— Susan B. Bergman, MD, Framingham, MA
Amazing Charts is continually adding features and improving usability. Each version of Amazing Charts contains a number of these improvements, along with a host of other enhancements and bug fixes. Once these components are programatically complete (i.e., completed from a programming standpoint), the "release candidate" enters a dynamic testing process, which includes internal quality assurance (QA) tests, alpha testing, beta testing, and post-release surveillance.
Following internal QA testing, the program enters "alpha" testing mode, and the release candidate is called the alpha version. The alpha version is the first version that leaves home. It goes to one or more existing clients with whom we have a strong working relationship, and who are willing to assist us in identifying usability issues as well as "bang on and try-to-break" the version.
If anything significant does break or doesn't work as it should, the alpha is placed on a TEMPORARY HOLD status. During this time those issues are solved and then the program is re-tested by QA before being returned to alpha status. These holds can range from a few days to over a month, depending on the severity of the issue(s) discovered, or how much regression testing must be done to feel comfortable we are releasing a safe and secure (and usable) product.
Once alpha testing is complete, generally between two to eight weeks (depending on how many significant changes have occurred), the software is released to a wider group of clients in three sequential phases: beta I, beta II, and open beta.
Phase I of the beta process occurs after alpha testing has been successfully completed. At this point the release candidate is called the beta version and has performed without significant issues on a number of different systems and with a number of different practice's databases. The software is believed to be ready for cautious use in practices that understand they may encounter bugs or problems, and need to be on the lookout for unexpected behaviors.
Once it is determined that there aren't any significant issues (aka show-stoppers), generally over the course of four weeks, the release candidate enters the second phase of beta testing (phase II).
Phase II is simply an expansion of the practices to which the beta version is provided. This phase generally lasts an additional two to eight weeks depending on whether any serious problems are identified (show-stoppers). Providing the beta is doing well, it enters the third phase of beta testing, called open beta release.
During the beta phase, any issues that are identified and deemed significant are fixed and the program immediately re-released to the alpha and current beta testers in a rapid-release cycle.
Once a beta version is considered stable and without any significant problems, it is made available on our website for existing clients (who subscribe to our Guardian Angel Support & Maintenance service), as well as any new clients wishing to use it. The release candidate remains in open beta status until such time as we are confident that there are no outstanding critical issues. Critical issues are problems that could inadvertently cause harm to a patient or cause patient information to become lost or incorrectly saved.
The release candidate now becomes the Amazing Charts current version, and is "officially" released. At this time, clients are automatically notified that a new version is available.
Now the program moves from being used by a few hundred practices to the many thousands of practices that call Amazing Charts their EHR. These many thousands of practices use Amazing Charts on many thousands of differently configured systems - each with it's own rather unique combination of computers, software, networks setup, and the location of microwave ovens. As Amazing Charts is deployed to a wider group, issues will be discovered and reported to Amazing Charts (through bug reports, support contacts, our user board, etc.).
Post-release surveillance continues for as long as the program remains the current "official" version. Issues being reported are replicated, analyzed, and once understood, a solution is planned and prioritized for release during regular triage meetings.
Any issues that are identified during post-release surveillance that are considered either critical, or problematic for a significant number of clients, are evaluated and fixed, and the new build is rapidly released directly to the clients requiring the solution and to other practices wishing to beta test this rapid-release version.
Although a Rapid Release Beta has undergone internal QA testing, it has not gone through the complete alpha and beta I testing process described above. Instead, the Rapid Release Beta is first provided to clients who experienced and reported to our Guardian Angel Support team the problems leading to this new build (as well as to "power users" wishing to test, play, or risk using it in their own practice).
Only clients having difficulties using our current "official" version due to the issues addressed in the rapidly-released beta version should upgrade - since this version has not undergone all our usual testing in an effort to get a solution to clients who have been critically affected by the problems discovered. Once the Rapid Release Beta is in use by over 250 unique practices for more than a few weeks, it usually becomes the "official release."
Beta testing is not for those whose practice is so busy that they can't find time to use the bathroom. Regardless of the internal testing and other QA measures (and there are a lot!), there is simply nothing that tests and confirms the abilities of our release candidate better than having it used in many different practices, each with its unique configuration of computers, co-habitating software, firewalls, networks, and microwave ovens.
So help us help you by requesting to be a beta tester of the next release.