Microsoft's HealthVault a Challenge to Google Health?

Microsoft's HealthVault technology will be used as the foundation for Mayo Clinic Health Manager, a personal health record service that the Mayo Clinic will use to allow patients to monitor their conditions and share information with their caregivers. Google already has a number of agreements with organizations over the use of Google Health, its own personal medical-record service.

Microsoft joined together with the Mayo Clinic to launch Mayo Clinic Health Manager, an online application built on Microsoft's HealthVault technology that will allow patients to store medical information and "receive individualized health guidance and recommendations based on the clinical expertise of Mayo Clinic," according to a statement issued by both organizations.

Users will be able to store health information obtained from their providers, upload updated data from home health devices, and receive recommendations and reminders about their medical care.

The solution will initially offer management tools for pediatric wellness, adult wellness, pregnancy and asthma. New features to roll out in coming months will include management tools for Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

The team of health care experts at the Mayo Clinic who developed the initial health guidance will update information through the solution regularly to reflect best health care practices.

"With Mayo Clinic Health Manager, we've combined the capabilities of Microsoft HealthVault with clinical leadership and health guidance from Mayo Clinic's vast body of medical knowledge to develop an interactive and customized health solution," David Cerino, general manager of the Consumer Health Solutions Group at Microsoft, said in a statement. "It's a great match of technological innovation and health expertise."

Microsoft first unveiled HealthVault in October 2007, declaring it an online repository in which consumers could store medical information in an encrypted database, and then port that information to physicians and other caregivers. The company originally planned to generate revenue via advertising on the HealthVault search engine, which was tied into Microsoft Live Search.

In April 2008, Grad Conn, health care and life sciences senior director for Microsoft's global consumer strategy, said during an Atlantic City conference that "HealthVault is PayPal for health information."

"PayPal allows you to store and share your financial information, if you choose to, and HealthVault works the same way [with health information]," Conn said, adding that Microsoft's ultimate plan was to turn the solution into a comprehensive and collaborative health care platform for patients.

More recently, however, HealthVault has found competition thanks to Microsoft's rival in other areas, Google.

Google Health was first unveiled in February 2008, as more IT companies took an interest in applying their tools to the health care arena.

Google announced in March 2009 that it was upgrading Google Health so users could share their stored personal health information with doctors and trusted contacts; days later, it revealed that Google Health would be a part of a pilot program launched by the CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) in Arizona and Utah, with Medicare beneficiaries able to input their Medicare claims data into the service.

However, the search-engine giant has lately taken flak from pundits and protestors who feel that it currently lacks the processes that would prevent wrong medical data from being inputted into the system, as in the much-publicized case of kidney-cancer survivor Dave deBronkart, who found that incorrect medical information had been ported into Google Health.

In his blog at the time, deBronkart suggested that, while Google Health was not necessarily to blame for his specific incident, "I suspect processes for data integrity in health care are largely absent, by ordinary business standards."