TECHNOLOGY INNOVATIONS are triggering a flow of remarkable new information technology (IT) products into the healthcare marketplace.
Not all of these products will gain a foothold, but some have the potential to trigger radical changes in how information flows between patient, provider, and payer. Here’s a round-up of IT products that THE DARK REPORT finds novel and which may have application in some clinical laboratories and pathology group practices.
PORTABLE PATIENT RECORD
One company is using mini-USB drives to let patients carry their health information with them on a key chain. CapMed, Inc., of Newton, Pennsylvania, is marketing their “Personal Healthkey™.” In combination with specially-written software, a patient can record visits to his/her physician, update prescriptions, record immunizations, and even store medical images. CapMed says it has already sold 10,000 of its healthkeys. It has also distributed 400,000 CD-ROMs that contain copies of its “personal health record” software program.
“MOBILE PULSE OXIMETER”
For cell phones capable of using Java language programs, a patient can create their own “mobile pulse oximeter.” MedicTouch, Inc. of Paradise Valley, Arizona sells a software program that, once installed on a cell phone, allows that cell phone to capture information from a MedicTouch sensor device which fits on a finger. The cell phone can then transmit this information to the patient’s physician or other provider by either a wired connection or use of Bluetooth wireless technology.
Hewlitt Packard, Inc. of Palo Alto, California now offers a unique digital pen that works with special paper forms. Paper forms are created with a pattern of invisible dots. The Digital Pen 200 has both a ball-point ink cartridge and a small camera. As the pen is used, the camera captures the pen strokes and converts them into digital form. The pen is then placed in a docking cradle and the data is automatically uploaded into the enterprise data base.
One beta user was Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, North Carolina. Over a two-year period, it reduced data entry costs from about $3.25 to under $1.00 per record. The system also increased productivity, reduced errors, and improved verification of data. As used in this hospital, staff members interview the patient, check boxes and enter comments on the form. Once the pen is cradled, the data automatically transmits into the patient record. Physicians and nurses can always review the record and make changes.
PERSONNEL SMART CARDS
One solution to the multiple password dilemma in hospitals and other provider settings is a new smart card introduced by GemPlus International, a firm based in Luxemburg.
Essentially, once someone logs into the system with the smart card and a personal identification number, they can call up their “customized dash- board” interface anywhere within the system. This eliminates a major problem in many health systems, where the user is required to enter the alphanumeric password six or seven times to finally access the data wanted. For IT departments, the benefit is that the smart card arrangement eliminates the need to issue temporary passwords when someone forgets his/her password.
In Puerto Rico, three million Medicaid beneficiaries are using a smart card sold by Axalto, Inc. of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Axalto’s smart card contains fingerprints as an added security measure. Three counties in Texas are in a pilot project to use this technology.
Ongoing advances in wireless technology and reduced costs have encouraged many hospitals to install wireless systems. Vocera Communications, Inc. of Cupertino, California now offers a single solution communication product that it calls a “voice-activated” badge.
Sold under the name “The Vocera Communications System,” the unique part of the system is a two-ounce, clip- on communication badge small enough to be worn on a lapel. It is a hands-free device that is voice activated and uses voice recognition technology.
The individual simply says “call Dr. Smith” and the device will direct the call to that individual. In a laboratory, this type of system is designed to eliminate the loudspeaker, paging, and phone-tag communication systems and replace it with a single, simple system.
The Vocera wireless network can be interfaced with most PBX phone systems. It is already in use in about 150 healthcare settings, including hospitals. One hospital reported that, in one year, it saved 3,400 hours in its nursing division, which is about the same number of hours worked by two full-time employees.
Even the lowly and ubiquitous security badge is getting a high-tech makeover. Entrust, Inc. of Addison, Texas offers a product called “The Identity Card.”
Like many security badges, it requests a user name and password at sign-on. Once that is provided, the system requests users to fill in three boxes with numbers or characters located on a grid on the back of the identity card. These grid coordinates are changed each time an individual logs on.
It offers three benefits. One, the capture of pass codes by identity thieves using “phishing” tools is thwarted. Two, it controls the practice of sharing passwords and log-in information. Three, each card costs about $1 to produce, compared to as much as $30 to $50 per security badge charged by other types of systems.
Fast-Changing IT Market
These items are just a sample of new technology products entering the market daily. The wireless phone as “mobile pulse oximeter” is a good example of how new technologies can shatter existing paradigms. Another technology with that potential is RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, technology THE DARK REPORT has covered in recent months. Collectively, all these examples demonstrate how the pace of change in information technology is accelerating and triggering a flood of new products.