Good Calories, Bad Calories

Thought this might be an interesting post from my

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personal blog.

Cool Things from Mix!

Even before I do my HIMSS post I felt compelled to talk about the shiny things from Mix 2010.

  • Windows Phone 7 Series Developer Studio – I love the free tools provided to develop for Windows Phone. Love the fact that Silverlight and XNA studio are very thoughtfully working in Visual Studio Express. The developer studio is lean and performant, its great to see the tool tips for Pixel widths right in the design surface. I was able to write a simple Health app in about 10 mins, the Phones are not out yet but the


  • Open Data Protocol : Very interesting competition to GData :). OData – is a combination of AtomPub with data-typing and querying conventions. OData is supported out of the box by Windows Azure services, and Netflix launch an API powered by OData – It will be great to learn more about batching and syncing aspects of this protocol (Interestingly Microsoft Sync Platform also launched an asymmetric syncing capability).
  • Data Relay : MySpace which is the largest .NET site open sourced their middle-tier GU – DataRelay has a framework for message passing, transaction management on top of a performant caching system. Apparently it uses The CCR (Concurrency and Coordination Runtime) from Microsoft Robotic Studio :).
  • A very interesting presentation of building your own MVVM framework – I love the use of Continuations and a programming model where the framework takes care of concurrency and events! The presenter is author of Caliburn –
  • Font-ing it out – For a font newbie like me, all i know about Fonts I learnt from Kevin Larsons presentation :

Twitter hashtag for mix is #mix10 and session recordings are available at

Swine Flu – Crisis Management

Ushahidi has developed a really great application to crowd source information for crisis management of Swine Flu. You can check

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out the areas reported to have incidents of Swine Flu, as well as subscribe for alerts of possible cases in your city. Here is snapshot of this system: uses this technology to report voting frauds in the ongoing general elections in India. A minor plug – is a sister site of, which I helped establish.

Understanding Vocabularies. Wait! What did you say?

Any data system the semantic meaning of data is as important as the strucutre of the data. In HealthVault we expose a very structured data set in form of various data types and the semantic meaning of the content in those data sets is dictated by vocabularies.

HealthVault Vocabulary is a big area so I’m going to attempt to break this down in separate series of posts. In this post i’m primarily going to focus on vocabularies in general.

Many of you might have heard of the term – Semantic Web or Web 3.0. So whats this buzz about?  Well Web 1.0 was for humans to connect, Web 2.0 was for systems to connect to humans via rich internet applications. Web 3.0 promises a web for systems – a web where programs can communicate and link to each other. So what this implies is for Semantic Web to be successful – the data being put on the semantic internet need not only be structured but also the content be in such a way that computer programs can understand the meaning of it. This is only possible if everyone has a shared Vocabulary or Ontology, or a mechanism to relate to a new Vocabulary.

To solve the ontology problem we can just sit down and invent a vocabulary which everyone will use henceforth and be done with it, right!  First, we won’t agree to single vocabulary and second we can’t plan for future vocabularies. And the most important challenge is that the system which powers this vocabulary needs to agree with the architecture of the web i.e must be decentralized and open!

The semantic web community is using a very powerful way to achieve this. They are using the same mechanism which powers resource discovery (for example – URL linking) to discover and understand vocabularies. Two candidates which make this possible are RDF (resource description format) and OWL (Web Ontology Language). I won’t describe these technologies in details here but keep it for some other day. However the point of this note is to surface example ontologies or vocabularies this community has successfully used/developed so far:

So how does this fit in the HealthCare? John Hamalka outlines the elements of vocabulary whicn an EHR can use in his post – He mentions preferred vocabularies and transports for some of important EHR elements. In the following posts i will try to go deeper in this area.

So how does this fit with HealthVault? Well HealthVault exposes all the vocabularies it uses – We let people also annotate their data with any vocabulary they like. However this leds to an interesting interoperability problem, so on the XSD schemas of our data types ( we specify preferred vocabularies for some data elements. In the following posts i will provide more details with regards to this.

As you can from John’s post their is no dearth of language systems for various medical or healthcare terms. However their is a big gap on best practices on how one can denormalize various vocabularies for implementeting systems which can interoperate with other systems using different vocabularies. I tend to think that there are some lessons to be learned in this area from semantic web efforts and also a need for a more structured effort to surface best practices. May be I’ll dig deeper in this area in one of the future posts.

Next post: Recommended Vocabularies for Various Data Contexts.

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HealthVault Opens Up!!!

As detailed by Sean Nolan on FamilyHealthGuy – HealthVault now has

1. A Java wrapper library on available now on codeplex under Microsoft Public License.
2. Complete .NET SDK Source tobe released in Spring 08 under Microsoft Reference License.
3. Commited for Open Specification Promise process to be launched in Fall 08.

What this

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means is –

1. You can work with HealthVault using non Microsoft Technologies
2. You can refer to the .NET SDK if you want to develop a wrapper library to work with your technologies.
3. You can implement healthvault yourself!! – so no lock-in!
4. Transparent and Comminity driven – the process by which healthvault gets developed is transparent and open to participation by the community.

Microsoft Common User Interface

Very interestingly the Microsoft Common User Interface provides a set of ASP/WinForms controls which applications and user iterface designers can use to provide safe clinical applications! Its available as CodePlex Project!!! From my brief research i havent seen such a approach before other than the IBM CUA which was more about uniformity of user controls. I’m not sure that with the adoption of MVC model of web/app development the ASP/WinForms style controls will be more in demand in the future. Anyways one thing which sucks about it is that you can see what the controls are until you download the 13Megs of software, it would have been great to see some snapshots somewhere!!!