Preface: Albert Santalo is Chairman and CEO of CareCloud, an innovative web-based practice management software and electronic health record technology startup. Care Cloud integrates a fluid and attractive user-interface with an efficient revenue-cycle engine, and has attracted positive attention as well as $2.3m in series A funding. Mr. Santalo is an inductee of the Florida International University Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame and was recently recognized by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce as Best Up and Coming Technology Innovator. He was previously chairman of Avisena, a revenue cycle management company. CareCloud was covered recently on this site along with an interview with Albert Santalo. We are excited to bring you a guest post by this industry leader.

By Albert Santalo

There seems to be a lot of discussion these days regarding the turbulent nature of mobile platforms and how the differences between them will impact the kind of software that will be available to physicians and other healthcare professionals.

I want to take some time today to step outside of the deep technical details and discuss why I feel that the concept of the “App” is such a revolutionary step towards empowering physicians with effective, accessible and omnipresent tools.

While most of the smartphones on the market today offer exceptional browsing experiences (it’s amazing how far we’ve come in the last 3 years), the majority of browser-based web apps don’t provide the deep functionality and usability that native apps excel at. That means they can’t properly translate the desktop experience into the palm of your hand.

I’m not saying there isn’t a plethora of amazing utilities and tools available through the mobile browser today, but most lack the ability to fully capitalize on a particular device’s features to deliver a truly compelling user experience. There are some really amazing capabilities that developers can tap into if they build a native app, because native apps can work directly with the hardware and software of the mobile device.

We live in an age where development tools offer an unprecedented set of features that can significantly enhance the productivity of physicians. Web apps might be good for a patient portal, where cross platform availability might be a better option than having each patient seek out and download an entire app, but for real-deal applications, native apps are the way to go.

Here are my top 3 reasons that Apps are such important game changers:

Offline Usability

Medical professionals can’t sit around and wait for a signal – dropped calls are a minor nuisance for the average consumer, but for health workers it can be devastating – imagine not having access to a diagnostic program at point of care, or being unable to interface with the network for even the simplest tasks. Native apps can run in offline mode and then synchronize with the server when a signal becomes available. Now, this of course limits the use of certain functions that require wireless synchronization, but it also means less reliance on bandwidth availability and independence from signal strength, and when a signal does become available, synchronization will happen instantly.

Full Functionality

Currently, web apps can’t access the core features of the device they run on – things like multi-tasking, Bluetooth, address book, camera and microphone are still not accessible from the mobile browser. Most importantly, web apps can’t access the iPhone’s push notifications feature, which ensures that the most timely, important information reaches the physician regardless of what else he may be doing on his mobile device.

User Experience

Web apps have a few shortcomings, but none is more important to us at CareCloud than their lack of a dedicated, device-optimized user interface, and this translates direct to a diminished user experience. The look and feel of each app should be precisely catered to fit that device’s form factor, input methods, screen size, processing capability, etc.

 Web apps typically deliver an “abridged” user interface because they face limitations dictated by the browser, and they usually take longer to load than native apps, because they essentially need to load the entire app every time.

In Conclusion

Web apps simply can’t deliver the fine tuned user experience we at CareCloud strive to deliver to our clients. While the proliferation and widespread adoption of HTML5 may alleviate the symptoms of this problem, critical decisions about memory management, power management, screen size, etc. must still be made for maximum usability, and these standards don’t jive similarly across different platforms.

Of course, there are many other reasons that healthcare IT providers, like ourselves, should go with natively written apps. If the recent argument between Apple and Adobe is any indication, it just may be the safer choice in the long run. Regardless, it’s certainly great that there are so many mobile platform choices out there, and I have no doubt that well-developed, effective apps will be built for each one: it’s only a matter of time.

It’s truly amazing that developers have access to extremely powerful tools with which to develop apps, as well as the means to deliver them easily to customers on the go. We exist today on the cutting edge of a very bright future, one where solutions to many of the world’s problems are only a few lines of code and a couple of taps away. The trick is to ensure that these solutions are delivered within the context of a consistently streamlined user experience, and to achieve this, I believe that developing native applications for each mobile platform is the right way to go.

From time to time, iMedicalApps will invite developers, IT specialists and physicians to comment as guest writers. We feel that a diversity of opinions benefits all of us but remind our readers that the opinions expressed herein belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the iMedicalApps editorial team.