APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT - Web Services in the Real World

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The MedBiquitous Consortium, which now has 23 members including the American Medical Association, is in the process of setting up these standards and is testing applications that will allow doctors to share information about the latest research, education and training opportunities on an unprecedented level. "Health care is a $1.3 trillion cottage industry, and there are silos of information that will never get unified on common databases," Greene says. "Web services technology addresses the reality that you’ll never join the hardware, but that you can get them speaking over the same platform."

Some applications are already in testing mode. A doctor can log on to her professional society’s website and look for online continuing education courses related to her medical specialty. The society’s site uses Web services to gather course listings from other societies, and the doctor can take one course residing on another society’s server without leaving her own society’s website. With help from CorMed, the consortium’s for-profit arm, individual medical societies can now take advantage of applications ranging from membership management (in a similar way to how Life Time Fitness uses Web services) to journal article submissions and online discussion forums.

In the end, the idea is to create a network of communities through which doctors can communicate and keep track of new research and techniques. "We want to make it so doctors don’t have to worry about the technology," says Jon McBride, CTO at CorMed. "They should be able to get real-time information when they need it instead of digging around on dozens of sites."

But given that doctors haven’t always been the easiest to convince when it comes to trying new technologies, will they use the new systems? Greene says, "Yes." The main barrier has been convincing doctors that they can save time by using the Internet and other technologies. "Doctors need technology that will help them do their work more efficiently," he notes. "If you slow them down, they won’t use it. We’ll get broad adoption if we get the right, usable technology out there." And Web services might just fit the bill.

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Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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