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Microsoft Web Site Allows People To Safely Store, Manage Medical Records

Armen Hareyan's picture

Microsoft on Thursday launched a secure Web site that allows users to store and to share their personal health records at no cost, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Web site, called HealthVault,allows users to store their medical histories, records ofimmunizations, and information about glucose and cholesterol levels(Mintz, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/5).

Userscan download medical information, such as laboratory results or X-rays,from the Web sites of their health care providers or data from digitaldevices such as glucometers and store the data on HealthVault (Rampell,Washington Post,10/5). In addition, HealthVault allows users to provide access to partsof their PHRs to physicians, family members and others through e-mailinvitations (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/5).

Users also can send parts of their PHRs to partnered applications on other Web sites, such as an application on the American Heart Association site that analyzes information on blood pressure levels (Washington Post,10/5). Microsoft plans to support HealthVault through revenue fromadvertisements from a health information search engine linked with theWeb site (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/5).

Microsoft,which has sought to convince members of the health care industry todevelop applications on their Web sites and devices that work withHealthVault, said that more than 40 organizations have agreed toparticipate (Guth, Wall Street Journal, 10/5). PeterNeupert, a vice president for the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft,said, "The value of what we're doing will go up rapidly as we get morepartners" (Lohr, New York Times, 10/5).

Privacy Concerns

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Privacy advocates and consumers raised concerns that storage of PHRs onHealthVault could expose the information to hackers and others, butMicrosoft officials said that the company has worked with experts overthe past several years to ensure the security of the Web site (Washington Post, 10/5).

SteveShihadeh, general manager for the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft,said, "It's the patient's data, and no one else can see it" (Girion, Los Angeles Times,10/5). In addition, he said, "We won't mine for data. We won't selltheir data," adding, "I think we're really raising the bar awfully highfor privacy. All the data is secured in one place in a locked-down datacenter with the best security capabilities available" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5).

Deborah Peel -- founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation,which helped develop HealthVault -- said that the "revolutionary thingabout HealthVault is that it gives consumers complete control overtheir records and guarantees no one can access that information withouttheir consent" (Washington Post, 10/5). "Microsoft is setting an industry standard for privacy," Peel said (New York Times, 10/5).

Gates Opinion Piece

"We live in an era that has seen our knowledge of medical science andtreatment expand at a speed that is without precedent in humanhistory," but, "for all the progress we've made, our system fordelivering medical care is clearly in crisis," Microsoft Chair BillGates writes in a Journal opinion piece. "At the heart ofthe problem is the fragmented nature of the way health information iscreated and collected," Gates writes.

He writes that"increased digitization of health care information alone will not solvethe problems we face," adding, "What we need is to place people at thevery center of the health care system and put them in control of all oftheir health information." According to Gates, an "Internet-basedhealth care network," such as HealthVault, "will undoubtedly improvethe quality of medical care and lower costs by encouraging the use ofevidence-based medicine, reducing medical errors and eliminatingredundant medical tests."

Use of such technology "can make usall agents for change, capable of pushing for the one thing we allreally care about: a medical system that focuses on our lifelong healthand prioritizes prevention as much as it does treatment," he writes.Gates concludes that such technology "can be a powerful catalyst forchange, here in the U.S. and in countries around the globe where accessto medical professionals is limited and where better availability ofhealth care information could help improve the lives of millions ofpeople" (Gates, Wall Street Journal, 10/5).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.