Microsoft’s HealthVault Lets Consumers Stash Vital Records Online

Microsoft has introduced HealthVault, a portal for consumers in which they can store their health data — either manually or by uploading data from, say, a heart monitor — as well as search for related healthcare information.

The portal includes an online component and client software called the “HealthVault Connection Center” — a utility that communicates with the component and delivers information uploaded from health-related devices such as heart-rate and blood pressure monitors.

“It is a completely new way for people to manage their health information and to learn about topics that are important to them,” Lee Shapiro, president of Allscripts, told TechNewsWorld. Allscripts, a provider of clinical software, connectivity and information solutions for physicians, is a partner participating in the project.

The typical records Microsoft envisions being stored in the portal range from fitness-related activities to basic measurements, such as blood glucose and blood pressure, discharge summaries from hospitalizations, lab results, medications and health history.

Armed with this data in one place, consumers can more easily research issues that relate to their health concerns, Shapiro said.

“Let’s say I am a diabetic and have high blood pressure. I might want to narrow my search to look at health problems that can be exacerbated by the combination of both of these diseases.”

Privacy Issues

In its rollout, Microsoft took care to address the natural concerns about privacy surrounding such an initiative. This data could be easily seen as a mother lode of riches by class action attorneys, insurance companies or hackers capitalizing on the growing trend of medical identification theft.

Microsoft designed the service around encryption technologies and its work flow processes are based on best practices in privacy policies, winning it an endorsement from the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation.

However, there are a number of potential pitfalls that could send the data into the wrong hands, including unsecure PCs on which the consumers would first store their health data before transferring it to the HealthVault and the question of how much of the data will be accessible to the partners and the steps they will take to protect it.

The Convenience Factor

Microsoft clearly believes more consumers will be charmed by the convenience of having their data in one spot and by the value add services that Microsoft is also bringing to the table.

For its part, the HealthVault should deliver a needed boost to Microsoft’s own platform of Web sites and services. To use the HealthVault, consumers are asked to enter an e-mail address and password, or rather, their Windows Live ID or your Microsoft Passport Network credentials.

After the person creates his Windows Live ID, he can use the same credentials to sign in to other Microsoft sites, as well as those of Microsoft partners that display the Windows Live ID or Microsoft Passport Network logos.

“By signing in to one Microsoft site or service, you may be automatically signed in when you visit other Microsoft sites and services,” Microsoft explains.

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