Formulator PDA Application Suite

Apelon Inc., 2002

The Formulator is a software application for a PalmOS device to display custom-generated medical forms, enter data into the forms, and upload the data into enterprise medical data applications. The Formulator is augmented by a suite of software on the PC that assist in authoring these forms and synchronizing data between the PDA and the PC. The Form Designer application leverages Apelon's core medical informatics software to create forms for the PDA that incorporate vocabularies from Apelon's ontology server products.

As project lead I worked with comapny executives to determine the project's objectives, develop use cases, and define technical requirements. I did primary research into the PDA product space and specified tools for the project. As lead designer and developer for the PDA application I co-developed the system architecture, desktop software components and custom data formats and protocols.

As an interface and information design challenge this project was particularly interesting due to the limiations of the PalmOS. The very nature of the Formulator application is to display a variety of custom-generated medical forms, each in effect its own application. I sought a flexible solution that would allow for consistent and logical presentation of disparate information elements. Using a modular approach I was able to present a unified look and feel, and turn the terse language of the Palm into an advantage.


The FormPicker Screen
The Formulator application begins at the FormPicker Screen. This presents a list of Custom Medical Forms installed on the PDA. These forms would be tailored to the particular kind of medical practice using the Formulator to track patients as they move through the facility. These Forms are considered Templates; they are blank and ready to be filled out. The Templates may also have filled-out copies saved in the application's data store. The user may select a Form and, using the provided "New" and "Open..." buttons, either spawn a new Form from the selected Template or open a previously filled-out Form of the selected Template. Additional options available in a menu include Delete or Archive the selected Form Template.


The View Patients Screen
The View Patients Screen presents a list of the Patient Accounts for the selected Form Template. The user may select a Patient Account and Open it, or Cancel to return to the From Picker screen. Additional options available in a menu include Delete or Archive the selected Patient Account.


The Form Completion Screen
With this screen the user fills in an instance of a From Template with Patient Account data. The appearance of this screen may vary from Form to Form, and within a Form, as this screen is generated dynamically to reflect the content of the Form. Forms may have numerous UI elements of various types, may be scrollable, and may have multiple pages. Nevertheless, the Formulator provides consistency in terms of appearance and functionality.

At the top of dynamic portion of the screen, the Form's Page Number and Page Name are displayed. These are navigational controls as well as displays. Clicking on the arrows to the left and right of the page number moves the Form back or ahead one page. Clicking on the Form Name pops up a context menu listing all of the Pages in the Form, allowing the user to jump to any page.

The main body of the screen is a table that contains form elements. These include text labels, text entry fields, check boxes and popup context menus. The user may fill out the Form using these elements. If the page contains more than eight elements, then it will be scrollable.


At the bottom of the screen is a toggle to switch between "[All]" and "[Sel]". The purpose of this control is to allow the user to see only the filled-out (i.e. selected) items in a long Form that would otherwise require scrolling.

Finally, the user may Save the Patient data, or Cancel and return to the Form Picker without saving the data.