Current Events Healthcare IT

Microsoft’s Online Health Records

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the introduction of the online medical records system titled Health Vault. Online medical records would greatly increase productivity in the health care industry since:

  1. Patients would be able to have all their health care information in one spot.
  2. Moving from one state or country to another would not entail losing your medical records.
  3. Physicians would have a standardized way of recording patient data
  4. There would be no confusion with respect to messy physician hand writing.

The N.Y. Times states:

“The value of what we’re doing will go up rapidly as we get more partners,â€? said Peter Neupert, the vice president in charge of Microsoft’s health group…

The company hopes that individuals will give doctors, clinics and hospitals permission to submit information like medicines prescribed and data on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  Mr. Neupert said such data transfers would then be automatic, over the Internet, which is why the partnerships are so important.

Microsoft wisely decided to name to online medical system Health Vault. This is a shrewd strategic move because the major impediment to online medical records is patient privacy and information security.

This is where a paradox occurs. According to the Economist:

Sean Nolan of Microsoft explains that the business model depends on one thing: targeted search. Microsoft is betting that people will use its Health Vault Search to find out about their ailments. This service relies on an approach known as “vertical searchâ€? which attempts to provide more relevant results than generalist search engines like Google and Yahoo! by specialising in a particular field. The firm’s recent acquisition of Medstory, a vertical-search engine focusing on health care, has given it a boost in this area.

Health Vault’s search engine would definitely work better than those of rival sites if it could examine users’ health records and past queries, and thus provide the responses that are most relevant to each individual’s situation. But in order to attract any users in the first place, Microsoft has promised to enforce strict privacy rules. These, says Mr Nolan, would preclude such data-mining.

More coverage is available here: