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HealthVault Update Continues Microsoft Investment in Electronic Medical Records

by Richard Seroter on Oct 12, 2011 |

Microsoft HealthVault, the web-based solution launched in 2007 for electronic medical records, recently released new capabilities for end users and platform developers. This release introduced incremental changes to a maturing offering in this emerging area of healthcare IT.

Individuals can use HealthVault to organize the medical and fitness records for themselves and their families. These records may include drug prescription history, physician interactions, and information uploaded from medical devices such as heart monitors. Personal health information can be selectively shared with family members, physicians or other interested parties. The platform supports diverse identity providers such as Windows Live ID, Facebook and certain OpenID-compliant vendors.

Microsoft encourages developers and device makers to leverage this platform to build diverse user experiences and devices for capturing and viewing personal health information. A HealthVault developer portal exists to help developers exploit either the Software Developer Kit (SDK) to build health-related applications or the Device Driver Developer Kit (DDK) for building device drivers. The 1109 release in September 2011 includes new capabilities in the area of emergency preparedness, mapping of alternative system IDs, and both new and updated data types. Of particular interest, users of HealthVault can now share a read-only version of their emergency profile by sharing a temporary access code.

The 1105 release from May of 2011 was a bit more substantial. In addition to the already-existing SDKs for client applications built in .NET, Ruby, Java, PHP and Python, the HealthVault team released a mobile experience and toolkits for Windows Phone, iOS and Android. They also improved the Single Sign On experience and enhanced the offline connectivity story. HealthVault makes use of the industry standard, XML-based, Continuity of Care Document (CCD) and Continuity of Care Record (CCR) formats and the 1105 release of HealthVault supported better reconciliation of data uploaded in those formats.

Microsoft was well-served by their investment in interoperable CCD and CCR formats when one of their leading competitors bowed out of the electronic medical records space earlier this year. Google Health, launched in 2008, will be shut down by Google in January of 2012. Microsoft pounced on Google’s departure from the market and has a web page dedicated to Google Health users who wish to migrate their data in CCR format to HealthVault. Microsoft also provided a long blog post wooing Google Health developers and encouraging them to build applications on the HealthVault platform.

Google’s departure from this space leaves Microsoft’s HealthVault as a leading provider of electronic medical records. However, in Google’s blog post announcing the retirement of Google Health, the company provided a fair warning to other providers who expect significant near-term adoption or revenue from their offering. Google says:

Now, with a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would. There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people.

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