Microsoft’s Health Vault Allows You to Store and Share Your Electronic Medical Records – But Should You?
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Microsoft has announced a new software product and platform to allow people to store their electronic medical records online and share them with health care providers and technologists, insurance providers, and medical device providers. Dubbed Microsoft HealthVault, Microsoft says that it will allow people to “collect, store, and share health information.”

“Our focus is simple: to empower people to lead healthy lives,” explains Peter Neupert, of the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft. “The launch of HealthVault makes it possible for people to collect their private health information on their terms and for companies across the health industry to deliver compatible tools and services built on the HealthVault platform.”


Recognizing that privacy concerns would be a major consideration, Microsoft engaged with privacy advocates – including the Coalition for Patient Privacy – and security experts while developing HealthVault.

Observed Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, “Microsoft is the first major technology company to engage with the bipartisan Coalition for Patient Privacy in a serious way. That means consumers finally have a trusted place to store their personal health information that will not be data-mined, because they alone control it. Microsoft’s use of strong privacy principles including the principles of the Coalition, its ongoing relationship with consumer advocates, and its commitment to independent third-party audits set a new standard for privacy protections in health information technology.”

But not everybody feels so confidant about Microsoft’s ability to protect patient privacy or, indeed, their intent. Skeptics point to the HealthVault privacy policy, which says in part that:

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Microsoft may access and/or disclose your personal information if we believe such action is necessary to: (a) comply with the law or legal process served on Microsoft; (b) protect and defend the rights or property of Microsoft (including the enforcement of our agreements); or (c) act in urgent circumstances to protect the personal safety and welfare of users of Microsoft services or members of the public.” (Emphasis added.)

Still others point out that regardless of good intentions and planned security, slips happen, and one unintended access to such information can wreak havoc on – or even destroy – a person’s life.

Here is Microsoft’s full press release on HealthVault:

 

Microsoft Unveils Consumer Health Vision, Launches Technology Platform to Collect, Store and Share Health Information

Company and industry leaders rally to support technology solutions that help people make better health and wellness decisions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oct. 4, 2007 — Joined by nationally recognized medical providers, health-management device manufacturers and patient advocacy organizations, Microsoft Corp. today launched Microsoft® HealthVault, a software and services platform aimed at helping people better manage their health information. The company outlined its vision for ways that HealthVault can bring the health and technology industries together to create new applications, services and connected devices that help people manage and monitor their personal health information, including weight loss and disease management, such as for diabetes.

“People are concerned to find themselves at the center of the healthcare ecosystem today because they must navigate a complex web of disconnected interactions between providers, hospitals, insurance companies and even government agencies,� said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft. “Our focus is simple: to empower people to lead healthy lives. The launch of HealthVault makes it possible for people to collect their private health information on their terms and for companies across the health industry to deliver compatible tools and services built on the HealthVault platform.�

Microsoft today also announced the availability of HealthVault Search, a powerful new vertical health search tool designed to work with the platform. Integrated with Live Search and accessible on the HealthVault Web site, this specialized health search engine intuitively organizes the most relevant online health content, allowing people to refine searches faster and with more accuracy, and eventually connect them with HealthVault-compatible solutions.

Privacy, Compatibility and Security

Created in cooperation with leading privacy advocates, respected security experts and dozens of the world’s leading healthcare organizations, HealthVault is designed and built to enhance privacy while providing people with the control they expect and require.

“Microsoft is the first major technology company to engage with the bipartisan Coalition for Patient Privacy in a serious way. The privacy protections built into HealthVault reflect the privacy principles of the Coalition. HealthVault prohibits onward transfer of data without explicit informed consent; its contractual obligations with advertisers require protection of any data transferred from the platform; its privacy policy is simple and easy to understand,â€? said Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation. “That means consumers finally have a trusted place to store their personal health information that will not be data-mined, because they alone control it. Microsoft’s use of strong privacy principles including the principles of the Coalition, its ongoing relationship with consumer advocates, and its commitment to independent third-party audits set a new standard for privacy protections in health information technology.â€?

Broad Industry Support

Today’s event highlighted the broad range of more than 40 applications and devices available on the HealthVault platform now or in the future from the following organizations: ActiveHealth Management; Allscripts; American Diabetes Association; American Heart Association and American Stroke Association; American Lung Association; Aperion Companies; CapMed, a division of Bio-Imaging Technologies Inc.; Claricode; Diabetes Prevention Source (DPS); Diet.com; Eclipsys Corp.; HealthCentral Network Inc.; HealthMedia Inc.; Healthphone Solutions Ltd.; Healthways; Healthy Circles LLC; Home Diagnostics Inc.; iMedica Corp.; Kryptiq Corp.; LifeScan Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company; LiveHealthier; Matria Healthcare Inc.; Medem Inc.; MedHelp; Medical Informatics Engineering (MIE); Medifast Inc.; MEDSEEK; Medstar Health; Microlife USA Inc.; NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; NexCura, a Thomson Healthcare Business; NextGen Healthcare Information Systems Inc.; NoMoreClipboard.com; OMRON Healthcare Inc.; Peaksware LLC; Physicians Wellness Network; Podfitness; Polar; PureWellness; Sound Health Solutions Inc.; StayWell, a MediMedia company; Texas Instruments Inc.; US Wellness Inc.; Vital Data Technology; Whole Health Management; and WorldDoc Inc.

The broad support reflects the platform’s tremendous opportunities for innovative new solutions from organizations across the health and technology industries. With a new platform provided by Microsoft based on compatible Internet and healthcare technology standards, organizations no longer need to spend development time working to connect a range of applications and devices. Instead, they can deliver solutions to consumers that focus on care delivery, giving HealthVault the potential to greatly enhance the quality and value of healthcare information technology across the ecosystem.”

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