Microsoft launches health care platform

Microsoft rolled out a software and services platform Oct. 4 aimed at connecting physicians, patients and their records across a unified platform.

Microsoft hopes its new HealthVault platform, based on compatible Internet and health care technology standards, will eliminate the need for organizations to spend development time working to connect a range of applications and devices. Instead, they can create new applications, services and connected devices that deliver solutions that focus on care delivery, said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft.

"People are concerned to find themselves at the center of the health care ecosystem today because they must navigate a complex web of disconnected interactions between providers, hospitals, insurance companies and even government agencies," Neupert said. "We can connect them all."

HealthVault, Neupert said, would help "drive the cost out of health care" by connecting all the stakeholders and allowing them to share information. Moreover, Neupert insisted, is HealthVault's potential to "empower people to lead healthy lives."

Through the platform and its vendors and developers, Neupert said users could monitor their personal health information, including weight loss and disease management, such as for diabetes.

"HealthVault looks to us a wonderful tool to let better manage their health," said Dan Jones, president of the American Heart Association.

The platform is free for consumers, physicians and application developers. Neupert said Microsoft plans to make money through advertising on its HealthVault search engine, which is integrated with Live Search and accessible through the HealthVault site.

The new vertical search engine, Neupert said, allows people to refine searches faster with more accuracy and that it eventually connects them with HealthVault compatible solutions.

HealthVault also won a major endorsement from Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation.

"Microsoft is the first major technology company to engage with the bipartisan Coalition for Patient Privacy in a serious way," she said. "The privacy protections built into HealthVault reflect the privacy principles of the Coalition."

HealthVault prohibits onward transfer of data without explicit informed consent and its contractual obligations with advertisers require protection of any data transferred from the platform.

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"That means consumers finally have a trusted place to store their personal health information that will not be data-mined, because they alone control it. Microsoft's use of strong privacy principles including the principles of the Coalition, its ongoing relationship with consumer advocates, and its commitment to independent third-party audits set a new standard for privacy protections in health information technology."

Neupert added that the overall business model for the platform could change but Microsoft thinks that by "putting a stake in the ground, it's a start."

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