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What Makes a Great Healthcare Portal

When somebody says “Healthcare Portal”, what does that mean to you?  Unfortunately the word portal has been used so broadly that it generally is confusing.  Here are examples of how the word portal is used in various contexts:

  • In the new federal healthcare law, the government is mandating that a health exchange portal be created.  In this portal, people will be able to look at various plans offered on the exchange and be able to purchase one.  This is analogous to a travel site such as Orbitz or Expedia letting you look at a various air fares and hotels.
  • MedLine and WebMD are touted as health information portals.  These sites give you access to lots of content from a variety of sources that you would otherwise have to find on your own.
  • Some hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic provide a patient portal where you can see your test results and information about your appointments. Often times you can schedule appointments or pay your bill through the portal.
  • Doctors and nurses sometimes have clinical portals that allow them to access patient records and other information online, order tests, and sometimes order prescriptions.
All these examples are widely different applications of the concept of a portal.  However, they all share one particular attribute: aggregation.  All the “portals” mentioned above aggregate information from various resources and pull it together so the user can make some sense of it.
Having access to content and information is great and sometimes that’s all you need.  But to complete your experience, you often want to get something done.  So a second attribute that is shared by some of these portals is the ability to take action for yourself.  You can schedule an appointment, refill a prescription, purchase insurance, order tests, etc.
So what makes a great healthcare portal?  Portal Picture image
  • First it has to aggregate information on your behalf and based on what you are interested.
  • Second it has to let you take action right there
In the recent past, many healthcare portals have been introduced, but often have fallen short of being a great portal.  In most cases, the portal only provides one of the two key attributes listed above or implemented one attribute too lightly.  For example, many patient and doctor portals provide access to medical records, but fail to aggregate information from other sources.  Other portals provides lots of aggregated information, but don’t tie that information to what the user needs to accomplish.
Here are some examples of where a great healthcare portal can be realized:
  • On a patient portal, display the users medication list, but when they click on a particular drug show them the directions for their use of that drug.  Also give them the drug interaction information, generic names, etc.  You should also get information about their insurance coverage for that drug (pharmacies can do that!).  At the same time allow them to submit a refill request through their own pharmacy.  Give them a way to request an appointment right there.  Or provide a way to send an email to the doctor to ask about generic alternatives.
  • On a doctor portal, provide the doctor with a history of a patient’s refills of the medications they take from across all sources.  This provides the doctor with more information that just what he has prescribed.  Just as with the patient portal, provide all information about the drug right there so the doctor doesn’t have to go anywhere else.  Now, what actions should be available to the doctor?  How about send a prescription to a pharmacy for the patient?  Why not provide a way to chat with the drug company if she has questions?  How about sending an email to the drug rep to get more samples?  How about we go ask the doctors what actions they want to perform and put them in there.
We can come up with all sorts of examples of where aggregation and action will provide a great healthcare portal.  The key is to pay attention to both aspects and don’t short-change one over the other.

WebSphere Portal 8 Beta Review – new Managed Pages feature

As my colleague Michael Porter mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I have been looking at WebSphere Portal 8 Beta and am going to review some of the new features with you in a series of posts.

I just installed Beta 2 and have spent a couple of hours playing with the new Manage Pages feature.  With this feature, as you edit a page, Portal automatically prompts you to create a new project if you haven’t done so already.

What is a project?  This concept was introduced with IBM Web Content Manager back in version 7.  Basically a project is a grouping of all changes to the site that are held separately until you are ready to publish them.  Say you are getting ready for a new promotion in November and your content authors are busy creating new content.  A project allows that content to go through the publishing process without appearing on the site until the entire project is published.  Unfortunately portal pages are separate from content, so new pages have to be staged separately from your content projects, which causes confusion.

Now in Portal 8, this same concept applies to pages.   As you make changes to pages, they are stored in the same WCM project as your content changes.  When you are ready to publish the project, everything goes at once.  Portal 8 Page Editing image

The image to the right shows the page edit mode, which displays at the top of the portal page you are editing.  The name of the project is shown and you can have multiple projects involved with the same page.  The overview section shows some page properties, such as its name and with which content item it is associated. The Project Content area shows all the content associated with the project and its status.  Tabs along the top let you change the style and layout of the page, as well as add new content (portlets).

With the project feature, pages can now go through an approval process. This is a different approval process from content, but it does allow approvers to get in on the action for pages.

