Rapid Access International, Inc.
Health reform is an important topic in the United States. Part of that reform is the conversion of personal health records (PHR) to a digital format and providing access to those records through online management systems. Microsoft and Google have taken a lead in this area, though Google has recently dropped out of competition, leaving Microsoft’s HealthVault as the leader in the online Personal Health Records (PHR) arena. The concept behind portals such as HealthVault is to enable individuals to take control of the management of their own personal health records. There is also a movement to track an individual’s fitness records (such as in the case of physical therapy for older patients or persons who have been injured, for example).
Microsoft HealthVault, was launched in October 2007 and has gone through a number of changes as well as competition from firms such as Google. HealthVault is a free personal health record or PHR service developed by Microsoft. The system allows individuals and consumers to store personal health and fitness information in a central location. The Web-based service is available to anyone with a Microsoft account.
Once the client is logged in, users then enter basic health information (such as allergies to any medicines or plants, medical conditions, family health history, and current medications), emergency contact information and a variety of health information and statistics (such as height, weight and blood pressure). The patient can then choose to share this information with other people, including physicians as well as family members. For the elderly, this is particularly helpful since other family members can help with the management of the elderly person’s health records and interactions with the doctors or pharmacies.
A key point for the PHR automation is to make sure data is available to physicians at any location in real time. This means a patient does not have to request their medical records from their hospital each time they travel or need medical assistance in a different system. All of the information is available in a secured environment on the web with a strong level of encryption to prevent hacking or identify theft. HealthVault also does not allow the patient to alter or change their health information or diagnoses from a doctor or health practitioner. The data is safe and secure and not able to be tampered with.
A big problem is the aggregation of the data from various sources and document formats. There are X-Ray charts and other information that need to be included along with textual or written content in the health information provided to a patient. This information must be made available online no matter where the patient resides and also needs to be made available at all times. Many people travel now on business or otherwise and if they need their health information while they are on the road it is critical they can access their health information from anywhere at any time.
Billing to the insurance company for faster processing of claims is also automated and more efficient under at PHR system such as HealthVault.
Another trend is tying personal health information to other data repositories such as information collected by schools. By tying information on a child’s healthcare with information on their performance in schools (such as grades, attendance, etc.) – new patterns begin to emerge to help doctors more accurately help their patients. Other topics being researched in this area include childhood obesity, diabetes, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, and other important issues.
In addition to HealthVault which is the repository for personal healthcare records of patients and focuses on consumers or private individuals, Microsoft also has a product called Amalga, which is a health intelligence platform for enterprises or companies.
The model for building cloud-based or hosted medical information portals can be licensed in multiple markets for different communities or countries. For example, in the US the Veteran’s Administration (VA) operates a separate military-focused health portal to manage medical records of soldiers in the battlefield or who are members of the armed forces. This program is separate from commercial HealthVault programs for the consumer market.
Microsoft is in the process of licensing their healthcare model to other countries. Microsoft announced plans to license HealthVault to a Chinese IT company called ISoftStone Information Technology, as the new personal health portal for the Chinese market. In Germany, Microsoft licensed HealthVault to Siemens. In Canada, Microsoft is working with Telus and there are further plans to target additional markets in Europe in partnership with Telus.
The real opportunity is for service providers and technology companies to partner with Microsoft to add further functionality and features to the HealthVault portal. Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp) entered into a strategic relationship that will enable eLabCorp healthcare providers to electronically export laboratory test results directly to their patients’ HealthVault records.
eLabCorp connects directly with HealthVault and provides innovative online services to their patients. Once test results from eLabCorp are stored in the patient’s HealthVault record, the patient will be able to accurately track historical test results and share that information with treating physicians and family members or caretakers.
There is a need for a variety of other health systems, services and devices (such as scales, pedometers and heart rate monitors) to provide additional value. One example in the US is My CVS/pharmacy Prescriptions, which allows users to link prescription information directly to their HealthVault accounts. Pharmaceutical companies are a big part of the HealthVault experience and patients can more easily manage their drug prescriptions through automated dispensing via electronic files and order processing.
HealthVault is looking for new technology partners and has a process in place to review applications from companies that want to work with HealthVault. Japan’s Omron is already a partner according to the HealthVault website: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/healthvault/
and there are a number of products and services needed by healthvault to support their patients including home monitoring equipment such as: blood pressure monitoring, blood glucose monitoring (for diabetes patients), mood monitoring (for patients who might be depressed), heart rate monitors, etc. This might be a good business opportunity for Japanese technology firms to introduce their products into the global medical market.
Security and the protection of data is obviously the biggest concern for consumers of HealthVault. There is a concern over identity theft or the possibility that a computer hacker will somehow access a patient’s private health information. A Microsoft representative we spoke with said that the level of encryption is strong and this should not be a worry.
Major Players in PHR Automation:
For a listing of major vendors working with Microsoft to support HealthVault and provide products and services, see:
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