Pressure Ulcers and Link Abstraction

PU Pathway

The full pressure ulcer pathway in a single, side-scrolling application

At best, the idea of pressure ulcers (a particularly nasty form of chronic wound which costs the NHS billions of pounds every year) and link abstraction (a technique for disconnecting the source from the presentation layer) are uneasy bedfellows. You rarely find, if ever, them referred to in the same breath. In fact a Google search for that phrase comes up with exactly no results.

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Nevertheless it’s an interesting technique and worth sharing in this brief blog.
Health professionals are used to using sophisticated clinical pathways to guide them through delivery of complex clinical intervention. These pathways of a product of years of research and learned debate, leading to a consensus view on best practice supported by evidence, tools and protocols. Doctors and nurses need to understand and use these, however there are many of them and is unrealistic to expect everyone to know them all equally. So of course there is a role for technology-based solutions and the emergence of iPads and other tablet devices has made this an attractive way of providing rapid access to appropriate clinical pathways at the point of need.

A project we delivered for a major NHS Trust in the North of England sought to provide a rich, easy-to-use and interactive pathway for management of pressure ulcers (hence the title) with links to PDF documents and external resources and tools. The challenge is that these external sources were often not under the control of the trust and so embedding a URL into the application for each item of external content run the risk of the external content being moved to a different URL and that would require the application to be recoded. Definitely not something which makes for a sustainable and valuable application.
So the trick I’m sharing with you today is link abstraction. We built the application using HTML running within SharePoint, though other content management systems should work equally well. Our approach was to create a SharePoint document library for the links (yes, a document library not a list) and use the LINK TO A DOCUMENT content type.

image001Each of these virtual documents in the library has its own URL and used that link within the HTML of the application that we built. However the virtual document itself is simply a pointer to another URL. By giving the users access to this library they are able to update the secondary link without the primary link changing, thereby abstracting the real target from the application target. Job done!
It’s such a simple but powerful technique that I thought it should be shared.

If you are interested, here’s some information about the Pressure Ulcer application and further reading on pressure ulcers themselves.

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