Publishing a project can be done in one of three ways:

  1. Date – you specify a date when you want the project published
  2. Manual – you have to physically push the Publish button on the project form when you are ready
  3. Automatic – the project will be published as soon as all the content gets to the publish stage and the pages have been approved.
With any of the publishing methods, all content and pages have to be approved for publishing before you can publish the project.  If you have lots of content to publish, it can sometimes be frustrating to find that one piece that did not get approved and is holding up the publish process.
In working with Beta 2, I like the new manage page feature with the inclusion of the project concept.  However, there are some serious problems with editing a page in this Beta release.
  • When I edit a page, the layouts don’t seem to work.  When I switch from 2 columns to 3 columns, nothing happens.
  • There is only one style available for the portlets, which also doesn’t seem to do anything.
  • You can drag and drop portlets between columns on a page, but you can’t do it using the No Skin option.  If you don’t want a title bar on your portlet, you can’t drag it around on the page, which essentially makes it immovable since there are no other controls on the page for this.  So I had to go into the Administration page, locate the page, edit the layout, set the skin to have a title bar, save it and then go back to the edit page feature to drag the portlets around.  This is nonsense.  IBM, please provide a way to drag portlets that don’t have a title bar!
  • The change layout portlet in the Administration page doesn’t match the layout showing in the edit page feature through the theme.  Somehow, the page layout from the theme is not syncing with the data used by the Change Layout Portlet.

IBM Announces new Social Software

IBM just announced new mobile social applications.  IBM has been a leader in the social marketplace over the last several years and this announcement continues their leadership status. The announcements cover applications for iOS, Android and Blackberry devices, so they have the major players covered.

Here are the new applications IBM announced:

  • New social networking app: Available at no charge, the new IBM Connections app works just like the industry-leading IBM social software with added functionality for Google Android smartphones and tablets, Apple iOS devices and BlackBerry smartphones. In addition to the popular File share application, Profiles, and Activities, Blogs and generate-and-vote-on-ideas features, workers can now take photos with their smartphones and upload them directly to Connections. All three apps are available now in the respective apps stores.
  • Partial wipe for Apple iOS devices: New IBM software provides “partial wipe” capability for Apple iOS devices allowing an IT administrator to wipe only the company data from the device while preserving a worker’s personal data, such as personal email, photos, videos and games. Administrators can still initiate a full reset wipe if circumstances warrant it, as an alternative to this new partial wipe option.  Traveler enables IBM email, contacts and calendar information to be accessible from the most popular mobile devices.
  • Click-to-call from Android OS device calendar: Available in beta now, Lotus Notes Traveler will allow IBM email users to call people listed in their calendar views with just one click.
  • Unified Communications for Android devices: IBM’s Sametime software for Android extends presence awareness and instant messaging with new features including text-to-speech which can read incoming messages when the users cannot stop to look at the device, for example, when driving; send photos taken with the device through Sametime chats; and automatically update location status. Workers who also have Sametime Unified Telephony software reduce phone use costs by initiating calls to whatever phone happens to be nearby.
  • Online meeting support for BlackBerry: IBM Sametime meetings support allows BlackBerry users to participate in online meetings using their mobile devices.
  • Cloud-based meeting support for Android:  LotusLive Meetings support for the Android OS is planned to be available later this year.

This is a quite a nice list.  For me the Connections applications are the highlight of the list.  I was going to include photos here, but they are copyrighted and WordPress won’t allow me to link to them!  Go here to see them: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34618718@N06/

 

 

WebSphere Portal and Maven

“Well it works on my machine” is the single most frustrating developer quote you will hear while working on a portal project. The open source world has experienced great success with automating builds and server deployments using apache maven and continuous integration (CI) servers like hudson, continuum, cruise control and others. Investing time in the beginning of your project to establish and use a build system provides several benefits:
  1. You get a precise deployment instructions by forcing deployment through scripts. Developers do not get to tweak things outside the process. You do not end up with one lead who does all the magic (and gets sick or goes on vacation like many of us other humans), or a series of differing answers from developers who each use their own methods.
  2. Deploying through scripts guarantees reliability and traceability for environments below production. The majority of your bugs should be found in these environments so diagnosing bugs becomes easier with tools like recent changes list and SCM commit comments exposed through the web interface of your CI server.
  3. The reports capability of maven allows leads and architects to catch integration and design issues sooner in the development cycle. (For example, CPD and PMD rules can look for import statements in layers of your architecture where they don’t belong, like importing java.sql.* in your UI layer when data access should be handled in the services layer).
  4. The continuous integration servers allow the quality assurance team to see where code is moving in real time so that they do not need to question developers about when versions are placed on different environments.
  5. Developers can check a single project out from SCM without needing a “magic workspace” of related dependencies because maven and the snapshot repository handles the dependencies.
The following series of posts will explain practical examples of maven and portal used at client sites.

