Microsoft to pilot a consumer health records management system

Just a few weeks after Google's release of its personal health care record tools, Microsoft has launched a pilot of its competing HealthVault platform, conducted with the help of the largest HMO in the US.

Announced this week at Microsoft's HealthVault conference, the new pilot will test the exchange of patient health data between My Health Manager, the existing electronic record program of Oakland-based HMO Kaiser Permanente, and HealthVault, a cloud-based, consumer-oriented health records system launched by Microsoft last October.

Microsoft's test will use the health records of Kaiser Permanente employees who also hold policies with the health insurance provider.

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Last month's announcement of the availability of Google's health record tools followed a pilot by Google with more than 1,600 patients at the Cleveland Clinic. Patients volunteering for Google's test agreed to allow their health data to be integrated into Google's online health profiles.

In March of this year, Microsoft augmented its own HealthVault with the announcement of Amalga, a new family of third-party healthcare software covering clinical, operational, and financial applications.

Also at the HealthVault conference this week, a number of Microsoft healthcare partners unveiled specific third-party applications, including CapMed, Orbital Technologies, and Kryptiq, for instance.

In a Q&A session this spring, Steve Aylward, general manager for Microsoft's US Health and Life Sciences Group, focused on "familiarity" as a key strength for Microsoft versus Google and other rivals in the e-health records business.

"The familiarity of Microsoft technology can really help healthcare organizations and governments -- the largest healthcare providers in the world -- to increase their efficiency and accuracy, and thereby reduce errors in utilizing their existing technologies," Aylward said.

Despite the passage of HIPAA during the 1990s, the privacy of health care information remains a big issue these days among consumers and legislators. With its HealthVault platform, though, Microsoft is apparently well aware of people's concerns.

"In order for us to think about how does our brand extend to being a custodian of people's private health information, we really had to think through the privacy issues, the security issues, the trust issues, and what were the means by which we could be an effective custodian to do that," said Peter Neupert, corporate VP of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group, in a recent appearance at the Internet Caucus State of the Net Conference in Washington.

Other vendors working in the area of e-health records include IBM, Verizon, WebMD, and AOL founder Steve Case's Revolution.

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