Say hello to InfoPath

Microsoft Office's newest family member has a name. The company announced Monday that the XML document creation application previously code-named XDocs is now called InfoPath.

Microsoft will release InfoPath this summer, in the same time frame as Office 11--the code name for the next release of its market-dominating productivity suite. The application lets users create, edit, and view XML (Extensible Markup Language) documents. XML is a data delivery and presentation standard that figures heavily in Microsoft's .Net strategy for making information readily available via the Internet.

InfoPath users will be able to create form-like documents that collect data and deliver it to XML-compatible databases or other back-end systems.

"The idea is that you have this rich dynamic form that's an InfoPath form and by entering data ... [and] filling out the form you're actually generating XML," says Microsoft product manager Jacob Jaffee.

Medical Implications

Microsoft timed the announcement of the InfoPath name to coincide with a company presentation set for the same day at the Heath Care information and Management Systems Society's conference in San Diego.

The reason: The company created a presentation for that conference to show how someone in the medical profession could use InfoPath to create documents conforming to the Clinical Document Architecture standard, a national health industry XML standard.

"An example might be, a physician today fills a patient diagnosis form. Somebody has to take that and transcribe it, and anytime humans get involved there's the opportunity for mistakes," Jaffee says.

With a CDA-compliant XML form, "a physician could check with a knowledge base to determine which drugs are covered by the patient's insurance," he says. "He could check for interaction with other medications in a patient's file. That physician could even submit an order for medication to a pharmacy to fill."

A medical software company called Amicore is already developing such forms using a beta version of InfoPath, Jaffee says.

Microsoft has yet to release InfoPath pricing details, nor has it announced if InfoPath will be available as part of one or more Office editions.

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