Mobile Collaboration market accordng to Forrester

Forrester has just released The Forrester Wave for Mobile Collaboration, which does a very good job of highlighting who the leaders are in this market.  The image below shows the Forrester Wave; you can access the full report at forrester.com.

What is interesting is that the report includes only those companies that have native applications on multiple mobile operating systems and have some sort of cloud-based solution.  Naturally this criteria is going to leave some companies out, like Apple, Microsoft, and RIM who target apps for one mobile OS.

Mobile Collaboration Wave

Mobile Collaboration Wave

The applications included in this Wave are somewhat of a melting pot.  Adobe’s Connect application is a leader and delivers web-based conferencing.  Comparing that application to Yammer, also a leader but more of a corporate-friendly Facebook, is kind of hard.  Box.com is a file sharing and synchronizing application which is completely different than Connect or Yammer.

Still, the collaboration space is a very broad market consisting of a variety of application types.  It is good to see an evaluation of these different companies not based just on the product they deliver, but on many other factors, such as strategy and market presence.

Forrester rates the leaders in these categories as follows:

  • Current Offerings: Box, IBM, and Yammer
  • Strategy: Skype, Box, Cisco, and Yammer
  • Market Presence: Skype, Cisco, and Google

If you don’t have access to Forrester.com, you can read a quick review of this Wave on CMS Wire here.

WebSphere Portal and WCM 8 Beta now available from IBM

This past week, IBM officially released Beta 1 of WebSphere Portal version 8 for public consumption.  The beta is open to the public for testing.  Here is some information about this first Beta from Lauren Wendel’s blog post on IBM’s WebSphere Portal Blog:

“Version 8.0 Beta offers users a more seamless and rich user experience. Features includes enhanced integration of web analytics, social services , rich content management and search optimization, operating on WebSphere Application Server Version 8.

Enhancements include:

1) The ability to track effectiveness of web properties through new user-friendly overlay statistics, also new flexible options to tag pages, portlets or web content and measure their usefulness through Campaign and Custom tags.

2) An integrated, seamless and in context experience of Community pages in Websphere Portal placing IBM Connections resources in the right Portal and Web Content Manager context, and an integrated and consistent tagging and rating experience

3) The ability to integrate Facebook, Google and Yahoo ID’s with WebSphere Portal.

4) Integrate with Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and other systems through Web Content Manager support for CMIS standard. In addition, the Beta introduces the the ability to create Web Content with point-and-click simplicity using the new Content Templating user interface.

5) Optimize external search for Web content rendered through WebSphere Portal.”

Here is a link to the program page where you can access the beta: https://www14.software.ibm.com/iwm/web/cc/earlyprograms/lotus/portalopenbeta/

WCM + ECM <> Portal Strategy

I came across this article: ECM + WCM = Your Portal Strategy by Kimberly Samuelson. I might be jaded or maybe its because I work so closely with capital-p Portals, but I can’t agree that a portal strategy consists of simply blending Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Web Content Management (WCM).  To me a Portal strategy needs to be far more encompassing than ECM + WCM.

A few weeks ago, I blogged (Differences between Web Content Management and Portal Web Content Management) about how content management vendors define portal as mostly content with a few applications thrown in, while application vendors define portal as several applications integrated with snippets of content.  So maybe, from a content point of view, you could claim that your portal strategy could consist of ECM + WCM.

Well, I guess I’m from the application school of Portal.  Portal strategy is a lot more comprehensive.  Here is my list of components in a comprehensive Portal strategy:

  • Security
  • Search
  • Content Integration
  • Web Applications
  • Social Collaboration
  • Application Integration
  • Navigation
  • Branding
  • Governance

Now that’s a much better list of topics to consider for your portal strategy.  Let me know if you need additional elaboration on these components.

 

http://blogs.perficient.com/portals/2011/03/24/differences-between-web-content-management-and-portal-web-content-management/

Differences between Web Content Management and Portal Web Content Management

We often encounter companies who are trying to improve their web sites by implementing some sort of content management system.  Portal vendors will sell them on the benefits of using portal technologies to integrate applications with content.  Non-portal vendors will sell their products based on traditional content management features, such as site management, page creation, etc.

