Microsoft Unlocks HealthVault

    October 4, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

One of the biggest names in technology wants people to trust it with health information; we have to wonder if HealthVault from Microsoft is arriving on time, or a little too soon for people.

 Microsoft Unlocks HealthVault
Microsoft Unlocks HealthVault

When it comes to personal information, even financial details come in second to healthcare. Someone might leave an ATM receipt on a desk where others could see it, but almost no one will keep a copy of a blood test or an exam in the open.

People have serious privacy concerns about health information. The need to have access to it could be critical in a life-threatening situation. Receiving an emergency treatment that poses even more of a health risk doesn’t need to happen, but without a way to know this, it could happen.

The company that finds a way to balance the recording of intimate medical details with controlled availability could be the one that provides a truly life-altering service. We’ve all suspected Google would do this with its in-development Health product, or possibly an out-of-nowhere startup that blows away the field.

Microsoft takes the big shot with its HealthVault debut. HealthVault combines health-topic search, a secure site for collecting and sharing health information, and technical support for connecting health-monitoring devices like blood pressure and glucose monitors to HealthVault via a PC.

A search for a topic like diabetes returns results from the Live Search health vertical. Visitors have the option to refine the results by suggested topics under categories like Conditions or Procedures, and to save searches to their secure scrapbook.

Articles from sources like the Mayo Clinic or the federally-backed MedlinePlus under these, alongside web search results from the health vertical.

The real aim of health information efforts like HealthVault and every other entrant in the field is to ultimately tap into the lucrative healthcare market. HealthVault shows a column of Sponsored Results, with prominent links to sponsor services, products on, and a series of paid search results for the topic.

HealthVault requires a Microsoft Live ID to sign in, followed by the collection of name, email address, zip code, and date of birth. That is followed by a request from HealthVault to the person to authorize access requirements when signed in and out of the service.

Microsoft also sends a confirmation email to the address of record to ensure it is valid. Once confirmed, the visitor arrives at their health record page. Documents can be added and sharing of information enabled through this section of HealthVault.

If someone opts to save a search to the scrapbook, a screen appears, resembling any one of a number of bookmarking services. It prompts the user for a title, description, and optional tags for the search before storing it.

Once added, this information persists in a Your Scrapbook module appearing on HealthVault pages while signed on to the service. Links and tags for saved searches may be navigated from the module. Details can be added and exported to and from the profiles as desired.

Microsoft has advertised HealthVault as a free service. As one of the most prominent brands in technology, there is a comfort factor in dealing with them that someone may not feel for a less well-known firm.

For once, that poses a problem for Google, which seems to be bogged down with its Health project. We noted Adam Bosworth leaving Google Health for good earlier this month. Marissa Mayer is leading Google Health on an interim basis.

Microsoft has a head start over its rival, and casts a substantial shadow over useful sites like Kosmix and TauMed. The sensitivity of health information could make for a slow start for HealthVault.

We think Microsoft could position itself to overcome early inertia, thanks to its standing in the business industry. CEO Steve Ballmer and other Microsoft executives have access to like-minded, powerful people in other industries, and we have to presume healthcare is one of them.

If Microsoft could secure a promotional agreement with a major insurer to tout HealthVault, this early start could become a big lead in short order. Such a tie-in would be formidable. We won’t be surprised if one emerges soon.