Intel the tech doctor

The chip giant is just one of the many vendors trying to capitalise on the growing market for IT in the healthcare sector. Intel's Ivan Harrow gives his diagnosis to IT Weekly.

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By  Administrator Published  February 1, 2007

When Intel chairman Craig Barrett was in Dubai at the end of last year, IT Weekly asked him what he saw as the most exciting areas of development for the technology sector over the next few years. While his first answer was somewhat predictable - being around the area of mobility, a familiar topic for Intel - his second was a little more surprising.

"The other area that I am excited about is bringing our technology into the healthcare sector," he said then. "Healthcare is a huge underdeveloped business area that, for a whole variety of reasons, has not adopted computer technology to a great extent," he continued. While acknowledging that the healthcare sector has of course done extremely well in developing technologies in areas such as diagnostic equipment, he pointed out that "the whole concept of digitizing medical records, and also using digital technology for remote diagnostics, remote monitoring is still in its infancy and I think we have an opportunity to bring some of our expertise into that space."

While it may be one of the highest-profile IT players to have targeted the healthcare space, Intel is far from the only one: this week's Arab Health conference at the Dubai International Convention Centre saw some familiar faces for veterans of Gitex events, with firms such as IBM in attendance.

Sitting in a hotel lobby just off the main Arab Health exhibition halls, Ivan Harrow, healthcare IT manager for Intel's EMEA Digital Health Group, admits there is serious money in the IT healthcare market.

"As a policy we don't talk about specific numbers but there is a lot of potential," he states. "There is a lot of growth going on in healthcare and IT can play a significant part in that," he says, highlighting projects such as the UK's US$24 billion NHS National Programme for IT initiative as global examples of government investment.

"We see one of the biggest growth areas being in the mobile sector and delivering patient information and clinical information at the point of care, which is invariably at the patient's bedside," Harrow says.

To help tap that market Intel has gone so far as developing a new platform - which it dubs the mobile clinical assistant - that it intends to mass-market in the first half of this year. Based on the slate form-factor, the first company to OEM the clinical assistant will be Motion Computing, which specialises in slate tablet PCs.

While Intel is working with OEMS to produce the device, Harrow is proud of the fact that it has also worked closely with another group to develop it - the doctors and nurses that will actually be using the mobile clinical assistant. "We used their feedback to determine how they interacted with technology and how they interacted with patients," he says. "By using that information we were able to design a prototype device with inbuilt solutions such as RFID, barcode scanning and camera."

The RFID functionality could be used to provide rapid patient identification, barcode scanning could cut down on medication dispensing errors, and a digital camera could be used to make it easier to record patients' charts and notes.

Another design feature - one that Intel almost certainly wouldn't have thought of without medical staff help - is that the platform is designed to be wiped clean with disinfectant.

"One of the biggest concerns we hear from healthcare professionals is around potential hospital-acquired illnesses," Harrow says. "By being able to disinfect the device we're able to help with some of that."

Such a solution is just one example of how technology can benefit the healthcare sector, he says.

Harrow claims Intel is in a strong position to help the healthcare sector. "If you look at the solutions that are being rolled out at clinical level, hospital level or even regional and national level, there is a lot of value that we can bring through data centre management and a range of our enterprise solutions," he says. "We have a lot of experience that we can bring to this industry and we can transform this industry."

“If you look at the solutions that are being rolled out... there is a lot of value that we can bring through data centre management and a range of our enterprise solutions.”

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