JOURNAL ARTICLE

Design and implementation of a portal for the medical equipment market: MEDICOM

S Palamas, D Kalivas, O Panou-Diamandi, C Zeelenberg, C van Nimwegen
Journal of Medical Internet Research 2001, 3 (4): E32
11772547

BACKGROUND: The MEDICOM (Medical Products Electronic Commerce) Portal provides the electronic means for medical-equipment manufacturers to communicate online with their customers while supporting the Purchasing Process and Post Market Surveillance. The Portal offers a powerful Internet-based search tool for finding medical products and manufacturers. Its main advantage is the fast, reliable and up-to-date retrieval of information while eliminating all unrelated content that a general-purpose search engine would retrieve. The Universal Medical Device Nomenclature System (UMDNS) registers all products. The Portal accepts end-user requests and generates a list of results containing text descriptions of devices, UMDNS attribute values, and links to manufacturer Web pages and online catalogues for access to more-detailed information. Device short descriptions are provided by the corresponding manufacturer. The Portal offers technical support for integration of the manufacturers Web sites with itself. The network of the Portal and the connected manufacturers sites is called the MEDICOM system.

OBJECTIVES: To establish an environment hosting all the interactions of consumers (health care organizations and professionals) and providers (manufacturers, distributors, and resellers of medical devices).

METHODS: The Portal provides the end-user interface, implements system management, and supports database compatibility. The Portal hosts information about the whole MEDICOM system (Common Database) and summarized descriptions of medical devices (Short Description Database); the manufacturers servers present extended descriptions. The Portal provides end-user profiling and registration, an efficient product-searching mechanism, bulletin boards, links to on-line libraries and standards, on-line information for the MEDICOM system, and special messages or advertisements from manufacturers. Platform independence and interoperability characterize the system design. Relational Database Management Systems are used for the system s databases. The end-user interface is implemented using HTML, Javascript, Java applets, and XML documents. Communication between the Portal and the manufacturers servers is implemented using a CORBA interface. Remote administration of the Portal is enabled by dynamically-generated HTML interfaces based on XML documents. A representative group of users evaluated the system. The aim of the evaluation was validation of the usability of all of MEDICOM s functionality. The evaluation procedure was based on ISO/IEC 9126 Information technology - Software product evaluation - Quality characteristics and guidelines for their use.

RESULTS: The overall user evaluation of the MEDICOM system was very positive. The MEDICOM system was characterized as an innovative concept that brings significant added value to medical-equipment commerce.

CONCLUSIONS: The eventual benefits of the MEDICOM system are (a) establishment of a worldwide-accessible marketplace between manufacturers and health care professionals that provides up-to-date and high-quality product information in an easy and friendly way and (b) enhancement of the efficiency of marketing procedures and after-sales support.

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