Microsoft launches HealthVault data system

Microsoft launched a new initiative called HealthVault this morning, including a free online service that the company envisions consumers using to store and selectively share their health-care records with medical providers. The company says it wants to start eliminating the inefficiencies and complexities in current systems of medical record-keeping. Microsoft says the system will be secure and private, and it will let users choose how and with whom they share the information.

Even so, as noted in much of the initial coverage, it’s not clear whether consumers will feel comfortable keeping their personal medical information and files in Microsoft’s online service. HealthVault uses the Windows Live ID log-in system, the successor to Passport.

That, combined with the data-repository aspect, may remind some people of the company’s ill-fated Hailstorm system.

But Microsoft says it’s not trying to use HealthVault to lock people into its technology. Here’s the response I received after asking for specifics about the underlying software platform and data system.

HealthVault automatically imports and exports between standards that are meaningful in the healthcare industry, such as WC3 eXtensible Markup Language (XML), HL7 Continuity of Care Document (CCD), ASTM Continuity of Care Record (CCR.), Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) and Common Connectivity Device. As well, the HealthVault API is accessible from any modern programming environment, including but not limited to Microsoft .NET, Win32, Java, PHP and more. It’s important to note that Microsoft built a platform that can be adapted to work with any health data standard. In the future Microsoft anticipates being able to communicate with any widely-used health information protocol.”

Microsoft is also launching a related medical search site called HealthVault Search. In addition, the company has lined up independent software and hardware developers to make programs and devices that work in conjunction with the HealthVault system.

Here’s an excerpt from remarks by Peter Neupert, corporate vice president in the company’s Health Solutions Group, during the event where Microsoft unveiled the plan.

“The real promise is can we connect all of the providers, all of the hospitals, all of the imaging labs, so that it’s easy like today, banking is easy. … We can connect all of these (health-care) providers. It is possible to make it easy for people to take their data from the source data providers, and put it in a simple area where they can manage it.”

Microsoft says the HealthVault service will be free to users, physicians, software developers and health plans. So what’s in it for the company, financially? For that, Microsoft is looking to the search-related portion of the initiative.

“The way we make money is by encouraging online activity, and through our search application,” Neupert said. “We know that search is a big business, it’s an important tool, it’s where consumers are today. And by growing the overall search market and delivering more value to consumers, and delivering a better end-to-end search experience, that’s where we can make our money to support this effort.”

It will be interesting to hear what everyone thinks of this.

Related: Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNet News.com.

Source : http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/2007/10/04/microsoft-launches-healthvault-data-system/

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