Microsoft has entered the consumer health care market with a free personal health record on the Web («http://www.healthvault.com/»). HealthVault will store, collect, and distribute private health information that can be shared with a physician, a clinic, or a hospital. Information that can be shared includes what medications the individual takes and the results of blood pressure and cholesterol tests.
HealthVault will also house a search tool tailored for health queries. The personal information, Microsoft says, will be stored in a secure, encrypted database. Its privacy controls, the company says, are set entirely by the individual, including what information goes in and who gets to see it. The nonpersonal health information searches are anonymous, Microsoft says, and will not be linked to personal information in a HealthVault PHR. If a person looks for information on STDs, nobody else will know and no record of the search will be kept in the PHR.
"HealthVault could be the glue that can, we hope, bring together a person's disparate health care experiences, which can range from keeping a personal record, to talking to a doctor, getting a discharge report from a hospital and being able to keep that around, or getting an X-ray and being able to move it from specialist to specialist," says Sean Nolan, chief architect for the Microsoft Health Solutions Group. "The goal is to have all that data in one place."
When there is an interruption in a person's health coverage, such as when an employee changes jobs, "those types of events tend to disrupt a person's health care and continuity of care, so that's where HealthVault might play a part in managed care."