Manukau Institute of Technology computing student Darryl Gera was casting around for an interesting project to complete his degree.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Raj Maikoo, meanwhile, bought a Compaq iPaq to track patients at the five clinics he works at, but soon found there was no suitable software for a handheld computer.
Word of mouth lead the South Auckland-based Maikoo to Gera, who developed a mobile patient management system using Visual Basic .Net and a beta of Microsoft .Net Compact Framework made available to academic institutions — a version of the vendor’s technology aimed a mobile application developers. The framework is due for release next April.
The application Gera developed, called Child’s Play, allows Maikoo to track patients and store information about parents, doctors, specialists, midwives, medical investigations, medicines, diagnoses, appointments and referrals. It synchronises with Maikoo’s PC and allows him to generate reports in Microsoft Word for making reimbursement claims to the Ministry of Health.
It needed to be user-friendly, so Gera incorporated a writing recognition feature and an on-screen keyboard facility.
Gera says because he was using such an early beta, many of the libraries he’d have expected in an IDE (integrated development environment) still weren’t available and he had to build many of his own components, such as a date picker, which he compiled into a DLL file.
He began the project, which garnered him an A+, in July, spending about 700 hours on it, often having to come up with workarounds using Win CE APIs. Until he came across the Compact Framework he’d been expecting to use eMbedded Visual Basic.
“Basically, this halves your development time,” he says.
To keep the price down he used XML files at the back end. To keep the size down to 50kB he came up with a way that avoided using the standard XML format tags.
Now Gera is talking to a couple of health software providers about a possible purchase of Child’s Play. He has since won a job as a technical consultant for systems integrator UCSM, which specialises in CRM and voice response systems.
Because the Compact Framework will also work for tablet PCs he sees a lot of future in using it to develop for the health sector.