Health Care IT: IBM Centennial Celebration Marks Achievements in Health Care Technology
1950s: Fighting Polio with Punch Cards
In the 1920s, IBM developed a punch card, called the IBM Computer Card, as the result of a challenge by its president at the time, Thomas Watson Sr., to two inventors, Clair D. Lake and J. Royden Peirce. In the 1950s, the punch card would then be used to further Dr. Jonas Salk's research on a polio vaccine. As researchers tested Salk's new polio vaccine on 1.8 million children in the United States, they captured 1.44 million data points on the IBM punch cards.
Since its founding in 1911, IBM has celebrated many notable achievements in health care. Long before its Initiate data-management platform gave physicians a single view of patients' EHRs (electronic health records), Big Blue was active in developing electric limbs, the first heart-lung machine, mapping smallpox epidemics and facilitating Dr. Jonas Salk's development of a vaccine for polio. Other achievements include a continuous blood separator for leukemia treatment, microscopes with ultrafine resolution to give a boost to MRIs, and lasers used in LASIK eye surgery. IBM has also been active in developing nanopore technology to help sequence DNA faster and more efficiently. It says it will allocate $100 million over the next three years to medical practitioners and insurance companies to further research in nanomedicine and computational biology. IBM also plans to participate in the development of drugs to lessen the spread of HIV. This eWEEK slide show highlights some of the innovations IBM has achieved in health care technology during the last 100 years.