Microsoft on Monday announced the official name for the next member of its Office family, formerly code-named XDocs, and said a standards body for the healthcare industry is advocating use of the application as a way to help streamline medical records systems.
Now officially called InfoPath, the application aims to make it easy for end-users to edit forms using XML (Extensible Markup Language). The forms can be used to extract and send business data to and from business applications running on back-end systems, and can help cut down on paperwork and reduce errors associated with manual data entry, according to Microsoft.
At a healthcare industry conference in San Diego Monday, officials from the Health Level 7 standards group will discuss how InfoPath can be used with other technologies as part of a document management system for their industry, according to Bobby Moore, a product manager for InfoPath at Microsoft.
An InfoPath form tailored to the needs of a doctor might include fields with a patient's name, address, and medical history, he said. When the doctor writes the patient's name in the form, other fields can be populated automatically using information pulled from back-end systems and delivered to the application in XML, Moore said. The idea is to cut down on the time it takes to fill out such forms and reduce the likelihood of error when information is entered manually.
The doctor can save the form in the XML format automatically, and clicking a button sends the information back out to medical records systems, where it updates those systems and makes the information available for use across the organization.
Different vertical markets, such as healthcare, manufacturing, and finance, have developed versions of XML, known as XML "schema," that are specific to their industries. At Monday's conference -- the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's 2003 Conference and Exhibition -- officials from Health Level 7 will show how InfoPath can be used with the Clinical Document Architecture (CDA), an XML standard used by their industry, Moore said.
"The reason we're so high on this is because it's a real-world example of how to leverage an industry-standard XML with InfoPath," he said.
Officials from Health Level 7 weren't available late Friday to discuss the way they think CDA and InfoPath can work together.
One analyst said InfoPath provides a powerful interface for designing forms that can be manipulated by end-users, drawing on some of the familiarity of Microsoft's Office applications. But the software maker has its work cut out in order to make InfoPath successful, said Ted Schadler, principal software analyst at Forrester Research, in
For starters, Schadler said, organizations must be persuaded to invest in the technology by having their developers design the various forms for their business.