It all started when anesthesiologist Vernon Huang wanted to figure out a better way to streamline his billing. How could he bridge the gap between what's written on paper and what must be entered into an electronic database?
Huang, who's clocked in time as a senior manager for health care markets at Apple, designed the application for a digital pen whose tiny camera embedded right next to the ink cartridge captures every stroke of the written word on film and whose images are uploaded wirelessly and automatically to a remote database.
He knew such an invention has a range of applications well beyond billing, and founded Shareable Ink (headquartered in Newton, Mass., with a branch in San Mateo, Calif.). Medgadget caught up with Huang at TedMed and posted a shaky but informative demonstration:
There is, of course, competition. German company Ontaris is already using this kind of technology for DiabCareOnline, allowing people who need to track their glucose levels regularly but don't always have access to the online forms--or perhaps don't know how to use a computer at all--to simply fill out a form by hand whose numbers autopopulate for the physician's review.
Huang lists emergency care and anesthesiology as fields with obvious early, but clearly not exclusive, adopters. "Anesthesiology is our low-hanging fruit.... Once people see this technology they really start to brainstorm various ways to use it," he tells me by phone today.
I see this pen migrating all over, and well beyond, the medical field, especially because it is the pen, but not the paper, that is special.