SMART health app challenge crowns $5,000 winner

By Healthcare IT News
11:11 AM

A developer challenge issued this spring by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, aimed at inspiring innovation in health IT Web applications, has awarded its prize to a multilingual EMR interface.

An panel of industry leaders has tapped the Meducation SMART app as the winner of the $5,000 prize, chosen from 15 applications submitted the SMART Platform Apps Challenge since its launch in March. Six teams received honorable mention.


The SMART (Substitutable Medical Applications, Reusable Technologies) Platform Apps Challenge tasked developers with creating Web applications that would interface with an EMR or personally controlled health record (PCHR), and would demonstrate value to patients, physicians or public health researchers. A SMART architecture and common programming interface were created and made publicly available to entrants.

The Meducation SMART app was designed by Morrisville, N.C.-based Polyglot Systems, a health IT firm that focuses on improving care and access for underserved patient populations. It provides multilingual, patient-friendly instructions for medications listed in an EMR or the personally controlled health record of a patient. The app uses the SMART programming interface to obtain the medication list and then links out to a drug information database, which facilitates the generation of simplified medication instructions for patients, available in a dozen languages.

“This is a production quality application that brings real value to the patient and has a clean presentation,” said Kenneth Mandl, MD, of the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP), Harvard Medical School, and co-lead on the SMART project.

The SMART project stems from the work of a SHARP (Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects) grant from the ONC. It promotes an “iPhone-like” approach to health IT, where EMRs and PCHRs are reimagined as platforms that run substitutable medical applications that can be rapidly created and also rapidly upgraded or replaced.

Disparate systems that are inflexible and not able to scale or be customized to meet particular needs are a significant limitation of today’s health IT environment, officials say.

“Current-stage EMRs decide if, when, and how you will view the data trapped in their systems,” said Mandl. “The SMART Platform Apps Challenge was designed to demonstrate what can happen when electronic health information becomes liberated and can be readily consumed by computer applications. iPhone and Android app developers have been very successful because the address book and GPS data in those platforms is clearly and consistently presented by the platform. Our goal is to present health data in as useful and consistent format. Based on the submissions we received, I think we have demonstrated that this approach can be successful.”

“That we had so many excellent applicants reflects the hunger and need felt in the community to deliver innovative healthcare applications directly to doctors and patients without having to learn the details of a large, monolithic EMR,” added Isaac Kohane, MD, also of CHIP, Harvard Medical School, director of the Countway Library of Medicine at HMS, and co-lead on the SMART project.

Six teams were also awarded honorable mention for the following apps:


  • Clinical Research facilitates interoperability between an EMR system and a clinical electronic data capture system;
  • DxSocial matches patients with doctors based on their experience treating patients similar to them;
  • Medication Risk Maps helps identify and compare medication side effects and risk of adverse events across drugs;
  • MyNote provides an intuitive, interactive timeline of patient history with disease-specific schemes, and allows patients to annotate the timeline;
  • Priority Contact enhances the work process of a clinician by managing contact with patients after they have left the clinic and new information relevant to their treatment plan has been obtained;
  • rxInfo is a suite of SMART apps to help identify patients for clinical trials, provide drug interaction information, FDA Label information about marketed drugs, and a listing of nearby federally funded health centers.

“Through this competition we showed the real power of lowering barriers to developer engagement with health IT and have shown that the desire and ability to spark creativity and innovate is there, just waiting to take off,” said Mandl. “We have a tremendous opportunity to revolutionize how health IT supports and helps manage healthcare, and through SMART, aim to give the community the encouragement and tools they need to get started.”

All apps submitted in the SMART Platform Apps Challenge can be viewed on Challenge.gov. A SMART app store is slated to launch in 2012.