Microsoft recently announced the Beta release of its HealthVault platform. The platform is aimed at helping people better manage their health information. The information available from Microsoft is pretty cryptic, but basically it looks like the service is a massive database for storing and sharing health information.
Some are perturbed by the possible privacy issues, but I absolutely love the concept. I loathe inefficiencies, and the fact that every time I go to a dentist, doctor, etc. I need to fill out 5 pages of the same exact information I’ve filled out numerous times before, has never sat well with me. Streamlining patient forms is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to possible benefits of this new platform.
The system will be a boon to patients, saving them time filling out redundant paperwork. It will also enable advanced capabilities, such as universal update. If something changes, such as you are diagnosed with diabetes, you can simply logon to the website and update the information, or authorize your doctor to do it for you, and instantly all of your healthcare providers that you choose to alert will have their information updated as well.
HealthVault will also streamline healthcare providers’ operations. There will be no more need to store hard copies of the patient forms and/or manually insert the information into the office’s electronic records. This will also eliminate errors created by the transfer of this information.
Beyond these obvious and immediate impacts, HealthVault will enable revolutionary automated capabilities. Here is an example of the type of functionality we may soon see if the market accepts HealthVault as it should.
A young lady named Sue notices an unsightly rash, and schedules an appointment with a new dermatologist. Upon scheduling the appointment Sue authorizes the transfer of her health information to the doctor’s office. Instantly, drug history, interactions, etc. are securely transferred. Sue’s medical history is run through algorithms at the doctor’s office to immediately assess her predisposition to certain disorders. A report is generated showing the probability of certain complications, as well as recommended preventative procedures, etc. The doctor sees Sue, makes a diagnosis, and writes a prescription. The prescription is then updated in the HealthVault and checked against all of her existing medications for possible interactions. An issue with her blood-pressure medication is returned by the system and an alternative prescription is recommended and approved.
That is the direction that I can envision Microsoft’s HealthVault heading. The ability to automate a lot of the processes that are notorious originators of error in the medical industry is an absolutely necessary step in improving the healthcare system.
Especially encouraging, is the fact that Microsoft is making available a free development kit for the immediate development of 3rd party applications. The entrepreneur in me sees vast opportunities for development in this area. I’m currently in the process of signing up for an account, and downloading the SDK. I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing what the market does with this!