Microsoft Renames Electronic Forms Software

On Monday, Microsoft Corp. released more information about XDocs, now to be called InfoPath, the electronic forms software that is generating some traction at a healthcare conference.

Microsoft’s name change to InfoPath comes just months after Microsoft said it would release XDocs as an addition to Office 11, its popular software productivity suite. Office 11 will utilize Extensible Markup Language (XML) as an integrated aspect of the popular desktop suite.

Microsoft’s new InfoPath forms will be used to transfer data according to specifications spelled out in the Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) form. CDA is a newly-adopted standard by the healthcare industry for the seamless exchange of electronic data.

Simplicity and standardization must be cornerstones of any healthcare data interchange system. InfoPath forms are designed for basic entry of information aiming to make it simple for physicians to deliver information to different parts of healthcare administration networks.

InfoPath will seamless convert basic data entry into XML, which is expected to enable employees to make electronic forms that will share medical data with different documents and data backup systems.

Microsoft’s push forward with InfoPath is part of a competition underway for stakes in the growing XML-based content management software market. Several other companies and industry groups also are interested in cracking this emerging market, and also not surprisingly, raising questions about Microsoft extending its dominance in software markets.

Adobe Systems is also trying to capture a piece of the electronic forms market, as it aims to strengthen its portable document format (PDF) through corporate enterprises. Adobe is likely to raise concerns about Microsoft’s most recent moves in the market for electronic forms.

Microsoft’s InfoPath is also separate from XForms, which is also an XML-based electronic forms standard being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, a body involved in Internet standards development.

Microsoft says InfoPath is scheduled to hit the market by the middle of this year as part of the release of Office 11. In a press release, Microsoft said it’s working with Amicore Inc., a practice improvement company that provides software and services to physicians. Amicore will use Microsoft’s InfoPath in its “Integrated Management solution, which will be available in the third quarter of this year.”

In recent years, physicians have been criticized for inefficient data gathering, sharing and integration. Obviously, both data sharing and secure medical information exchange is critical to any healthcare patient system. While Microsoft is clearly interested in opening physicians and the networks they are part of, such as pharmacists, insurers and patients, to its new healthcare electronic form initiative.