Microsoft Corp. yesterday introduced a Web site designed to give users the ability to keep track of confidential medical information.
Microsoft’s HealthVault is a free site connected to a health information search engine the company introduced last month. Users have access to a repository of health-related information and their medical histories, such as immunizations and records from doctor and hospital visits.
The company made a point to address privacy issues, which often are raised where health information technology is concerned.
The concept of a personalized health record is not new. During the 1990s Internet company boom, companies offering an electronic option for storing medical information came and went. And WebMD has been a Web site with health information for years. The difference, observers say, is that Microsoft has the ability to build relationships with outside groups that will eventually lead to an integrated system.
“Microsoft understands the concept of platforms,” said Mark Bard, president of Manhattan Research, a policy research firm in New York. “The concept is not new. But by taking the time to build relationships to share information, it has a chance. There’s not much point in having electronic health information if it’s not shared.”
HealthVault targets health care organizations, such as hospitals and insurance companies, some of which have been slow adopters of new health information technology such as HealthVault. The goal of the Web site is to connect the entire health care system over the Internet, said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft.
To make the process less onerous, Microsoft has teamed with Allscripts Healthcare Solutions so that hospitals and physicians already using ubiquitous electronic prescribing software, made by Allscripts, can easily send files over the Web to HealthVault.
However, Microsoft’s biggest challenge will be getting insurance companies to participate.
“Right now the lack of insurance companies is a gaping hole,” Mr. Bard said. “They will come on once HealthVault’s market is big enough.”
While Microsoft works on connecting hospitals, doctors and insurance companies, outside organizations including the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association will provide applications that consumers will be able to access on the HealthVault platform.
Johnson & Johnson, for example, has created a blood-glucose-monitoring application that people can access on the Web site, Microsoft said.
Microsoft follows a similar initiative started last year by a nonprofit consortium of large employers.
The group’s goal is to provide personal health records for their employees, dependents and retirees.
The founding companies are Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Intel Corp., Pitney Bowes, Applied Materials Inc., Cardinal Health Inc. and BP America Inc.
They were joined recently by AT&T and Sanofi-Aventis.