Microsoft Unveils No-Cost Online Health Care Tools
Microsoft on Thursday launched a secure Web site that allows users to store and to share their personal health records at no cost, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The Web site, called HealthVault, allows users to store their medical histories, records of immunizations, and information about glucose and cholesterol levels (Mintz, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/5).
Users can download medical information, such as laboratory results or X-rays, from the Web sites of their health care providers or data from digital devices such as glucometers and store the data on HealthVault (Rampell, Washington Post, 10/5). In addition, HealthVault allows users to provide access to parts of their PHRs to physicians, family members and others through e-mail invitations (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/5).
Users also can send parts of their PHRs to partnered applications on other Web sites, such as an application on the American Heart Association site that analyzes information on blood pressure levels (Washington Post, 10/5). Microsoft plans to support HealthVault through revenue from advertisements from a health information search engine linked with the Web site (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/5).
Microsoft, which has sought to convince members of the health care industry to develop applications on their Web sites and devices that work with HealthVault, said that more than 40 organizations have agreed to participate (Guth, Wall Street Journal, 10/5).
Peter Neupert, a vice president for the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft, said, "The value of what we're doing will go up rapidly as we get more partners" (Lohr, New York Times, 10/5).
Privacy advocates and consumers raised concerns that storage of PHRs on HealthVault could expose the information to hackers and others, but Microsoft officials said that the company has worked with experts over the past several years to ensure the security of the Web site (Washington Post, 10/5).
Steve Shihadeh, general manager for the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft, said, "It's the patient's data, and no one else can see it" (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 10/5). In addition, he said, "We won't mine for data. We won't sell their data," adding, "I think we're really raising the bar awfully high for privacy. All the data is secured in one place in a locked-down data center with the best security capabilities available" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5).
Deborah Peel -- founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, which helped develop HealthVault -- said that the "revolutionary thing about HealthVault is that it gives consumers complete control over their records and guarantees no one can access that information without their consent" (Washington Post, 10/5). "Microsoft is setting an industry standard for privacy," Peel said (New York Times, 10/5).
"We live in an era that has seen our knowledge of medical science and treatment expand at a speed that is without precedent in human history," but, "for all the progress we've made, our system for delivering medical care is clearly in crisis," Microsoft Chair Bill Gates writes in a Journal opinion piece. "At the heart of the problem is the fragmented nature of the way health information is created and collected," Gates writes.
He writes that "increased digitization of health care information alone will not solve the problems we face," adding, "What we need is to place people at the very center of the health care system and put them in control of all of their health information." According to Gates, an "Internet-based health care network," such as HealthVault, "will undoubtedly improve the quality of medical care and lower costs by encouraging the use of evidence-based medicine, reducing medical errors and eliminating redundant medical tests."
Use of such technology "can make us all agents for change, capable of pushing for the one thing we all really care about: a medical system that focuses on our lifelong health and prioritizes prevention as much as it does treatment," he writes. Gates concludes that such technology "can be a powerful catalyst for change, here in the U.S. and in countries around the globe where access to medical professionals is limited and where better availability of health care information could help improve the lives of millions of people" (Gates, Wall Street Journal, 10/5).
American Public Media's "Marketplace" on Thursday reported on HealthVault. The segment includes comments from Peter Waegemann, CEO of the Medical Records Institute, and Steve Waldren, director of the Center for Health Information Technology at the American Academy of Family Physicians (Napoli, "Marketplace," American Public Media, 10/4). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online.
CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Thursday also reported on HealthVault. The segment includes comments from Neupert and Eric Brown of Forrester Research (Coombs, "Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 10/4). Video of the segment is available online.