DataCard Corp. of Minneapolis is turning some of its smart card energies toward the health-care market.

The company last week unveiled a portable patient information system, SmartRec, built around the card's memory chip. The personalized information can be read and updated at a medical facility or remotely-even at home-on laptop computers.

At a time when financial and payment uses of smart cards are lagging in the United States, health care may emerge as a faster-developing market. SmartRec, which DataCard said has been in testing for 12 months, is the first health-care application on the Smart Card for Windows operating system that Microsoft Corp. announced last fall.

"The concept of portable patient information is very powerful, especially in terms of enhancing the quality of care and improving operational efficiency," said Michael Dusche, Microsoft's Smart Card for Windows product manager. "It is a great application" for the Windows extension. "We expect innovative solutions like these will generate widespread interest for both developers and end users."

At the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society conference in Atlanta, Data-Card announced that it would join the Department of Veterans Affairs in a six-month pilot of a home-care service. They will put patient records for 80 people on smart cards to obviate the need for checking paper files and transmitting faxes.

DataCard hopes SmartRec will displace the 2.6 million Veterans Identification Cards, which have magnetic stripes with limited memories, and ultimately will make its way into the general health-care market.

DataCard also exhibited the SmartPass system for controlling access to medical records with biometrics and smart cards.

"Passwords are too easily compromised," said Ravi Sharma, president of DataCard's health-care company.

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