InformaTech enters ASP space with portable medical record

September 6, 2000

InformaTech enters ASP space with portable medical recordIT firm opts for flash memory over smart cardsEven as smart card technologies seek a toehold in the U.S. healthcare market, they already face steep competition from flash memory

InformaTech enters ASP space with portable medical record

IT firm opts for flash memory over smart cards

Even as smart card technologies seek a toehold in the U.S. healthcare market, they already face steep competition from flash memory cards, another portable data storage medium (HNN 8/23/00). Flash memory cards offer much higher storage capacity than smart cards are capable of—megabytes versus kilobytes—and greater durability, making them very attractive for a variety of healthcare applications.

In fact, these features were a deciding factor for InformaTech, a wholly owned subsidiary of telemedicine vendor Kaneb Services, in forming an OEM partnership with flash vendor SanDisk to support its development of a portable electronic medical record. InformaTech successfully bid on a contract with the U.S. Army to develop the P-tag, a flash memory card that stores an updatable EMR, complete with images. According to Ron Richardson, vice president of eHealthcare Solutions for the Frederick, MD-based medical services division of InformaTech, the company’s PACS integration background brought home the importance of having medical images available for its portable EMR.

The firm is now taking the P-tag technology into the consumer market in partnership with start-up firm Global TeleImaging (GTI). The consumer P-tag is being offered in conjunction with a Web-based patient record called PatientPower that is controlled by the patient. The first commercially available applications using the PatientPower database—Global-ER and My Medical Folder—put an emergency medical record and a personal health record on the P-tag and on the Internet, respectively.

“The intent is that you can plug the P-tag into the PCMCIA card, then access the Web site online and click on update option,” Richardson said. “The first time the record is accessed, replication of the database occurs. The second time the record is accessed, bidirectional synchronization occurs.”

GTI has been beta-testing PatientPower in Maryland, Virginia, and the Washington, DC, metropolitan area for the past two-and-a-half years, the last year of which has been a free pilot program. The partnership with InformaTech was finalized sometime last year, and the company has been integrating the P-tag technology with the PatientPower cold fusion database ever since. The partners renamed the P-tag to PERC (personal electronic record carrier) and are marketing the PERC to Fortune 500 companies with worldwide locations, HMOs, insurance companies, and major business segments such as airlines.

Because PatientPower is based on the notion that people own their own medical data, the firms are also marketing directly to consumers through the GTI Web site (www.gtipatientpower.com). Global-ER costs $25/year, the full package $100/year. The 32 MB capacity P-tag and reader add an additional $110 to the total cost.

InformaTech is providing GTI with financing, a data center, integration support, the P-tags, and security. The last includes a virtual private network using public key infrastructure, with GTI acting as the certification authority and providing the private key for digital signatures. For the consumer market, InformaTech has installed a cryptochip on the card that makes the P-tag PKI-compliant.

The subscription-based PatientPower product line is InformaTech’s first foray into the application service provider market, a major focus for the firm going forward, according to Dave Lyche, director of operations. The firm is looking to take its PACS and telemedicine consulting to an ASP model, targeting small to mid-sized community hospitals and private practices.

“The ASP concept is where our long-term goals are right now,” he said. “We have the consulting piece and integration experience, and we can offer a total solution as a service.”

The firm is also looking to its Lan2Go product as a way to provide turnkey applications that will dovetail into its ASP strategy. Lan2Go, a wireless stand-alone network, was originally developed as a flyaway unit for remote communications, according to Richardson. The product offers a rapidly deployable wireless network with high-throughput data, voice, video, and satellite uplink capability and has a six to 10-mile range.

“Lan2Go really allows data throughput through the Ethernet pipe comparable to that you get on a normal fast Ethernet pipe—18 to 25 mbps of actual throughput,” Richardson said. “We’re fully utilizing the pipe and eliminating latency.”

In the healthcare sector, Lan2Go has been used in emergency disaster areas by FEMA and insurance companies to provide wireless network access for retrieving and inputting relevant data. Further healthcare applications include streamlining PACS and telemedicine installations by providing adequate bandwidth and eliminating the need for network infrastructure upgrades. According to Lyche, Lan2Go has been rack-mounted and integrated with legacy systems and used for image transfer between facilities.

In addition to its PACS consulting and clinical workflow assessment services, InformaTech is active in teleradiology through a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs. This contract has the IT firm managing the Virtual Radiology Environment, a regional PACS implemented in nine community hospitals that uses an appliance called Meta Manager to route images to radiologists based on rules and workflow.

According to Richardson, InformaTech had $62 million in revenue last year. The firm is pursuing a combination of strategic alliances, partnerships, acquisitions, and internal development to increase its healthcare market share. InformaTech’s parent, Kaneb, entered the IT sector in 1996 and formed its medical IT division in 1998.

“Kaneb views the eHealthcare vertical market as a high-growth, high-margin area for investment,” Richardson said. “We’re actively looking at acquisitions and are in due diligence in seven acquisitions in healthcare that will give us the pieces necessary to provide a turnkey healthcare solution.”