The Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the Affordable Health Care Act will likely benefit the technology industry, from computer services providers like Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) to medical electronics makers like Agilent Technologies (NYSE: A).
IBM's Watson supercomputer beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a 2011 competition of "Jeopardy!" Now it's at Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center in New York doing cancer research.
The reason is that hospitals, medical centers and doctors' offices are using more and more technology products in what's estimated to be a $2 trillion annual sector. Physicians used to NMR scanners and the latest electrocardiogram machines aren't going to scrap them.
Several of the biggest technology companies, such as International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), the No. 1 database developer, declined to furnish official comments before the announcement Thursday.
But they and others like HP and Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), the No. 3 PC maker, and speciality companies will gain more ground in one sector where they're doing well: digitizing medical records. That was one of the top priorities set by President Barack Obama. They may also gain as demand for technology will grow as an increasing number of individuals will have health coverage.
Many doctors' offices contain thousands of paper patient files, stored in manila folders, which are filed by hand. A doctor can't easily share data with a local hospital, much less another doctor across the country, this way.
That's why the biggest companies in the field, as well as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), the No. 1 Internet equipment provider, and private company Infor, which includes Lawson Software, a specialist in handling patient care, have bet heavily on medicine and worked closely with hospitals and universities.
Devices makers, including PerkinElmer Inc. (NYSE: PKI); Thermo Fisher Sciences (NYSE: TMO); and Becton, Dickinson (NYSE: BDX); as well as specialists in certain fields such as Pall Corp. (NYSE: PLL), which specializes in life sciences filters and blood and drug purification; and Affymetrix (Nasdaq: AFFX), which devised the gene chip, probably will benefit as well.
Through Wednesday, the NYSE Healthcare Index, which is comprised mainly of providers, had gained 4 percent this year and nearly 3 percent for the past 52 weeks. The Nasdaq Computer Index had gained 12 percent for 2012 and more than 14 percent for the past year.
Meanwhile, the broader Nasdaq Composite Index, a broader base of companies that includes Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), the No. 1 chipmaker, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), the world's most valuable technology company, and many other technology companies had risen 10.3 percent this year, but only 7 percent since June 2011.
Physicians have been using iPads since they were introduced two years ago for patients to input their information. As more products come in this sector, such as the Surface from Microsoft and the Nexus 7 from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), there's reason to believe this side of technology will benefit greatly.
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