HealthVault: Can Microsoft's Personal Health Records System Change the Face of Healthcare?

Microsoft's new system to track personal health information aims to make it easy for patients to manage their health care. The program must overcome privacy concerns and win buy-in from many different players.

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Francois de Brantes, national coordinator for Bridges to Excellence, a health care quality reform organization, also thinks Microsoft’s HealthVault has the potential to have a profound effect. “One of the things that excites me about Microsoft’s HealthVault is that they’ve made inroads with provider organizations.” Adoption of HealthVault, he thinks, could serve to both push the electronic record discussion forward, as well as push legal issues around health information ownership.

All that hinges on what kind of buy-in HealthVault gets. If users do not trust in HealthVault’s privacy and security safeguards, Microsoft will be facing an uphill battle. "A trusted third-party [to using PHRs] is key. The consumer views of Microsoft are somewhat negative," says Contino, adding that "a lot of other companies will have the same problem." Contino guesses a trusted third-party will be a hospital or medical provider, as opposed to an insurer or software company.

Reese agrees that a trusted electronic health information system will come from hospitals and healthcare providers. However, he does think that software giant’s presence in the personal health records space may push forward the discussion of electronic health records more generally. “Microsoft in this space might get the conversation up on the national landscape,” he says. However, “it’s in no way a sustaining step.”

John Glaser, CIO at Partners Healthcare, says Microsoft’s entry into this space is “an interesting move. The personal health record is a complicated space and we are still learning about the importance of these applications, the provider willingness to integrate with them and consumer desire to have one.”

Ray Campbell, CEO of Massachusetts Health Data Consortium, comprised of key New England health care organizations and which provides comparative data and promotes electronic standards, echoes that cautiousness, “The Microsoft announcement is—like every other personal health record announcement—just an announcement. There are a lot of people with a lot of faith in personal health records, but nobody has been able to convince patients of the value of using an online system. My attitude is to wait and see what the adoption numbers look like.”

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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