The biggest problem many clinics and hospitals have with health IT is what to do with their old paper records.
The standard protocol is to keep the paper files around for months, until all patients have been seen, input current values into an electronic record, then file the paper. (Edited screen capture from Datacap.com.)
So what happens if one of these patients has to go into the hospital? You either send along the paper file or you have incomplete records. And then there's the doctor's handwriting to contend with.
What often happens is the hospital opens its own electronic file. Those tests you took a few years ago may all have to be repeated. Your primary care doctor's knowledge of you may be lost.
Or what happens when an insurer questions a payment? Right now we may not get to argue about it until we get to court, when the original from the doctor's file is entered into evidence.
IBM wants to cure that through its purchase of Datacap. Datacap, based in Tarrytown, NY, just 23 miles from Armonk (12 miles if you prefer the scenic route on Saw Mill Parkway) is already sporting the IBM logo on its Web site.
For a hospital associated with medical clinics, this means IBM can now take the clinic's old files, once new files have been started on most patients, and automate the back catalog. For insurers, they can now take those files as-needed, when doctors want to justify expenses.
It almost goes without saying that this is another example of the big trend we noted some weeks ago -- mainline computing vendors getting into the health IT market, surrounding it, eventually gobbling it up.