Microsoft says it will enable users of the soon-to-be-defunct Google Health service to transfer their data to Microsoft's HealthVault PHR (personal health record) platform using the federal government's Direct Project messaging protocols.
The Direct Project is the Obama administration's effort to provide a simple and secure way for people to exchange authenticated, encrypted health information over the Internet.
On June 24 Google revealed that it would discontinue Google Health as of Jan. 1, 2012, and customers could still access their data until Jan. 1, 2013.
About 300 applications and 70 devices connect to HealthVault, which allows consumers to monitor health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and asthma, and record the data in an online account. Devices that connect to HealthVault include blood-pressure monitors, blood-glucose monitors and weight scales.
Microsoft announced Feb. 2 that it would integrate encrypted email functionality into HealthVault using DirectProject's security protocols.
Google Health customers can send their profiles to HealthVault as an encrypted message by selecting "Send profile to another service" and choosing HealthVault, according to Microsoft, which announced the arrangement on July 18 and posted instructions on its Website.
Microsoft is also inviting developers who have designed applications for Google Health to migrate their software to HealthVault.
"Google has been an important ally in providing customers with access to their data and tools to better manage care online," Nate McLemore, general manager for Microsoft's Health Solutions group, said in a statement. "Microsoft continues to advance the HealthVault platform to increase its value to consumers-by adding important features, such as support for mobile devices, and by collaborating with hundreds of health organizations, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and CVS Pharmacy-to deliver robust health and wellness applications that connect to HealthVault."
Tech industry experts have said Microsoft benefits in the PHR space by having both Amalga on the enterprise side and HealthVault on the consumer side. Amalga is Microsoft's unified enterprise health platform for storing and retrieving many types of health records. It allows hospital systems to combine health data in disparate formats into a single platform.
HealthVault is better positioned than Google was because it will be able to integrate both Amalga and SharePoint Server with HealthVault to create physician and patient portals, Lynne Dunbrack, program director of connected health IT strategies at IDC Health Insights, told eWEEK.
Redmond says health care data should flow from the hospital to the physician to the home, the company reports.
"Microsoft's strategy and investments continue to be focused on delivering these systems-Microsoft Amalga, which is designed to help health systems streamline operations and connect care teams, and HealthVault, which enables engagement with patients," Peter Neupert, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Health Solutions group, wrote in a blog post. "We believe these two platforms combined-Amalga and HealthVault-can transform care and create a patient-centric health system."
Despite the impending shutdown of Google Health, PHR platforms have a future, if they're integrated into a comprehensive health care IT strategy, according to a report by research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Still consumers have yet to show an interest in tracking health data themselves, experts say. Patients would rather have more face-to-face time with doctors, according to Shahid Shah, CEO of IT consulting firm Netspective Communications.
"People want more time with their physicians and don't really care who manages their chart," Shah wrote in his Healthcare IT Guy blog.