Lexmark Develops BPM Apps for Health Care

By Brian T. Horowitz  |  Posted 2011-11-21

Lexmark Develops BPM Apps for Health Care

Printer manufacturer Lexmark is branching out to create new business process management (BPM) software for health care and other industry verticals, such as education, financial services, government and retail.

The company plans to leverage the enterprise content management (ECM) capabilities of its stand-alone Perceptive Software unit and the BPM tools of Netherlands-based Pallas Athena to manage content throughout a hospital's workflow.

"We're expanding the array of technologies and solutions that we bring to bear for our customers and help them manage all this unstructured content and processes that are in hospitals today-in the front line and back office," Lexmark CEO Paul Rooke told eWEEK during a press briefing on Nov. 2. "They could use some help, particularly because they're trying to digitize and become more electronic."

Lexmark announced its acquisition of Pallas Athena on Oct. 18. It will integrate the company with its Perceptive Software unit.

Lexmark's customers, particularly hospitals, are dealing with information silos in which data is locked into a combination of paper and computerized forms, as well as databases, John Moore, an analyst at Chilmark Research, told eWEEK.

Consequently, health care facilities need tools such as BPM to keep track of all their data-whether it's from the emergency room or the oncology department.

"How to tie all of those silos together and how to facilitate and automate various processes across the organization-that's where BPM comes in, and it's going to be increasingly critical," Moore pointed out.

Other hardware vendors in the printer business, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, have found success on the software side by focusing on services rather than traditional software, according to Moore. "I have not seen many cases where a hardware-centric company has made the successful transition to owning, investing in and selling software," he noted. "In the market today, it's very hard to find many examples where they've been able to do both very well."

For Lexmark to make a successful transition in health care, it will need to allow Perceptive Software to continue to run independently, he said.

Lexmark Develops BPM Apps for Health Care

title=Health Care Opportunities} 

"People are looking at the opportunity in health care, and Lexmark is probably seeing the writing on the wall," Moore said. "They're only going to make so much money in the future on printers, and [health care] is one of those high-growth opportunities."

To expand the company's opportunity in the enterprise application field, Lexmark plans to leverage Pallas Athena's experience in BPM in the life science, government and insurance areas to create new BPM products for health care.

"I think some of the business process tools we're going to be bringing will be a huge benefit to [health care facilities]," Rooke said. "Hospitals are a series of processes-patients in and patients out. All the processes there are absolutely critical, not only from an efficiency [standpoint], but from a compliance [perspective], and all the other things hospital administrators are dealing with today."

On-Premises and Cloud

Lexmark's products will be geared to both on-premises and cloud environments, Rooke said.

The company has already reached 30 percent of the health care market with existing products, including its fleet-management platform and ECM, according to Marty Canning, Lexmark's executive vice president.

"Some of the largest hospitals in the country use our technology, not only for admissions but also for patient records," said Scott Coons, vice president of Lexmark and president and CEO of Perceptive Software.

New products will build on Lexmark's smart multifunction printer (MPF) and ECM products, said Canning.

Lexmark's Perceptive Software unit has developed ImageNow, which is an ECM product that integrates data and can connect to a hospital's electronic health record (EHR)-also known as EMR (electronic medical record)-platform.

ImageNow integrates with EHRs by using Lexmark's "patented integration technology" called LearnMode, Coons said. "It's a weird term, but it's a good one," he noted. "It's nonprogrammatic integration with our core systems."

ECM technology in ImageNow combines the user interface of Lexmark's MPFs to facilitate the collecting of content.

"What we've done is taken Lexmark hardware and the power of the e-Task interface along with our software and workflow engine and combined those together to aid in the process of collecting enterprise content in support of admitting a patient," Coons said. E-Task is a customizable entry point for users on Lexmark MPFs, and it can carry out multiple steps with a single button push.

Although ImageNow can't replace an EHR or application, it can connect all the structured data in EHRs with unstructured data, or data silos, such as loose paper forms, lab reports, explanations of benefits and radiology images.

Lexmark Develops BPM Apps for Health Care

title=Key to Success} 

Starting a health care business process with these unstructured documents and then building out the records is a key to success, according to Shahid Shah, CEO of IT consulting firm Netspective Communications and author of the "Healthcare IT Guy" blog.

"If you know that a fax or letter or image can begin the process of a workflow, then things are great; then you know you don't need 5,000 fields filled in to start a workflow," Shah said. "Sometimes it's structured data, but more often than not it's unstructured data sitting inside documents. Therefore, I believe that anybody who wants to play long term in the electronic health records realm has to have a sophisticated and deep ECM strategy."

Rooke clearly agrees. "All those points of discontinuity are huge opportunities for us to help our customers," he said. "Now we can bring those together in one view, which is very important for doctors and nurses who may not be technology literate, but want a system they can use so they can do what they do best."

ImageNow is compatible with major EHR platforms from vendors such as Cerner, Epic and Meditech, Rooke noted.

Data: Structured and Unstructured

"Those EMRs have very good structured data systems, but we can help with all the unstructured content, bringing it to bear so that when somebody logs in to the EMR to look at information on a patient, they can see it all," Rooke explained. "They don't have to leave their core EMR systems." He added that doctors and nurses have found it easy to connect ImageNow with health record applications.

"All of the files and records that used to be stored in the basement are now stored in ImageNow," Coons added.

At the Nov. 2 media event, Lexmark also demonstrated its Patient Admissions and Registration platform, which connects with ImageNow and allows hospitals to pull data from patients' EHRs to print bar-coded wristbands. In addition, the printers can scan in patients' insurance cards and incorporate the data into EHRs.

"Sometimes bar codes will be generated from our system, and sometimes they'll be generated from the core clinical system," Coons said. The admissions software connects to the finance system of a hospital."

"It's taking unstructured data and relating it to the hospital information system world," Jason Hicks, senior sales engineer at Lexmark's Perceptive unit, explained to eWEEK during the demo.


Rocket Fuel