Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. this week will unveil a new program in which 50,000 Florida residents will be issued wallet-sized cards that contain their medical history.
Florida will be a test market for the high-tech effort by Columbia. If the program is successful, the hospital company plans to expand it to other states including Texas. Florida and Texas are home to more than 85 Columbia hospitals.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based chain of 337 hospitals is contracting with Drexler Technology Corp., Mountain View, Calif., to use the company's LaserCard optical memory cards. Several of Columbia's Florida hospitals will be equipped with Drexler's Patient Information Communication System. Drexler officials said the cards will save hospitals time and labor by speeding up admissions and emergency treatment. They'll also enable physicians to have access to updated medical data.
Drexler officials also said the cards-often called "smart cards"-protect patient confidentiality because they are unreadable except with authorized access to special equipment and software.
The credit-card-sized LaserCards hold four megabytes of data, which can include text, software, photos and medical images.