SPARC was built using a customized version of the JomSocial extension for Joomla. It offers a Facebook-like user interface where members can upload photos and post status updates, and it includes an Idea Lab area where staff can submit ideas that the community can vote up or down. SPARC users can also form public or private groups. One set of groups, called Innovators Communities, serve as meeting places where clinicians, scientists and others can brainstorm, exchange ideas and get feedback.
The hospital's previous social intranet, built using enterprise social software from Socialtext, had never fully met the organization's needs. So in early 2011, after running a pilot and determining that neither the existing software nor other proprietary social software packages could meet its new budget and functional requirements, the hospital focused in on the open-source Joomla, WordPress and Drupal CMS platforms.
The selection team entertained proposals from three different vendors, one for each platform, and evaluated each against 90 criteria, including the requirement that the system be easy enough for a nontechnical staff person to administer. The Joomla proposal won on the basis of both price and support.
The SPARC intranet needed to be integrated with the hospital's HIPAA-compliant security and authentication systems -- something that was easily accomplished using existing plug-ins for Joomla 2.5. "We were able to build an enterprise-level social application isolated to meet HIPAA standards," says Jonathan Gafill, head project manager at CloudAccess.net, which built the site.
Because many users would be accessing the site from mobile devices, the hospital wanted a responsive design, where the pages would render in different layouts depending on screen size.
Because many users would be accessing the site from mobile devices, the hospital wanted a responsive design, where the pages would render in different layouts depending on screen size. "The doctors had to access schedules and update documents. They had to be able to do all of the things they would normally do on a desktop and do them quickly and easily," Gafill says.