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The Johns Hopkins University

K4Health Portal
Population growth is outstripping graduation rates from medical programs worldwide at an alarming rate. The Johns Hopkins University has taken steps to address the issue with the establishment of the Knowledge for Health portal, aimed at communicating important medical information to health workers throughout the world. Their ambitions for the portal ultimately include the use of mobile technology, and they needed a platform capable of meeting the demands of a worldwide audience while offering internal users a viable tool for making frequent updates.

Johns Hopkins made the decision to use Drupal based on it's flexibility, user interface, reputation in higher learning and nature as an open source product. They came to Trellon for support in planning, implementing the system and developing the infrastructure to support their online goals. Our team worked with JHU to provide a number of basic services, such as theming and custom module development, but also worked closely as strategic partners to ensure the feasibility of approach and provide valuable insight that allowed JHU to more forward with the site at an accelerated pace.

The Challenge

Like any major university, JHU generates large numbers of documents each year. Achieving strategic goals with the K4Health portal involves ensuring content from existing document management systems would be able to flow seamlessly into the site through sensible integration techniques. With Drupal, there are so many ways to talk to external systems, it becomes important to determine the technologies that offer the most benefits and fewest drawbacks as part of the overall infrastructure for the portal.

Trellon approached the K4Health project as an ongoing engagement consisting of separate but related tasks for defining goals, putting together the plan for how to achieve them, implementing solutions to achieve them, and ensuring each part works together as part of a complete system. This strategy has played out in a number of ways:

  1. Providing feasibility analysis and technical insight on strategic issues.
  2. Delivering theming, custom module development and other standard Drupal services in support of larger goals.
  3. Conducting systems integration and site migration from other platforms.
  4. Building internal capabilities through training, decision support and peer to peer meetings with developers.
  5. Planning for future growth through the evaluation of technology approaches.

Feasibility and Technical Analysis

The K4Health portal is aimed at distributing medical information worldwide to healthcare providers, with a specific emphasis on Africa and the South Pacific. For many members of the target audience, internet access is extremely limited and platform considerations have to go beyond the web browser. Through audience identification and feasibility analysis, Trellon has helped establish the platforms and standards through which the portal can operate. We have identified carrier specific capabilities for specific regions of the world and common standards present within specific platforms.

Drupal Development

As part of our engagement, Trellon has provided ongoing Drupal development services to JHU ranging from theme design, to custom module development, to feature selection within existing sites. For many of the internal organizations within JHU, Drupal is not a new tool, it is a platform developers have been working with for a long time. Trellon has supported the organization's move towards Drupal through the implementation of best practices within all Drupal sites and addressing challenges as they arise.

Systems Integration

Beyond simple module development, Trellon's enagement with JHU has had a specific focus on systems integration and making Drupal talk to external document management systems and databases. One of the larger systems at work within JHU is InMagic, which stores various medical journals, articles and presentations going back to the 1970s. Trellon has implemented custom modules that synchronize information from InMagic to allow published content to flow freely to the site without operator assistance.

Document management for JHU is not a trivial process. Each document has an author, location, date of publication, original journal, ISBN number, tags and other metadata that needs to be imported as part of the process. Our team designed the import modules to aggregate this data, automatically associate it with documents, and store it in a Drupal-compatible fashion. Because of the worldwide nature of the portal and varying cultural standards for medical information, access to some of the content is restricted based on where it is being accessed. Trellon developed tools for allowing the system to hide certain documents based on where the request originates from that automatically integrate with the import system.

Building Internal Capabilities

Building out a portal of this caliber is a team effort. Trellon has provided ongoing training, peer to peer support and decision assistance as part of our engagement with JHU. For each step of development, our team has evaluated various approaches to the technology, worked with stakeholders at JHU to evaluate proposed solutions, and provided high-level technical insight into the operations of Drupal as a means of reducing the complexity of the project.

Planning for Future Growth

The K4Health portal is in the process of being implemented, and is not yet available on mobile systems. Our team continues to work with JHU on various aspects of the project in preparation for complete implementation. Much of the work completed already is foundational in preparation for the ultimate release of the platform.

Trellon's partnership with JHU has resulted in the adoption of the platform as a standard tool for deploying new web sites. As part of our engagement, Trellon has migrated 7 existing sites to Drupal, developed standards for theming within portals, and helped the organization to deploy features generally amongst other systems.