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Intel: Through Health and High Water

The chipmaker aims to get the antiquated health care industry up to speed.

One of the last pieces of


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reorganization from earlier this year finally emerged into the public view this week.

Intel's digital health group, one of five business groups formed in January as part of the chipmaker's largest-ever reorganization, has been operating out of view of investors for the past eight months.

But Louis Burns, Intel vice president and the group's leader, delivered a keynote address and held briefings during the company's semiannual conference for hardware and software engineers in San Francisco.

"Technology does not solve all of the problems, but it does take some important steps forward," said Burns, who focused on how technology can help modernize an antiquated health care system and reduce the amount of money spent on health care.

Details were scarce, but his group is tailoring Intel's semiconductors and related technologies to the health care industry, both to home health care and hospitals. One such project involves Intel's collaboration with 3,000 hospitals being designed in China. "We are active in that design, and they will likely contain a lot of servers and PCs," Burns said.

Products beyond standard computers powered by Intel's chips and technologies seem to be mostly in the development phase, and Burns declined to be specific about the size of his group or revenue.

He did, however, offer assurances that this was a business group with business goals. "This is not the altruistic part of Intel," he said. "I have very specific revenue goals for this year, next year and the next five years."

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Burns said that Intel's technology could assist in health care-specific methods for data management, storage and collaboration, as well as in monitoring systems and other specialized computing devices to assist practitioners and patients.

Burns' group is more than just a mere dalliance to drum up some health care business. As part of Intel's reorganization in January around end markets, Burns was placed in charge of one of five business units.

His group ranks alongside the mobility group and the digital enterprise group, where Intel gets all of its profits and substantially all of its sales.

As for what's ahead for the unit, Burns indicated that the company is working on creating a standards organization targeted at the health care industry. Standards-setting bodies are common throughout the technology landscape to assist companies in making a wide range of products for new areas that can work together.

Burns also hinted that products for home health care are likely to be introduced first and in the not-too-distant future.

Still, it's probably too early for investors to get excited about the unit because its full potential and plans remain unclear, but product announcements and partnerships are apt to be early indicators of progress.

The fact that the company placed health care on such a high pedestal points to the premium Intel puts on its importance to future growth.

After all, there aren't too many industries that have been left behind by technology -- and if health care really is rife for a technology assist, then Intel might be in prime position to tap another vein for growth.

If there's one industry that doesn't seem quick to change, it's health care, and Intel is surely not the first technology player to see the benefit here. In Burns' own words: "The worst of the

health care system is the system itself."