For many customers, the choice is very confusing because these systems are soooo different from each other.  I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the key differences and talk about how you can overcome this confusion to pick the right platform for your web sites.

Portal systems have traditionally focused on delivering integrated applications, of which content is but one application.  As an example, when we think of an intranet portal, we might think about how to provide self-service access to our human resource and payroll system, which allows a user to update their benefit information and submit changes to their payroll tax withholding.  At the same time, we need to display content such as a policy or help on the page. So our main focus is to surface and integrate those applications, but we also want to include some placeholders for content.

Web content management systems, on the other hand, have traditionally focused on building a page of content first and then providing some mechanism to integrate applications.  So our content manager wants to display the policy or help for changing your benefits information and then give you a link to launch the benefits web page or application.   These wcm systems have great tools for building pages and placing all sorts of content on the page.

Can you see the differences between these two approaches?  Both are concerned with building web pages.  Both want to provide access to content and applications.  But portals typically start with an application centric view of a page while web content management systems typically start with a content centric view of a page.

These different viewpoints often account for the difficulty in achieving consensus when you go to choose a new web platform.   Depending on each evaluators’ starting viewpoint one group will align with portal while another group aligns with a traditional wcm system.  Often we see the IT people, who traditionally focus on applications, push for the portal platform, while the marketing people, where content is king, want the really nice web content management system.   Equally often we see various user groups disappointed after implementation when the ‘system’ doesn’t meet their needs.

How can we deal with these issues?

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Multilingual sites in IBM Portal and Web Content Management (WCM) V7

IBM recently released their updated Multilingual solution for Portal and Web Content Management V7.   If you are familiar with previous versions of MultiLingual Solution, you will be comfortable with this latest version.

Localization of WCM Content

The basic concept behind localizing content is to have multiple WCM libraries, each set up to serve a different locale.  One library is the master and the other libraries mirror the master, except they contain translated content. The diagram to the right comes from the documentation and does a good job of highlighted the solution.

When you create a piece of content in the master library through the authoring portlet, you can have that content item copied to each of the localized libraries.  While that content won’t be translated automatically for you, you can have WCM’s workflow kickoff to notify the owners of each library to begin the translation process.  I’d be interested to see if you could initiate an automated translation process through custom workflow actions.

Included in the solution are workflow actions that can be embedded into your workflows to keep the various libraries in-sync.  So as you edit content, publish it, move it, expire or delete it in the master library, the workflow tasks implement these same actions in the localized libraries.

This new version includes enhancements that are worth noting:

  • Installation of the solution is much easier.  IBM included an install batch file that adds plug-ins, etc to the correct applications.
  • A new portlet allows you to copy the master library to the localized libraries when setting up a new locale.
  • Tips for creating localized versions of navigators and menus are provided in the documentation.

You must upgrade WCM to cumulative fix 8 to implement this new solution.

What New in IBM’s Web Content Manager (WCM) Product

With the upcoming September 1, 2010 release of WebSphere Portal comes a new version of WCM.  Actually, the largest changes in the new release come from WCM.  The UI is very different and much easier to use.  They’ve put a lot of thought in making this something that really works for you.  For example, a lot of page loads are now light boxes or other UI control that doesn’t require a completely new page load.

Projects

  • This allows you to bundle all sorts of things into one project and launch it at one time
  • This is a pretty big change because previous to this, you had to do this kind of bundling manually
  • All the changes in the project can be previewed together prior to publishing.
  • It allows you to create a draft of the item and place it into the project, even if it has a normal workflow it follows.  These draft are isolated from the normal site.
  • Projects capture all sorts of things in draft mode: Deletes, move of content from site area to site area, changes to content, etc. (Note, WCM things almost anything is content so components, templates, articles, etc are part of this.)
  • You create a new project by simply clicking a button in the library explorer.
  • Projects can cross libraries.
  • There are options throughout the UI to add content items to a project.  (again, a focus on ease of use in this new release)
  • You can preview the project as well.
  • You can add new site areas to a project
  • Demo: the speaker then demoed the project functionality showing how he would change the look and feel of a site.    Any object in the project shows a status.  Updated, new, deleted, etc.
  • Future: will probably put portal changes into projects as well. (think themes, new portal pages etc.)

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