Friday, October 5, 2007

Microsoft launches HealthVault - platform for the people

By Diana Manos, Senior Editor

10/04/07, Healthcare IT News

WASHNGTON – Microsoft today launched a new technology platform it bills as the answer to how consumers can best get a handle on their healthcare information – and share it.

Called Microsoft HealthVault, the technology not only has the support of healthcare providers, patient activists and device manufacturers, it also passes muster with one of the industry’s toughest privacy rights advocate Deborah Peel, MD, founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, one of 50 organizations that comprise the Coalition for Patient Privacy.

The company also unveiled a new search engine called Microsoft HealthVault Search.

The promise of HealthVault is that it will bring the health and technology industries together to create new applications, services and connected devices, said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group. People will be empowered to monitor anything from weight loss to diabetes, he said.

“People are concerned to find themselves at the center of the healthcare ecosystem today,” Neupert said, because they must navigate a complex web of disconnected interactions between providers, hospitals, insurance companies and even government agencies. Neupert added. “Our focus is simple: to empower people to lead healthy lives.”

He said the launch of HealthVault makes it possible for people to collect their private health information on their terms. Also, companies across the healthcare industry will be able to develop compatible tools and services built on the HealthVault platform.

Addressing concerns over privacy and security was critical to development and launch of HealthVault, Microsoft executives said. Peel said Microsoft is leading the way for the rest of the industry.

“Their model is that consumers truly should control the information and that’s the direction they want to take as a company,” said Peel. “We really think that because they are the industry leader that the rest of industry will have to follow or be left behind.”

“Microsoft has agreed to adhere to all of the privacy principles that the coalition developed in 2007, ” Peel said. “Not only adhere to them in terms of contracts but to be audited on these principles. We think they’re setting a new amazingly high bar and frankly, we think what they’re doing is really the best practice that the entire industry needs to follow.”

A Who’s Who of healthcare IT industry leaders seemed to have joined Microsoft for the hoopla in the nation’s capital. Microsoft announced 40 partners for HealthVault. Among them are the American Heart Association, Johnson & Johnson, Polar, maker of heart rate monitors, MedStar Health, a healthcare system that serves the Baltimore and Washington region, and Chicago-based Allscripts, developer of electronic health records.

According to Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman, Allscripts will be first to connect with HealthVault with its eRx Now, the Web-based electronic prescribing solution offered at no cost to physicians across the country as part of the National ePrescribing Patient Initiative, or NEPSI. HealthVault lets patients of eRx NOW physician users receive an electronic copy of their medication history, conditions, and allergies, which they can then transfer to their own personal health record or other HealthVault-enabled consumer health application.

Frank Opelka, MD, CEO of LSU Healthcare Network in New Orleans, said HealthVault was one more reason why doctors “should run, not walk, to embrace electronic prescribing through NEPSI and, on a broader scale, electronic health records.”

“What we are really talking about is connecting healthcare,” said Tullman. “It’s not enough to have good software, it’s got to be connected.”

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