developer, and serious defects may not be apparent to the user. Purchasing an off the shelf product and modifying it is not unlike renovating a building, it can end up more expensive that starting from scratch and is never as good. Modifying existing software is extremely expensive and multiplies the cost, for an inferior product that is then unable to be updated.

All of these options can be prohibitively expensive for the cash-strapped public health service. Keeping a commercial product maintained, upgraded and modifying it to keep up with changes in a service requires ongoing committment of substantial funds.

Common misconceptions include thinking a small successful application can be scaled into a large, complex solution, seeing somebody elses setup and thinking it can be transplanted to your own situation with "minor changes", or thinking that "tagging on" to an existing system is a simple and straightforward task. Complex solutions require a completely different and robust process to guarantee a reliable and safe product. The cost increases exponentially for a custom solution. In the commercial software industry, there are no professional standards, no oversight and no legal basis to ensure reliability, quality and safety. This is in contrast to the building industry which is heavily regulated. Problems and malfunctions are so common with software we take them for granted - such as lack of standardisation, excessively complex or badly designed products, poor consideration for variable computer literacy in end-users, unreliable and bug-ridden software with frequent down time... The disturbingly high failure rate of public service large IS projects has not changed over the decades.

MDWeb bypasses many of these issues. The framework is flexible and adaptable, but only within a set of boundaries that ensure good design and reliability. A large complex solution can be developed relatively easily from a high-quality specification with minimal opportunity for software-related faults.

No matter how good our platform may be, a good design specification remains critical to success. You can write your own specification if you wish, click here to download an exemplar specification document which illustrates the areas to consider and level of detail required. This document has examples that demonstrate ways our product can be applied.

If this is done well then a good product will result at the end of the process. Done badly, the project will meet with cost overruns and failure. We can help with this process at its earliest stage and avoid problems in future.

Training for Admin users

Our product is intended to make you self-sufficient, however depending on the product version and features you require, you will need to have staff with a good understanding of how to set up and maintain your information system. Detailed documentation is provided, however some basic understanding of how to administer a database is required and we can provide this core knowledge to anybody with basic computer literacy skills. Basic training in SQL for report writing is not available, (but can give advice on good online and printed resources). However we can provide assistance with writing or optimising more complex queries for a SQL-fluent user (eg a business analyst).

Phone/Email Support for Administrators

We can offer phone or email based support for administrators, when problems or difficulties arise with setup or customisation of your information system.

MDWeb cannot offer end-user training or support for minor day to day issues. Extensive documentation is provided in the online help system.

Custom report design

Our full featured product allows users to create simple reports based on pre-designed templates. Creating new reports requires in-depth knowledge of Structured Query Language (SQL, often pronounced "Sequel") and the database schema. If you have access to a person with these skills, creating new reports does not require input from us. Otherwise, advanced report templates can be created and added to your application quickly and easily.

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