Web app contests like NYC BigApps continue fostering new ways to access public data — and these challenges are now making their way into the medical field. But before these medical apps get too far along, they need the proper platform and interface.

That’s where the Substitutable Medical Applications, reusable technologies (SMART) platform comes in. In April 2010, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology awarded $15 million to researchers at the Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School to design SMART.

This platform was made public this month — in conjunction with the SMART Health App $5,000 Challenge, a Web app contest to encourage developers to design apps to benefit patients, physicians or public health.

Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra posted on the official White House blog that the app competition prize could speed up innovation in a variety of areas. Developers could potentially build a medication manager, health risk detector, laboratory visualization tool, or an app that integrates patient data with external data sources in real time.

SMART is intended to accomplish two major goals. First is to create a user interface that allows for “iPhone-like” substitutability for medical apps based upon shared basic components, and the second is a set of services that “enable efficient data capture, storage, and effective data retrieval and analytics, which will be scalable to the national level but nonetheless respectful of institutional autonomy and patient privacy,” according to the website.

The SMART platform’s researchers, Dr. Kenneth Mandl and Dr. Isaac Kohane of the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program and Harvard Medical School relate the platform’s structure to a smartphone.

“This model is similar in nature to the approach of the Apple iPhone, which has a general platform and more than 20,000 applications that consumers can download and use/replace as desired,” Kohane said of the platform.

If the SMART Health App $5,000 Challenge receives the same number of submissions as NYC BigApps did in 2009 — more than 80 — the medical field could see some serious innovation.

The deadline for Web app submissions is Tuesday, May 31, and winners will be announced Wednesday, June 22. The winner will receive $5,000, and two teams will be awarded as honorable mentions.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.