Like many successful companies, Clinically Relevant was founded when its founder realized he had a need that was not being met. Namely, he wanted to be able to quickly find out what the clinical evidence was for a particular diagnostic test. While the relevant papers could be found by performing a literature search, he figured there must be better way for a clinician on the move. Thus CORE or Clinical ORthopaedic Exam was born (iMedicalApps reviews: iPhone, Android ). In his regular job, Daniel Rhon, MPT, DPT, DSc is a research physical therapist at Madigan Army Medical Center in Seattle

The company went on to publish other successful apps. In addition to commercial success, the company now also garnering academic attention, with CORE being reviewed in one of the top physical therapy journals, The Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) (link – subscription required)

After their initial success on iOS with CORE and other titles, the company decided to port their apps to the Android platform. As one the first serious legitimate medical apps on Android, CORE was among the titles selected by Google to pre-populate the medical section of the Android Market as it initially launched in December 2010. Their most recent tile, a three app series titled Mobile OMT (Orthopedic Manipulative Therapy) has been released both on iOS and in Mac App store, providing now a unique opportunity to compare three different platforms and distribution channels.

As can be seen in the following interview, the challenges the Android Marketplace poses for the medical app developer are real, including the initially poorly implemented piracy controls, lack of promo codes and the size limits of the apps. In contrast, the more “managed” iTunes app store provided a more stable and predictable distribution channel, with less fear of piracy.

Sales were very slow at the beginning on Android, perhaps making them wonder whether the effort to port the apps could have been better invested into developing more features or apps on iOS. At least in that sense, it was heartening that the largest proportion of the required work was in curating the underlying clinical evidence, rather than in porting the coding to a second platform. Since then, however, sales on Android have steadily been picking up and the company is now even considering rebuilding their apps for the budding Android tablet market.

Interview with Dan Rhon, founder Clinically Relevant Technologies

Were you involved in medical software before Clinically Relevant Technologies?

No, I was not.

What was your initial impetus for developing a mobile app ?

I don’t think I was driven to create a “mobile app” but rather the drive was to create a clinically relevant reference tool. In fact I had originally thought of making a website with this information (from CORE). It just so happened that smartphones were evolving into a platform that could easily make a tool like this even that more relevant to clinical practice. In other words it wasn’t so much about sitting around trying to think of something to turn into a mobile app, but rather taking a needed tool and then finding the platform that would create the best environment for it to be used……so it could be referenced, referenced often, engaged with, sought after, etc. Ultimately, I think the main impetus was to somehow help improve evidence-based clinical decision-making. I realize that one small app doesn’t fill that gap, but its one small step in the right direction. That’s how CORE – Clinical ORthopaedic Exam was born. I think relatively speaking if you create tools based on something you personally would use, rather than design something you think someone else will find useful, you are more likely to succeed.

What were your expectations in launching an iPhone app ?

With CORE, I initially believed that it would be a tool that clinicians would want to use, but really I had no idea what the reception to it would be. I had to be fine with this initial investment being a loss if that were the case, because I was more driven by the idea rather than the entrepreneurial aspect.

Were they met or how were they different ?

They were very much met…and are continuing to exceed anything I would have ever imagined. CORE was a great segway into a couple other apps that we experimented with (Spinal Manipulation Clinical Prediction Rule and the Low Back Pain Management Guidelines [iMedicalApps review]) by taking some simple clinical decision rules/guidelines from the literature and putting them into an interactive, well-summarized and easy to access context. We began to bring some other folks in to collaborate on the content. Then our next larger app endeavor was the Mobile OMT app series that I completed with Dr. Ben Hando. These did very well right from the starting gate. Our apps are consistently in the top 50 grossing apps in either the iPhone and/or iPad medical category, which is greater than anything we had originally anticipated. We’ve had universities purchase our apps via educational bulk discount for their students. We’ve had some faculty at different universities tell us that they have put our apps on their list of required “texts”.

Clinically Relevant was one of the first major publishers on the Android platform, how did you make the decision?

It was really based on the need to stay current with emerging technology. Technology can become outdated and irrelevant very quickly, but fortunately the information in our apps is medical information that can be updated, which does not become irrelevant. So really the challenge lies in keeping relevant medical information current with the latest technology delivery platforms. Part of that was watching the Android market develop and realizing that we needed to make our product available on that platform as well and getting emails asking us “when will this be available for Android?”

How was the experience developing on Android vs iOS in terms of software tools, marketplace & support ?

There were a lot of differences between the two platforms obviously. While many users were touting the “openness” of Android, and relatively speaking that is a good thing, we found that “openness” to be a bit of a challenge in terms of ensuring proprietary rights of our material.