Microsoft Looks to Bring Health Records Online

Microsoft said Thursday that it had launched a new service called HealthVault, which will allow consumers to manage their health information online. The site does not fall under Microsoft's Windows Live branding, and is currently beta.

The offering looks fairly similar to that of Revolution Health, a venture led by AOL co-founder Steve Case. Like HealthVault, that service offers a centralized online location to manage healthcare information.

Eventually, the company wants to make a user's medical records available through the application, while at the same time respecting the privacy of the patient. Users would have full control over who sees their medical information, Microsoft said.

HealthVault will be provided at no charge to the consumer and will be ad-supported.

"The launch of HealthVault makes it possible for people to collect their private health information on their terms and for companies across the health industry to deliver compatible tools and services built on the HealthVault platform," Health Solutions Group head Peter Neupert said.

A search engine on the site is based upon Live Search technology, and would also eventually help to connect the user with HealthVault-compatible services.

Microsoft has secured support from a broad range of companies spanning some 40 different applications. They include various interest groups, health device makers, and even some hospitals.

It's not yet clear, however, if customers will trust Microsoft with their medical data, or any other provider for that matter. But many say that bringing medical records online is an important step in improving healthcare overall.

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