Microsoft and Its Competitors Still In Search of Mainstream User Base for Personal Health Records

Xconomy Boston — 

Microsoft hasn’t yet attracted the millions of patients it would like to its personal health data service, HealthVault, says Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of the company’s Health Solutions Group. Though HealthVault and other products like Google Health that enable patients to store their health information online are free and available to anyone with Internet access, there appear to be many hurdles to clear before the use of such products becomes mainstream.

Neupert, along with his counterparts from Google Health and WebMD, was in Boston last Thursday to discuss personal health data platforms at the annual Connected Health Symposium, which was hosted by Boston-based Partners HealthCare’s Center for Connected Health. Despite the slow adoption rates of personal electronic health records indicated by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), the companies may find themselves on the right side of history if the masses decide to own and manage personal health data online. Indeed, there has been lots of talk in Washington, DC, and elsewhere about moving healthcare toward a more patient-focused model, and one of the likely requirements for doctors in the U.S. to qualify for nearly $20 billion in federal incentives for adopting electronic medical records systems is to give patients access to personal health information.

But there are some big barriers in the way of patients adopting personal health records such as HealthVault and Google Health. Phil Marshal, a vice president of WebMD (NASDAQ:WBMD), said that he and his competitors have to make patients trust the provider of the record service, communicate well to patients, and ensure that the person finds value in the service. “I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said. And he noted that WebMD has been in the personal health information business since 1999. (Personal health records, of course, are among many online health resources that WebMD provides.) Another hurdle is that a patient typically can’t easily connect her personal health record to the health data kept in her doctors’ office, in part because many of their doctors aren’t connected to health information networks that enable them to transfer information.

“The steps needed to get millions and millions of users [of personal health records] are first to get providers connected,” Neupert said.

The technology certainly exists to integrate personal health records with providers, pharmacies, health insurers, and other stakeholders in healthcare. Microsoft’s Amalga technology stack, for example, includes tools that enable hospitals and public health agencies to share health data over a network, and I’m told that at least one regional health information network that uses Amalga is considering a project to … Next Page »

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5 responses to “Microsoft and Its Competitors Still In Search of Mainstream User Base for Personal Health Records”

  1. Part of the problem with getting people involved is the total paradigm shift that is going on with healthcare with more being shifted to the patient in getting involved, and of course training.

    People are not flocking to get a personal health record started as they don’t quite understand the process and why. We need to train at every level. We don’t hear of any mentors touting their use, or very little to say the least.

    I have addressed this many times over on my own blog and have over 200 posts on personal health records with many “how to’s” even and tried to build a resource to help people get started.

    If there is little or no participation at the consumer level, it’s difficult to see the value. There has also been a flourish of many new offerings of personal health records that adds to the confusion, which one should I choose. Medical devices that report and collect data are also entering the system for both EHRs and PHRs and how to use them, and where is your data going? This item also has consumers very concerned and presents yet another level of questions.

    How are the devices used and who gets the data, big question and again I have written about many of them as drug and insurance companies are pushing for compliance on taking medications and could this data have adverse affects with being covered with insurance claims.

    Dr. Crounse from Microsoft wrote about the “training” needed for MDs and I took this one step forward to talk about every level needing training and education with personal health records. I have had the discussion about personal health records with executives at hospitals that say “huh” when I bring up the subject.

    We have two big battles here, educating consumers and also the big item of “trust” as consumers are being hit from all angles on this issue with new offerings outside of Google Health and HealthVault appearing every week.

  2. Federal funding may be encouraging a move toward EHR, but there’s more to it than just installing systems. How can healthcare data pooling lead to a better system? More at

  3. Robin says:

    Its like anything. There isn’t any money in it unless it can be centralized and owned, therefore there is no motivation to produce software for decentralized health records, which is why even though Donald Lindbergh, Director of NLM, believes that people’s health records ought to be in their possession, stored in jump drives and not in massive repositories, it won’t happen.

  4. I believe Google/MS model is better than Web MD and other PHR companies. Just imagine iPhone without any apps. The same model is being adapted here. Once you open up your platform, creativity of the masses kicks in and thousands of apps will be developed in no time.