how to create your own apps for your iPod
January 1, 2009 7:13 PM   Subscribe

How can you make or have made an iPhone app?

I'm an RN and I want an app for my iPod Touch that's nursing oriented. The med apps I've looked at are mostly med student oriented or specific doctor/medical stuff.

Basically I want a catalog of chemotherapy medications: side effects, dosages, administration - the sort of stuff I need to know at work. Work has this information available for me via books and computer programs - but the books are hard to locate when you need them and the computers are often occupied and unavailable.

It would be so great to have this stuff on my iPod Touch in my pocket. How do you get this done?

Please pardon my complete lack of all knowledge related to developing apps. Thanks in advance for any advice and assistance.
posted by dog food sugar to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Check out Elance.com
posted by mpls2 at 7:25 PM on January 1, 2009


If you just want to be able to read some text on your iPhone, there are already apps that can allow you to do that. You could also create a web-site with the info and access it via Safari in the phone.

But if you want to make a real app -- a real computer program for the iPhone -- you need to program it (or hire someone to program it) in C. More specifically, most iPhone apps are programmed in Objective-C (a programming language that's a variant of C) in an application-development program called XCode. XCode only runs on macs. (You need an Intel Mac to run it.) You also need an iPhone to test it on. And you need to pay Apple $99 to join their development program (unless you want to program it for jailbroken iPhones).

Naturally, you need to know how to program.

You could always put an ad on Craigslist or wherever, offering to pay someone to program it for you. It probably won't be cheap.
posted by grumblebee at 7:28 PM on January 1, 2009


Have you looked through this list of medical iPhone/iTouch apps (link opens iTunes)?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 PM on January 1, 2009


I'm sorry, but I think you're out of your league here, unless you intend for this to be a product that you sell, and are willing to invest in it.

My wife just bought the AACN Medicopeia for her Palm. She spent about $125 for an end-user license. This illustrates your first problem: getting the data.

The AACN has already compiled all of the information you're talking about. A single copy of their software costs $125 for a year's access. But you can't just do that, since you need the data in an open format that you can actually work with. You would need to license the raw data from them (or somebody like them). I cannot imagine what they'd want for that, but my guess is more than $20k. You'd essentially be competing with them. In fact, they might not have any interest in licensing it to you if they already have something in development (and I imagine they do).

Now, assuming that you actually get that data licensed from somewhere, you need to program an application to provide you with an interface to it. If you're a reasonably bright person, you can probably learn to program competently enough to build that in a year. The actual program itself probably isn't that complex, but the iPhone is a difficult platform to work with and definitely not a suitable programming environment for novices.

If you weren't interested in spending a year of your life learning to program, you'd need to hire somebody. While there're plenty of people who work for less, my rate is $65/hour. If you'd be happy scrolling through enormous files, having no search or index, etc. I could probably whip something up in 15 to 20 hours. I imagine it'd take somewhere between 40 and 60 hours to develop a user-friendly version. Those numbers could easily be much higher depending on the actual requirements of the project. They also could be much higher if the programmer has to massage the datafiles into an acceptable format. They're not going to get any lower, though.

So, you're looking at just a programming cost of between $1000 and $4000. Combined with an estimated super-cheap licensing cost of $25k, you're looking at $30k to have this application developed for you. In reality, nobody is going to license you a giant chunk of drug information that cheap. The expensive part is the data, so even if you took the trouble to learn to hack yourself, you'd not be saving yourself the bulk of the cash.

Now, on the other hand, if you could compile the information yourself in such a way that doesn't violate copyright law, and could provide that data in a useful format, you could probably get this done for under $10k.

Either way, this isn't going to be worth it unless you think you can make money off of it.

The far cheaper way would be to buy a Palm and the AACN software. My wife says they have all the chemotherapy drugs in there.
posted by Netzapper at 7:47 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Drugs.com also has an App.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:06 PM on January 1, 2009


The epocrates iPhone app is pretty much the premier drug app. They have all drugs, including chemo agents, and they have side effect info and common dosing regimens. They won't have your local custom chemo protocols, though.

You would never rely on a freaking iPhone app to find out how to dose someone with chemo, though, would you? I find errors in these kinds of apps all the time.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:25 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Netzapper you bring up a good point about the data I thought about addressing in my question but didn't want to get too wordy. I've thought about approaching this with my local Oncology Nursing Society and the hospital I work at which both have their own licensed data. I guess I wanted to figure out how you start thinking about this sort of thing - customizing your apps for your life or finding apps that already do that.

grumblebee I like your idea for an app that allows me to just read some text. That may be a nice quick solution specific to what I want to do.

ikkyu2. Of course I would be going by the procedures of my institution regarding chem admin/dosing. Sorry I was unclear about that.

Thanks everyone so far for your time and your answers.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:38 PM on January 1, 2009


grumblebee I like your idea for an app that allows me to just read some text. That may be a nice quick solution specific to what I want to do.

Check out stanza. It's free and works well.
posted by grumblebee at 8:42 PM on January 1, 2009


I've thought about approaching this with my local Oncology Nursing Society and the hospital I work at which both have their own licensed data.

But that's almost certainly not licensed for relicensing. If you want to sell this or give it away, you're still going to pay a huge chunk in licensing fees. In general, any time you get a chunk of data from one group, and would like to sell or give it it to another group, you're going to pay out the wazoo.

And, since the only way to load an app onto a regular iPhone or iPod is through the app store, you must go through Apple. And then anybody in the world who has an iPhone can buy it. You're producing a public product by your choice of platform.

I guess I wanted to figure out how you start thinking about this sort of thing - customizing your apps for your life or finding apps that already do that.

Unfortunately, unless the application author has made a concerted effort to make it customizable, has open sourced it, or you are the author, it's very difficult to leverage existing work. It's doubly difficult on a platform like the iPhone, which is very closed and controlled.

The biggest thing you need to be thinking about is your data licensing. Who owns the data (this is very different from "whom do you see using the data?")? What are their terms and prices? Who will be able to access the data after I license it? Am I charging them? Do I have an organization to accept and manage the liability of providing medical information? Can I maintain up-to-date information, does the license agreement I have include this?

Were I you, I wouldn't even kind of worry about the software engineering. I would worry about my budget to hire a software engineer. If your total highest possible project budget isn't in mid four figures, and preferably five figures, it's not likely that you can afford custom programming.

grumblebee I like your idea for an app that allows me to just read some text. That may be a nice quick solution specific to what I want to do.

Even the just-read-some-text app, unless you can find somebody who's already written it, is going to cost you on the order of a thousand bucks to have coded. And it's literally going to be an application that can read and display text files--every feature beyond that will start to radically raise the price. You might get it cheaper by hiring a college student, but it's still going to be several hundred bucks. And with the college student, you're going to find yourself handling a whole bunch of logistics you never imagined--the app store acceptance process, for example.

Assuming your hospital's license agreement allows you to do so, the cheapest and easiest way to accomplish your goal would be to put all the necessary data on a webpage hosted on your local intranet. The local intranet part is important, as I can almost promise you that your hospital hasn't purchased a license that allows them to publish the data in the public web. You would then fire up the wifi and the webbrowser on your iPod or iPhone and navigate to "pharmainfo.myhospital.local" or whatever, where you could access the information.

You could learn the HTML layout necessary to format it all in just a few days, filling in holes in your knowledge as you go after that. Accessing it would be dead easy, since it would just be a standard webpage. You would need the support and help of your IT department to host and administer it, though.

That's all assuming, though, that you don't need the artifact to perform any calculations or logic. If you need it to do something, you're going to have to program somewhere--either for the iPhone, or on the webserver. The server-side programming would be easier; you probably already have somebody on your IT staff who can do PHP.
posted by Netzapper at 9:12 PM on January 1, 2009


Even the just-read-some-text app, unless you can find somebody who's already written it, is going to cost you on the order of a thousand bucks to have coded.

There are free apps, like the one I listed above, that already do this.
posted by grumblebee at 9:22 PM on January 1, 2009


I agree with making an HTML version of what you want to store on your phone. Instead of Safari, I prefer an app called AirShare. It runs a file sharing server on your iPhone so you can copy over your HTML site.
posted by valadil at 9:27 PM on January 1, 2009


Valadil's suggestion is a good one and might work really well for you. If you can get all the info you need into html or a pdf, then you could store the info on your home computer and use AirShare to get it onto your iPhone/iTouch.
posted by harriet vane at 9:35 PM on January 1, 2009


XCode

Big X, little c. :)
posted by Mikey-San at 11:59 PM on January 1, 2009


« Older Help me find the director/movi...   |  I will be e-mailing my resume ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.