Microsoft's Patient Plans

Patients want to see, feel, handle and distribute their health information the way they do their bank records, Microsoft says.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.-Microsoft's doing all it can to empower consumers to find, analyze, manage and securely share their own personal health information in the name of greater knowledge and, ultimately, better health, the company says.

Steve Aylward, Microsoft Health & Life Sciences Industry general manager, told attendees at Microsoft's Health & Life Sciences Developer and Solutions Conference held here April 22 to 24 that the health care industry has been mainly focused on meeting the needs of health care payors and providers, to the detriment of individual consumers of health information and services, who have very different needs. Aylward said health care consumers demanded the type of self-service, any-time access to resources and information that they were used to from other consumer-driven industries like banking, financial services and even retail, he said, including the ability to view and modify health information online and to communicate with physicians and clinical caregivers via e-mail, text messaging and instant messaging.

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Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group, added that while consumers are using the Web to make their interaction with other types of personal information in the physical world easier, that kind of interaction doesn't happen in health care.

"There's a lot of things we do in retail [and] financial services that we can't do when we're interacting with the health delivery system," Neupert said.

Consumers already have access to and are familiar with technology that allows them to manipulate personal information and communicate and collaborate any time, anywhere. For Microsoft and partners in the health care and life sciences fields, "the future is in developing health care tools and applications for the technology consumers use in their everyday lives," Aylward said, adding that the opportunities are huge for partners to develop applications that drive collaboration between patients, clinicians and administrators, and to make those technologies available to every health care consumer.

Neupert cited Microsoft's HealthVault platform as a way to encourage health care technology vendors and ISVs to develop rich applications that would enhance patient-caregiver collaboration on a Web-based platform that consumers were already familiar with.

Click here to read more about Microsoft's HealthVault strategy.

Grad Conn, senior director of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group, said the HealthVault platform allows consumers to aggregate their personal health records, control access and information sharing of their own health information, collaborate with caregivers, and connect to new sources of health information.

Conn explained that with consumers as the aggregators and the controllers of how, when, and with whom their information can be shared, the traditional health information model is turned on its head.

"Right now, the mechanism for this is through HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], which dictates how to control patient privacy when patients don't control the records," Conn said. HIPAA, he said, has very clear rules stating that patients can request to see, copy, add to or delete any piece of health information in their records, and HealthVault uses those same procedures but in a digital format.

"HealthVault seeks to integrate the data for an individual and provides them control over that record," Conn said.