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

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link its network to HealthVault. Also, Kaiser Permanente, the Oakland, CA-based managed care giant, has an online patient portal that enables its members to access their personal health information.

Exact numbers of HealthVault users are difficult to come by, because Microsoft doesn’t release such information. Neupert declined a request to be interviewed at last week’s meeting. HealthVault was launched in October 2007 with much fanfare. Microsoft’s model for the offering has been to provide a secured repository for patient data kept in HealthVault (as the name suggests) and to make its platform open for independent software outfits to develop applications to offer patients multiple options for managing their health online. There are more than 100 apps for HealthVault, and the platform connects with more than 50 types of devices, Neupert said.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, for example, has a HealthVault app that allows patients to store their electronic records from the hospital in their own personal health record. (The same app from Beth Israel appears to be available for Google Health, and the app contributors to both platforms that I’ve talked to such as Myca Health and MedApps sounded equally agnostic about the two.) Also, the Center for Connected Health is developing an app for HealthVault that is intended to help diabetics track their blood sugar and share such information with their physicians. It may still take years for patients to easily access their lab results and other health data on the Web, but whether that number of years is two or 12 isn’t really clear.

“We’re not too close yet with a real value proposition of, ‘What do I do with this information now that I have it,’” said Roni Zeiger, product manager of Google Health. Many of the folks who have opened Google Health accounts, he said, tend to be anal-retentive types who like having all their health information neatly organized in one place “just in case.” But there was consensus among the Google, Microsoft, and WebMD representatives that the average person is going to need something more than a place to keep his records to motivate him to sign up for a personal health record account.

In fact, much is uncertain about the future of personal health records. Will Google and Microsoft’s platforms, both of which offer open standards for developers to build healthcare apps, emerge as the winners? Will WebMD, which does not allow an open format for app development, eventually find itself at a competitive disadvantage? Perhaps the right approach for success hasn’t yet arrived. Neupert noted that even though AOL was successful for a time, the media and services company eventually took a back seat to its Internet competitors with superior business models.

So we’ll have to wait and see how successfully Microsoft and its competitors navigate these early days in the online personal health data business.

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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.