BACKGROUND: The Wireless Application Protocol technology implemented in newer mobile phones has built-in facilities for handling much of the information processing needed in clinical work. OBJECTIVES: To test a practical approach we ported a relational database of the Danish pharmaceutical catalogue to Wireless Application Protocol using open source freeware at all steps. METHODS: We used Apache 1.3 web software on a Linux server. Data containing the Danish pharmaceutical catalogue were imported from an ASCII file into a MySQL 3.22.32 database using a Practical Extraction and Report Language script for easy update of the database. Data were distributed in 35 interrelated tables. Each pharmaceutical brand name was given its own card with links to general information about the drug, active substances, contraindications etc. Access was available through 1) browsing therapeutic groups and 2) searching for a brand name. The database interface was programmed in the server-side scripting language PHP3. RESULTS: A free, open source Wireless Application Protocol gateway to a pharmaceutical catalogue was established to allow dial-in access independent of commercial Wireless Application Protocol service providers. The application was tested on the Nokia 7110 and Ericsson R320s cellular phones. CONCLUSIONS: We have demonstrated that Wireless Application Protocol-based access to a dynamic clinical database can be established using open source freeware. The project opens perspectives for a further integration of Wireless Application Protocol phone functions in clinical information processing: Global System for Mobile communication telephony for bilateral communication, asynchronous unilateral communication via e-mail and Short Message Service, built-in calculator, calendar, personal organizer, phone number catalogue and Dictaphone function via answering machine technology. An independent Wireless Application Protocol gateway may be placed within hospital firewalls, which may be an advantage with respect to security. However, if Wireless Application Protocol phones are to become effective tools for physicians, special attention must be paid to the limitations of the devices. Input tools of Wireless Application Protocol phones should be improved, for instance by increased use of speech control.
Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2001, Vol 3, Issue 1