Microsoft HealthVault's Survival Uncertain With Advent of GE Joint Venture

With Microsoft forming a joint venture with GE and the extinction of the Google Health portal, analysts see an uncertain future for HealthVault.

As Microsoft prepares to move its Amalga health intelligence software into a joint venture with GE, analysts see an uncertain future for the HealthVault personal health record (PHR) platform, which remains with Microsoft.

With Google announcing in June 2011 that it would close down its Google Health portal, a key bellwether for PHRs disappeared from the market.

"The outlook for the Microsoft HealthVault product in its present form is not bright," Joseph Walent, an analyst at Technology Business Research, told eWEEK. "If Google could not find a way to make it work, it must be a steep climb indeed to convince customers to consolidate their data on a third-party server."

On July 18, HealthVault began accepting data from the Google Health portal.

Still, HealthVault could survive when formats for electronic health records (EHRs) become more standardized, said Walent.

"Having something that works like a Mint or Carfax and pull information and have it in a standardized format would be a pretty robust tool that people would like to have," he said.

The Mint financial tool allows consumers to pull financial information from various accounts, Walent noted. A similar tool in HealthVault could work, he suggested.

"If this information can be procured by this service, rather than you're just booking and storing it there, people would be more inclined to use it," Walent said.

John Moore, an analyst at Chilmark Research, sees a decrease in resources for HealthVault that could put HealthVault into "stasis" until the market embraces the PHR model, he told eWEEK.

"I see a decrease in the amount of investment of development resources for HealthVault going forward until the market really jumps and wants something like that," Moore said. "The market's still a little premature in terms of the consumer demand for something like HealthVault."

Despite a possible decrease in investment, HealthVault is set as far as a comprehensive platform and may not require significant investment, Moore suggested.

"A lot of the hard work with HealthVault has been done," Moore explained. "It's not like they need to invest heavily in it anyway. There's a lot you can do with it today."

Despite doubts from analysts, Microsoft remains committed to the platform.

Sean Nolan, distinguished engineer and chief architect in Microsoft's health solutions group, is running the HealthVault business. Although Nolan acknowledged that HealthVault has not grown as fast as he would like, the company remains committed to the platform.

"We feel really good about where we are and have every plan to continue the investment and pushing it as hard as we can," Nolan told eWEEK. Nolan added that Microsoft would continue to form partnerships like those with companies such as iTriage and Ford to allow more people to access the platform.