Microsoft, iSoftStone Launch HealthVault PHR Platform in China

Microsoft extends its cloud-based HealthVault PHR portal into China through a licensing arrangement with iSoftStone Information Technology.

Microsoft has announced plans to license its HealthVault personal health portal to Chinese IT outsourcing company iSoftStone Information Technology, making the PHR platform available in China.

Wuxi, a province of Jiangsu, China, will be the first area of the country to gain access to HealthVault, with additional areas of Jiangsu to follow, according to Mark Johnston, director of international market development for Microsoft's Health Solutions Group.

"China's vision, through its health reform agenda, is to enable citizens to become more actively involved in the management of their health and wellness and that of their families," Johnston wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "The [Chinese] government is investing in technology to improve information exchange between caregivers as well as between caregivers and their patients."

Another company, MMR Global, also offers its PHR Web service, called MyMedicalRecords, in China.

In HealthVault, Chinese citizens will be able to access health information pulled from physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, government organizations and fitness centers.

A leading provider of outsourced IT services in China, iSoftStone will make HealthVault available to developers, application providers and device manufacturers in Wuxi.

iSoftStone is known for its experience in government IT projects, Johnston said.

"It is a great example of how we are uniquely positioned to be the partner of choice for global companies, working both as an IT outsourcing vendor and also as a go-to-market partner to help customers grow their business in the China market," TW Liu, chairman and chief executive officer of iSoftStone, wrote in a statement.

Launched in 2007, the cloud-based HealthVault platform lets consumers store medical records, track their fitness goals and immunizations, and manage specific conditions. HealthVault also allows users to create reports based on medical data, receive recommendations on care and share their records with physicians or family members.

In addition to China, HealthVault is available in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, with Siemens soon to outsource the service in Germany.

As part of the agreement announced on Oct. 29, iSoftStone plans to open a HealthVault digital health innovation center in Wuxi. The facility will include a data center, test lab and training facilities for companies to build applications on the HealthVault platform.

Microsoft will license the HealthVault platform to iSoftStone to create applications for specific conditions affecting Wuxi citizens-likely hypertension and diabetes, Johnston said.

"In a subsequent phase, iSoftStone will build out a broader range of services that extend to other citizen health areas, including prevention and wellness," Johnston said.

IT industry experts predict a high potential of success for HealthVault in China.

"PHRs in China have the ability to be more successful because in China people are responsible for their own health-no insurance, no deep penetration of government-run health care," Shahid Shah, CEO of technology consulting firm Netspective Communications and author of the Healthcare IT Guy blog, wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "If patients are responsible for their own health, PHRs are much more useful because the patient believes they need to manage their own records-unlike here in the U.S.A., where patients believe insurance companies and the government need to take care of their records."

With health care security requirements lower in China than in the United States, a PHR service such as HealthVault could have easier success, noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group.

"The benefits are huge because managing health care in a state-run system can be a nightmare over overlapping bureaucracies where citizens can fall through the cracks," Enderle wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "By doing an overlay that creates the illusion of integration, the citizen using the system gets many of the benefits of integration without having to wait decades for this integration to take place."