2 page Case Study - Posted 3/24/2010
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Developers Easily Connect Disparate Medical Platforms with Web-Based System
Imaginet Resources was given just 10 weeks to develop a platform-agnostic, Web-based physician referral system that would improve communication between general physicians and specialists. The goal was to ensure that referral appointments could take place with better speed and accuracy. The team of developers used familiar Microsoft technologies and the new, yet intuitive Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in to create Bridging General and Specialist Care, an information systems solution. Developers collaborated efficiently without “crunch time” stress, and Imaginet delivered on time an application that was easy to deploy on disparate Web browsers and operating systems.
If healthy collaboration is the key to success and happiness, Steve Porter has your prescription. He values teamwork in both his professional and personal life, and it pays off.
||Without Microsoft Silverlight, we would not have been able to deliver a cross-platform solution in the time provided. Period.
Technical Programming Manager
When Porter plays Ultimate Frisbee, mutual respect among players is so important that it can earn a team “Spirit of the Game” recognition at a tournament. His regular Dungeons and Dragons game is all about collaborative storytelling, and Porter says, “If everyone has a good time, you’ve won.”
Collaboration was a factor and a motivator in Porter’s first development project. It was a hobbyist application used to create characters for a role-playing game. Porter would code late into the night and send updates to a small group of users whom he had met through an online bulletin board—but not in person. “They’d send me messages on how cool it was, and they’d send suggestions on how to make the software better,” he says. “I was totally hooked on programming at that point.”
In his professional life, Porter is Technical Programming Manager for Imaginet, an application consulting and development company. Here, Porter found that efficient collaboration was the only way his team would be able to succeed on a recent job: developing a Web-based system connecting primary care doctors and specialists using disparate platforms—and doing it in just 10 weeks. The system was intended to facilitate more efficient patient referrals, but accomplishing the feat would require optimal efficiency among developers.
Porter’s team achieved this aim by employing a fully integrated Microsoft tool set based on the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5. With Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Suite and Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server, he kept employees on track. And with the still largely untapped Microsoft Silverlight 2 browser plug-in, the team delivered a cross-platform solution quickly. (The team subsequently upgraded to Silverlight 3 with no major issues.)
“I love traveling to new places; I’ve never gone to the same place twice,” Porter says. “I want to try something new and something that no one else is doing. This project allowed me to do that. Creating a business application using Silverlight was something that not a lot of other people were doing.”
The goal of Porter’s application, Bridging General and Specialist Care, was to improve communication between primary care physicians and specialists within the Canadian Healthcare System in Manitoba. Specialists were not getting the initial intake information they needed to evaluate newly referred patients, which sometimes resulted in needless appointments, unprepared patients, unacceptable wait times, and overbooked specialists. “Now primary care doctors can use our step-by-step Web application to provide all the information the specialist needs to know, the first time,” Porter says.
Imaginet used Microsoft software to develop its solution quickly, with no retraining of developers required, and a fast, easy deployment process.
Quick Development Time
Using Silverlight turned out to be a vital decision. “The project had two mandatory requirements: It had to work with a variety of Web browsers running on multiple operating systems, and it had it be done in 10 weeks,” Porter says. “Without Microsoft Silverlight, we would not have been able to deliver a cross-platform solution in the time provided. Period.”
The team used the Microsoft ADO.NET Entity Framework to move data between Silverlight and a database running on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Standard data management software. “This piece was critical because we were then able to quickly connect the different parts of the application together,” Porter says. “If we had needed to write this portion of code on our own, we would not have been able to complete the project on time.”
Porter adds, “Being able to target the one Silverlight platform instead of multiple combinations of browsers substantially reduced our testing effort.”
No Developer Retraining
“We didn’t have to retrain any of our existing .NET developers,” says Porter. “They could immediately apply all of their existing .NET skills and be fully productive as soon as they started.”
For the fast development project, the team selected SQL Server 2008, a familiar product that integrated well with the other Microsoft technologies. With it, the team was immediately able to deploy database changes to the Visual Studio Team System testing environment.
Porter says he was amazed at how easy it was to deploy to all of the physicians’ offices on all of their varying environments. “We had physicians running different versions of the Windows operating system, with various browsers, and we even had some Mac users. In each case, the staff responsible for deployment was able to get the application up and running in a matter of minutes,” he says. “Physicians often aren’t technically savvy folks, so having an application that ‘just worked’ was critical.”
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Document published March 2010